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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 27, 2023

1. Changing the Rules

For more than 150 years, Major League Baseball was the only professional team sport that did not operate with a clock. That will change for the 2023 season, however. In effort to speed up games and provide more action, the Major Leagues will put players on a timer when they are pitching and hitting. Pitchers will have a 15-second clock for each pitch when the bases are empty, and 20 seconds with runners on base, CNN News reports. In addition, batters will be limited to one timeout per at-bat, and there will also be a 30-second time limit between hitters. The changes are being adopted because baseball games have been getting longer and longer in recent years. Through last season, the average length of games had increased to more than three hours, compared to two-and-a-half hours in the 1970s. In the playoffs and World Series, the games have gotten even longer, with some going beyond four hours. Other rules changes coming for baseball this season include larger bases (to encourage stolen bases) and restrictions on where players in the field can position themselves (to encourage more base hits). Sports aren’t the only activity in which there are rules changes. Schools, businesses and even governments often change rules for different reasons. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such rule change. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, outlining why the change was made, whether it was needed and whether you think it will be effective.

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. Native Rights

Like the United States, the South Pacific nation of Australia has a significant and historic population of indigenous peoples. And like Native Americans in America, indigenous peoples in Australia have long felt they have not had a fair or effective way to make their views known to the national government. That could change if an effort to amend the country’s constitution is approved. Australian indigenous peoples have launched a Voice to Parliament campaign that would ensure their views are heard by Australia’s Parliament legislature. If the change to the constitution is approved, indigenous people for the first time would have the right to express their views on policy through representatives elected by their communities, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Lawmakers would not be bound to follow the advice, but they would be required to at least listen. To change the Australian constitution, an amendment requires an overall majority of votes across the country and a “yes” vote in a majority of states. Indigenous people were in Australia for at least 65,000 years before British colonists arrived in 1788. Native American tribes and communities in the United States face a wide range of challenges on issues ranging from health care to poverty to economic opportunities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about challenges faced by one tribe or community. Use what you read and additional research to prepare a Spotlight Report on one tribe’s challenges. Choose photos from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your report and present to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; 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.

3. Training Black Pilots

Fraternities are college social organizations that allow students to get to know each other and make friends. A fraternity in the state of Virginia wants to do much more than that, however. The alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi in the city of Alexandria wants to teach African American teens and middle school students to fly airplanes. The chapter, made up of college graduates from the fraternity, has established a 10-week “Introduction to Aviation” program to expose students to potential careers in aviation, TV station WUSA reports. Most of the instruction is taught on flight-simulator computers, but at the end students get a chance to get behind the controls of a real plane on a flight from a regional airport. “This aviation program made this dream seem more like a possibility,” said one graduate of the course. “Now there’s a real concrete goal that I can achieve. It made me feel that this is something I can really do.” According to the last U.S. Census, only 2 percent of U.S commercial pilots are Black. To correct such shortages, schools and communities often call attention to career fields in which African Americans are under-represented and encourage students to get into those fields. Many of those fields involve the STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. In honor of Black History Month, use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read stories about career fields Black students are being encouraged to pursue. Use what you read to create a Help Wanted ad for the newspaper or Internet listing the benefits for minority students getting into those fields. Print out and display in a classroom or hallway.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

4. What a Treasure!

Shipwrecks are a great resource for historians, because the waters of oceans can preserve the cargoes that ships were carrying. Sometimes those waters preserve cargoes for a very long time. In the North Sea off the coast of Europe, a shipwreck that went down nearly 400 years ago has given researchers an amazing glimpse of life in the 1600s — and now the public is getting a look as well. Items recovered from chests aboard a ship called the Palmwood Wreck are now on display at the Museum Kaap Skil in the nation of the Netherlands, where the items were recovered off the island of Texel. Among the treasures are a pair of luxury gowns for wealthy ladies, one of which had pieces of silver sewn into its fabric to make it glitter, CNN News reported. The gown was made of an expensive silk material, as was the other gown, which had a flower pattern. Other items recovered from the sunken chests included silverware, a silver cup, leather book covers, a red velvet robe and a woman’s travel case containing a comb, brush, pincushion and mirror. Such luxury items shed light on how the highest classes lived in the Netherlands in the 1600s, museum officials said. “It is unbelievable what we have discovered here,” said one researcher. “This is one of the most unique historical finds ever.” Ships often reflect the lifestyles of the time they are used. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and photos involving vacation cruise ships from today. Use what you find to write a paragraph or short paper detailing what future historians might conclude about today’s luxury lifestyles by studying the contents of cruise ships. Share with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Watery Comeback

Heat, drought and lack of rain have taken a huge toll on the state of California in recent years. Lakes and rivers have dried up, farmers have struggled to water their fields and dried-out forests have become more and more at risk for wildfires. This winter, heavy rain and snow has partially reversed the dry conditions that have gone on for years, CNN News reports. Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest reservoir — and its hardest hit — has filled up again after getting so low the water didn’t even reach the intake pipes used to distribute water to the region. Recent photos show the reservoir in Northern California at 115 percent of its average depth for winter, a huge improvement after levels dipped as low as 24 percent. While the boost in water at Lake Oroville presents good news for California, drought remains a major problem for the state. Natural underground storage “aquifers” have yet to recover, and the Colorado River Basin, which feeds water to California and six other states, remains desperately dry. Droughts and lack of rain cause huge problems all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how drought is affecting a country other than the United States. Use what you read to write an editorial suggesting ways the U.S. and other nations could assist the affected nation now and in the future.

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.