For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 01, 2022

1. Apology from the Pope

As head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis is the moral leader of the world’s Catholics. He has not been shy about using his position to speak out on issues, and last week he took an unprecedented trip to the North American nation of Canada to apologize for past behavior or church officials. While in Canada, Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse of Canadian Indigenous children in residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church. Indigenous and Native leaders have long called for a papal apology for the harm inflicted for decades on Indigenous children, CNN News reported. Last year, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that more than 4,000 Indigenous children died either from neglect or abuse in residential schools. “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” the Pope said last week. “ … I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction.” The Pope’s apology to Canada’s Indigenous people was an attempt to make amends for harmful behavior by church and school leaders in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another person or organization acknowledging or making amends for past behavior or policies. Use what you read to write an editorial offering your view on the effort and whether it is appropriate for the situation.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. ‘Down Under’ Danger

The South Pacific nation of Australia has some of the most spectacular natural attractions in the world — and some of the most amazing wildlife. Millions of people each year are drawn to the land “down under” to see the Great Barrier Reef, stunning rock formations, mountains and deserts, and to marvel at exotic wildlife species such as kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and wombats. But Australia’s environment is “deteriorating,” according to a new government report, and its outlook is “poor” due to “climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction.” According to the report, Australia has lost an alarming number of mammal species in the last five years and seen invasive foreign species grow in number to outnumber native ones, CNN News reports. It also has been hit by “a plague of marine plastics” that pollute the ocean, reefs and other waterways, according to the national environmental minister. Australia’s report on the environment was designed to be a “wake-up call” about problems that need to be addressed to preserve habitats, wildlife and natural areas. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another effort to call attention to an environmental problem. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining ways the problem could be addressed.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Working Man Blues

Throughout his music career, Bruce Springsteen has celebrated that he grew up working class and sang for the people of the working class. Songs like “Jack of All Trades,” “Working on the Highway,” “Factory” and “My Hometown” called attention to the struggles of people trying just to get by and make it to the next paycheck. So it came as a shock to many Springsteen fans that tickets for his 2023 tour with the E Street Band are carrying some very un-working-class prices. Due to the “dynamic pricing” of the Ticketmaster ticket company, prices for some seats soared to more than $4,000 a seat based on how much the tickets were in demand. Faced by fans protesting online, Ticketmaster announced that just 11.8 percent of tour tickets are subject to dynamic pricing and only 1.3 percent of those were selling for more than $1,000. The company said the average price for tickets sold for the tour was $202, but did not say it would change its dynamic pricing policy. Tickets are in great demand for the 2023 tour because it marks the first time since 2017 that Springsteen and the E Street Band have gone on the road to perform together. After being shut down by the coronavirus epidemic, live concerts are being scheduled again for popular stars. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about live performances by a music star you like. Think like a music critic and write a column detailing what you like about this performer’s music and why you would like to see a live concert performance.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. A Lawsuit Is Afoot

When a product comes with a guarantee, it means that the seller legally promises that the product will meet standards for quality or that all terms of sale will be honored. Guarantees can be short-term or long-term and can cover products ranging from automobiles to computers to … socks. Yes, even socks can come with a guarantee, and they are at the heart of a lawsuit against the Bass Pro Shops over a “lifetime guarantee” it offered for its RedHead All-Purpose Wool Socks. A Missouri man named Kent Slaughter bought a dozen or so pairs of the socks over the years and took advantage of the lifetime guarantee by turning them in for new replacements when they wore out, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The store where he bought them honored the guarantee until last year, when it tried to substitute socks with just a 60-day warranty. Then Slaughter saw that Bass was still offering a lifetime guarantee for the socks online, and he became angry. He has filed a class-action lawsuit against Bass claiming that the company is offering a “hollow promise” on the socks that misleads consumers and no longer lasts a lifetime. He is seeking $5 million in damages for himself and anyone who joins his suit. When a company says “lifetime guarantee,” his lawyers say, “those words should mean something.” Bass has declined to comment on the suit. People often file lawsuits seeking damages when they feel they have been wronged, damaged or mistreated. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a lawsuit. Then pretend you are the judge who will decide the case. Write an opinion on the merits of the lawsuit and whether damages should be awarded. Discuss with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Many, Many Diamonds

Diamonds are among the most popular gemstones in the world, and collectors pay lots of attention when they are set in beautiful rings or other pieces of jewelry. This summer, a diamond ring made in the Asian nation of India is getting attention for a design that’s unlike any ever tried before. The design by SWA Diamonds is shaped like a pink oyster mushroom and contains an amazing 24,679 natural diamonds. That’s a new world record for the most diamonds set in one ring and almost twice the previous record of 12,638 diamonds contained in a ring made in 2020. The new record holder features 41 distinct mushroom petals, each covered by diamonds, CNN News reports. It weighs 340 grams or about three-quarters of a pound, and is valued at $95,243, according to the Guinness World Records organization. Fancy jewelry often is in the news when worn by celebrities, music stars or other famous people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a celebrity wearing fancy jewelry. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend describing the jewelry, why the celebrity chose it and on what occasion it was worn. Finish your letter by telling whether you like this kind of fancy jewelry and whether you would risk wearing it in public.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.