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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 09, 2023

1. Outpouring of Support

The nation and the NFL were stunned when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed from a cardiac arrest after making a tackle in a game — and are praying for a full recovery. It was a sobering reminder that football is a violent sport, and players risk serious injury on every play. Hamlin’s injury in a “Monday Night Football” game against the Cincinnati Bengals raised awareness that cardiac arrests — commonly called heart attacks — can happen to anyone, even to 24-year-old athletes in top physical condition. And it led to some unusual good will. Before collapsing on national TV, Hamlin had started an online Go Fund Me campaign to raise money to buy toys for children in his home town of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. His goal was to raise $2,500 this season through his “Chasing M’s Foundation.” In the days after his collapse, fans from around the country donated more than $7-MILLION to the fund in honor and support of Hamlin in his recovery. People often do generous things to help or support others after tragedies or setbacks. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about situations in which this has occurred. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing how such support can help people recover physically, emotionally or financially.

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

2. Goodbye to a Pioneer

On television and the Internet these days, it is not unusual to see women in leading roles as anchors, hosts and reporters. In earlier days, however, women were given few opportunities — until Barbara Walters led the way. Walters, who died just before New Year’s at the age of 93, was a pioneer for women in TV journalism, achieving positions and success that previously had been available only to men. She was the first woman to co-anchor a network evening newscast, signing a then-startling contract for $1 million a year with ABC. She was co-host of the “Today” show on morning TV, a host and reporter for the “20-20” TV show at night and a co-founder of the popular discussion show “The View.” Most of all, she was a stylish and accomplished interviewer, who competed fiercely for “gets” — interviews with world leaders and celebrities that were hard to acquire. She paved the way for dozens of other women in TV news, and when she retired from “The View” in 2014, they paraded onstage in a long line to pay tribute and say thanks. “I want to thank you for being a pioneer, and everything that word means,” said Oprah Winfrey. “It means being the first, the first in the room, to knock down the door, to break down the barriers, to pave the road that we all walk on.” Barbara Walters was a groundbreaker for women in television news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a woman who has been a groundbreaker in another field. Use what you read to write an editorial, detailing the woman’s groundbreaking efforts and obstacles she overcame that men might not have faced. Share and discuss as a class.

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. Protected Waters

Water pollution is an issue that faces every state in the nation, but there has been great political debate about how to deal with it. Environmentalists, farmers and businesses have locked horns about how much authority the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should have, what waterways should be protected and how environmental rules should be enforced. A case now before the U.S. Supreme Court will further add to the debate. In the meantime, the EPA overseen by President Biden has issued a new rule expanding the number of waterways protected by the agency through the Clean Water Act. The rule covers more waterways than the Republican policies of former President Donald Trump but fewer than the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama. Not surprisingly, Republicans have criticized the new rule as “regulatory overreach,’ while Democrats and environmentalists have called it a “sensible, good-government action.” Water pollution affects communities and the environment in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts in one community to deal with water pollution problems. Use what you read to prepare a two-minute TV newscast explaining the problem, steps that have been taken to deal with it and how successful they have been. Choose images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your report and present it to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Hero Dog

Across the United States, coyotes are a growing problem in many communities. Once native to wide open spaces in the American West, they now have spread into suburbs and even cities across the country as natural predators like wolves have disappeared. They can pose a danger to pets, people and livestock when they hunt in packs, especially during the winter months. In the state of Georgia this winter, a guard dog encountered a group of coyotes threatening a small flock of sheep — and is being hailed as a hero for keeping the sheep safe. The dog, a 21-month-old Great Pyrenees named Casper, took on a pack of 11 coyotes and killed 8 of them to protect a flock of 5 sheep, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Casper drove the remaining 3 coyotes away. In the process Casper sustained life-threatening injuries, including puncture wounds and bites that made it necessary to amputate his tail. Great Pyrenees dogs — which can grow to weigh 160 pounds — usually scare away predators by barking, but if they feel threatened, they can be incredibly fierce. “They won’t stop until they feel that their family’s safe,” one expert said. “They will give up their lives for their family, so to speak.” Animals often make news by doing unusual or heroic things to help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one animal doing this. Use what you read to write a thank you note to the animal from the point of view of the people who were helped. Suggest a reward for the animal that you think would be appropriate.

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.

5. Wasted Food

Food waste is a big problem in the United States, and it is getting bigger every day. The average U.S. family wastes nearly a third of the food it buys, and most of that uneaten food ends up in landfills. Households account for 39 percent of food waste in the United States, which is more than restaurants, grocery stores or farms, the New York Times newspaper reports. In the city of Columbus, Ohio, the local operator of the public landfill is tackling the problem by educating people about the costs of wasting food — and by digging into their trash. The Solid Waste Authority has launched a county-wide program giving residents hard figures on the costs of food waste — $1,500 a year for the average family for food they don’t eat, or 22-million gallons of gas to transport uneaten food to the landfill. They also have engaged college students to sift through people’s trash to see if the education efforts are working. So far, the signs are good: Researchers found that the volume of food waste in the trash declined by a hefty 21 percent in a three-month period. Experts say there are many ways to reduce food waste, including shopping more carefully, making smaller meals, and freezing leftovers for future use in lunches, dinners or soups. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways families can reduce the amount of food they waste — and recipes to use leftovers. Use what you read to write a consumer column for your family and others highlighting “Five Great Ways to Waste Less Food.”

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.