For Grades 5-8 , week of Dec. 04, 2023

1. ‘Authentic’

If you’ve ever been told to “get real” in the way you behave, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary has just the word for you. The dictionary company has chosen “authentic” as the “word of the year” for 2023. The yearly honor is based the number of searches the online dictionary receives for a word and reflects trends in the public’s interests and attitudes. “Authentic” rose to the top this year with celebrities like Taylor Swift talking about seeking their “authentic voice” or “authentic self” in music, fashion or lifestyle, CNN News reported. Computer-created Artificial Intelligence also has increased interest in the word, because it has blurred the lines between what is real and what is not. The word “authentic” interests people because it has multiple meanings, the online dictionary company said. Meanings range from “not false or imitation” to being “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” The word “authentic” has gotten new attention this year. What other words are being used a lot in ads and headlines? Scan the newspaper or Internet and make a list of new or unusual words that are getting a lot of use. Use what you find to write a personal column explaining why these words are popular, and what they offer the people or companies that use them.

2. Dramatic Rescue

Underground mining and construction jobs are among the most dangerous in the world. Forty-one construction workers learned that first hand this month, after being trapped for 17 days in a collapsed tunnel under the Himalaya mountains in the Asian nation of India. It took weeks to drill an escape route through the mountain in India’s northern Uttarakhand state, with the last feet drilled and cleared by hand after heavy equipment failed. A pipe 31 inches in diameter was inserted after the last of the drilling, allowing all 41 of the workers to exit one by one. They all appeared to be in good health, news outlets reported. The workers had been trapped 300 feet underground, when part of the tunnel they were constructing collapsed and blocked their escape with more than 200 feet of rocks, concrete and twisted metal. During their captivity, the workers received food, water and oxygen through a narrow, 173-foot pipe that had been inserted through the debris. Dramatic rescues are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a rescue that made news. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper explaining the greatest challenges rescuers faced and how they were overcome.

3. Really Rare Lobster

Lobsters are red when they are cooked and served in restaurants. But when they are living in the wild, they are all sorts of colors, from green to blue to a mixed calico pattern. A lobster caught in the U.S. state of Maine recently is getting attention for another color pattern. It’s half red, half blue and all kinds of rare, NPR Radio reports. That’s because color is only part of what makes this lobster unusual. It’s ALSO half male and half female! Because of its half-and-half makeup, the lobster has been nicknamed Bowie, after rock star David Bowie who was famous as a gender bender and appeared to have different colored eyes. It has become an Internet sensation after local lobsterman Jacob Knowles posted videos on his TikTok and Instagram accounts, which have millions of followers. It’s no surprise people have flocked to the videos. A two-colored lobster occurs only once in 50-million times in the ocean, and then only by a genetic mutation, according to the New England Aquarium. “Nobody I’ve talked to in the harbor has ever seen one like this,” Knowles said. “So, that speaks pretty loudly.” From two-colored lobsters to spotless giraffes, wildlife makes news when an unusual example of a species is found. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and photos involving an unusual animal discovery. Use what you find to write a one-minute TV newscast explaining how the animal was found, what scientists say about it and how people are reacting to it.

4. ‘First Light’

Laser technology creates powerful beams of light that can be focused with great precision and travel great distances. Laser beams can be used to cut through metals, perform surgeries, read bar codes, print materials and even play music. They also can be used to communicate, and America’s NASA space agency has just demonstrated how they can do this over great distances. A NASA laser traveling on a spacecraft headed for an asteroid near the planet Jupiter has successfully sent a laser communication to Earth from 10-million miles away in space. The message was sent from a device aboard a spacecraft called Psyche (SY-kee) that is headed toward an asteroid of the same name that is almost entirely made of metal. The laser communication — called “first light” by scientists — is the farthest ever received by NASA from space, CNN News reported. Lasers can send data 10 to 100 times faster than radio-wave systems that NASA uses on other missions and could revolutionize future space communications, officials said. Lasers are now used in a wide variety of fields. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one use of lasers. Use what you read to prepare a short oral report on this use of lasers and how it is an improvement over the ways things were done previously.

5. Jenga Star

Jenga is a fun family game in which people compete in their ability to stack — or unstack — blocks of wood in a tower. It requires great concentration and physical skill, because all the stacking has to be done without knocking down the tower. The name “Jenga” comes from an African Swahili word “kujenga,” which means “to build.” Some Jenga fans like to build in spectacular ways beyond the original rules of the game. One of the most successful is a 15-year-old from Canada who has set two Guinness World Records for stacking an amazing number of blocks on top of one single block. To set his records, Auldin Maxwell stacked 1,840 original Jenga blocks on a single block and 900 giant Jenga blocks on a single block. His skill and story have now been turned into a Christmas movie by the Hallmark Movies cable TV network, UPI News reported. “It’s such an incredible honor for our family,” Maxwell said of the film, which had its first showing last month. “It felt like an out-of-body experience for me.” Teens and pre-teens often make news by performing unusual feats or demonstrating great skills. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one person who has done this. Pretend you are a news reporter and write out five questions you would ask this person if you were to interview him or her about the achievement. Explain why you would want the answers to the questions.