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For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 27, 2017

1. Record Work of Art

Leonardo da Vinci was an artist as well as a scientist and inventor — and now a painting believed to have been done by him has set a world record. The painting “Saviour of the World” (“Salvator Mundi”), which depicted the Christian figure of Jesus, sold for more than $450 million at an auction in New York City. The price was 2.5 times more than the previous world record for an art sale — $170 million for Pablo Picasso’s “Women of Algiers.” It was 39 times more than the previous high for a da Vinci, $11.5 million for a work on paper called “Horse and Rider.” “Saviour of the World” is one of just 16 known surviving paintings by da Vinci, including the world famous “Mona Lisa.” People often pay great sums of money for rare items. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people who have done this. Share with the class and discuss why people would value their purchases so much. Finish by writing a paragraph describing a rare thing you would pay a great deal for if you were wealthy, and why.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Good Brings More Good

Sometimes when you reach out to help others, people reach out to help you. That is what happened to Brennon Jones in the city of Philadelphia this fall. Jones, a trained barber with 11 years of experience, has devoted himself this year to providing free haircuts to homeless people on the streets of the Pennsylvania city. As a result, he now has his own barber shop for giving those haircuts. Good fortune came his way when his volunteer efforts caught the eye of another barber, Sean Johnson. Johnson was so impressed with what Jones was doing he offered him an unused barbershop he owned. “He said, ‘If you love it, it’s yours,’ and then he walked out,” Jones recalled. “It kind of blew my mind.” People who do good for others can be rewarded in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone doing good for others. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor suggesting two ways the person could be rewarded: one that would not cost any money and one that would involve money that could be used to do more good.

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.

3. Learn to Swim

Knowing how to swim can save your life, but across America thousands of kids have never learned. The problem is particularly severe for African American children, many of whom don’t have easy access to pools or beaches. Sixty-four percent of black children cannot swim, and they drown at a rate nearly three times higher than white children, according to USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport. In the state of Maryland and other states, African American women who belong to the college sorority Sigma Gamma Rho are working to change that. In partnership with USA Swimming, the sorority has been hosting swim clinics to teach African American kids the swimming skills that could save their lives. USA Swimming says formal swimming lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent. Many skills can help children live safer or more successful lives. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an important skill being taught to children. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short video showing how the skill is being taught and how it will help the children be safer or more successful.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Woof!

Millions of people love dogs for their companionship and support. Now scientists have given pet owners another reason to prize their pooches: They could help you live longer. A new study from the European nation of Sweden has found that owning a dog can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and death, especially for people who live by themselves. While dog ownership has benefits for all people, the study found that for people living alone, it can decrease their risk of death by 33% and their risk of cardiovascular related death by 36%. Health benefits include greater physical activity from walking a dog, higher levels of social activity that reduce stress, and strengthening of the immune system. The study was based on a review of health records for 3.4 million Swedish individuals between the ages of 40 and 80. People get many benefits from owning pets. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about pet benefits. Then list the letters of the alphabet down the side of a sheet of paper. See how many pet benefits you can list, starting each one with a different letter. Share with the class.

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

5. Flying Taxis?

The Uber company has changed the way people get around with the fleet of vehicles it has put together for its ground transportation system. Now it wants to take that system airborne. Uber has announced it will partner with America’s NASA space agency to develop an air traffic management system to control flying taxis. Known as uberAIR, the flying taxi system will feature four-person ride-sharing flights in some communities as soon as the year 2020. The system will be tested first in Los Angeles, California, which is known around the world for its slow-moving highways and traffic jams. It could improve some trips significantly, Uber said. A rush hour trip from the Los Angeles airport to the Staples Center arena, for example, could take less than 30 minutes, compared to the current 1 hour 20 minutes by car, Uber said. Flying taxis would use technology in a new way to provide a service to people. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about another new use of technology that will benefit people. Think like a consumer reporter and write a “review’ of this new use, detailing positive results and possible negative results.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.