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For Grades K-4 , week of Sep. 11, 2017

1. Records in Space

At age 57, Peggy Whitson is the world’s oldest and most experienced female astronaut. And after returning this month from her latest mission aboard the International Space Station, she is holder of three new astronaut records. In her latest mission, she racked up 288 days in space, the longest time in orbit in a single space flight for a female astronaut. She also set a new career record for spacewalking for a female astronaut, boosting her total to 60 hours and 21 minutes over 10 spacewalks. Even more impressive, she set a record for all U.S. astronauts, male and female, for the most overall time in space, at 665 days. In her missions aboard the International Space Station, Peggy Whitson was constantly trying new things to learn more about space and how humans respond to space life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about the work or experiments being done on the space station. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing one achievement and why it is important to scientists.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; closely reading written or visual text to make logical inferences from it.

2. Support from NFL Star

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, NFL star J.J. Watt jumped into action to help. The Houston Texans defensive end set up a website to raise money for hurricane victims and hoped to raise $200,000. With support from all over the country, Watt’s fund-raising has gone beyond his wildest dreams. He raised more than $30 million in just over a week and said he would go on as long as people wanted to help. He told Houston residents he was in for the long haul. “I'm not just here for the [first] fundraiser,” the four-time All-Pro said. “I'm here to make sure that we take care of you down the road.” J.J. Watt is one of millions of Americans working to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida. As a class, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about things other people are doing. Then brainstorm ideas for raising funds that your class or school could do. Put one idea into action.

Common Core State Standards: Closely reading written or visual text to make logical inferences from it; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. What a Sand Castle!

Every summer millions of children build sand castles with their families when they go to the beach. But none can compare with a sand castle built in the European nation of Germany. In the city of Duisburg, artists from around the world have teamed up to create an eye-opening sand castle that stands 55 feet tall! That makes it the tallest sand castle ever, according to the Guinness World Records organization. The castle, which took three weeks to build, contains 3,860 tons of sand — or 7.7 million pounds. It features famous landmarks and people from around the world, such as Italy’s Colosseum and Leaning Tower of Pisa and the religious leader, the Great Buddha. The giant sand castle will be on display until September 29 in Duisburg's Landscape Park. Public displays of art benefit artists by calling attention to their skills and benefit communities by giving people interesting things to see and talk about. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a public display of art. Think like an art critic and write a “review” of the display, telling people how it benefits the community and how it benefits the artists involved.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it.

4. Those Noisy Roosters

In cartoons and movies, roosters crow to announce when the sun comes up. But in the California city of Placerville, residents are discovering that roosters can crow anytime, night or day. And they’re not happy about it. A growing group of roosters is roaming neighborhoods around the city’s Lumsden Park, crowing in the middle of the night, waking people up and generally causing a nuisance. “Any time of day … we’ll hear them,” noted one resident near the park. The rooster problem began when the city passed an ordinance banning people from owning them within city limits. Rather than turn their roosters in to officials who could find homes for them, some residents just released them. Animal control officers have captured some of the roosters, but others have been hard to catch because they run and fly up into trees. Wildlife and animals that are released into the wild can sometimes cause problems for communities. And the problems can be difficult to solve, because many people don’t want to harm the animals involved. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a community dealing with an animal problem. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor giving your opinion on what would be the best approach for dealing with the problem. Talk about ideas as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

5. Free Park Passes!

It’s back to school time, and with the start of the new school year fourth graders and their families can claim a very special prize from the National Park Service and other public lands. Through the national Every Kid in a Park program, fourth graders and their families can get a pass that allows them free entry to national parks, national forests and recreation areas for a full year. This year’s program started September 1, and students can print out a paper voucher for free entry by visiting the Every Kid in a Park website at The passes are valid for the entire school year, September 1, 2017-August 31, 2018. Fourth grade teachers also can sign up for passes for their students by visiting the Every Kid in a Park website. Established by former President Barack Obama, the program seeks to make sure every child in the U.S. has the opportunity to visit public lands and parks by the time he or she is 11 years old. National parks, forests and public lands provide opportunities for people to experience and learn about nature. In the newspaper or online, find pictures and stories about national parks or other natural areas. Use what you read to read and see to design a poster featuring one area, its main attractions and what families and students could learn by visiting. Share and discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.