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for Grades 5-8

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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 19, 2018

1. 'Peter' Protest

The movie "Peter Rabbit" has been one of the most popular in America since it came out on February 9. But now it is being targeted by protesters, and the movie company Sony Pictures has issued an apology to those who are upset. At issue is a scene in which Peter and his rabbit friends pelt their farm enemy Mr. McGregor with blackberries, even though they know he is allergic to them. When one berry lands in his mouth, he starts choking in an allergic reaction and has to inject himself with an anti-allergy EpiPen. Critics said the scene was "disturbing" because it made light of food allergies that can be deadly for some who have them. Others called for a boycott of the film. In its apology, Sony said the movie "should not have made light" of food allergies "even in a cartoonish … way." Food allergies are an important health issue for many people. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about another health issue that is important to students your age or to families. Use what you read to write a short editorial explaining what people should know about this issue - and why.

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.

2. What a Recruit!

A lot of people are pretty good at sports when they are in eighth grade. Few are so good they get recruited and signed by a major university, though! Yet that's what has happened to 13-year-old Elizabeth Schaefer of Rockwall, Oklahoma. She is such an outstanding softball player that Oklahoma State University wanted to lock her up for its college program even before she started high school. After visiting the university, Elizabeth made a verbal commitment to attend Oklahoma State University in 2022. And that's not her only goal. She wants to win a state championship for her high school, a national championship for Oklahoma State and pitch in the Olympics. Her parents, meanwhile, are making sure she stays focused on school. "If she doesn't have the grades, she can't play sports," said her dad, sounding a lot like parents everywhere. Athletes who achieve success at a young age often are in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a young and successful athlete. Pretend you are a sports writer and write out five questions you would like to ask the athlete about how they became successful or what advice they would offer other young athletes.

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. Graffiti Milestone

For years, communities have debated whether graffiti is vandalism - or art. In New York City, a federal judge has come down on the side of art - and ordered a landlord to pay $6.75 million in damages for painting over graffiti that had become a tourist attraction. The graffiti was painted on a series of warehouses known as 5Pointz in the Long Island City neighborhood in New York. Over the years artists decorated the walls of the warehouses with hundreds of graffiti murals, and some had been designated as permanent artworks. In 2013 the building owner Gerald Wolkoff announced plans to tear down the buildings and replace them with high-rise luxury residences. When artists sought to block the plan, Wolkoff painted over the murals with white paint. The artists sued, claiming the murals had become a cultural landmark that deserved protection under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act. This month, after a history-making trial, the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn ruled in favor of the artists and said they deserved compensation for their destroyed art. In the 5Pointz case, the court had to weigh the rights of the artists against the rights of the owner of the buildings. As a class, do more research on the 5Pointz case and the arguments used by each side to defend its point of view. Then divide into two teams and stage a class debate on whether the Brooklyn court made the correct decision. Take a vote at the end.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

4. Pioneering Leader

In 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made history in the African nation of Liberia by becoming the first woman elected president of any African country. She went on to win a share of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her work seeking greater peace-building between and within nations. Now she has been honored again - with a $5 million prize for leadership. Sirleaf has been named winner of the prestigious Ibrahim prize designed to encourage good governance by African leaders. She presided over a decade of peace in Liberia, and stepped aside without incident at the end of her second term, as required by the Liberian constitution. Women are achieving success as leaders in all careers and nations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a woman achieving success as a leader somewhere in the world. Use what you read to write a personal or political column giving your views on why this woman's achievements should inspire others.

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.

5. Free Transportation

Air pollution is a problem all over the world, and on the continent of Europe more than 130 cities are affected by "life-threatening" levels, according to the inter-government European Commission. Now the nation of Germany is planning to fight pollution by offering free public transportation to get people to drive their cars less. The plan would have the government pick up the cost of operating subways and trains in the cities "to reduce the number of private cars," government ministers wrote in a recent policy letter. "Fighting air pollution … is of the highest priority for Germany." Across Europe, air pollution is believed to be responsible for about 400,000 deaths each year. There are many ways to reduce air pollution. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different approaches being tried by governments and businesses. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper comparing three different approaches, what has been achieved and what remains to be achieved. Finish by analyzing which approach you think has the best chance for success.

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.