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For Grades 5-8 , week of May 22, 2023

1. Copyright Protection

Copyright laws protect the rights of inventors, authors, artists, designers, photographers, filmmakers and other creators of original works or products. The nation’s founders felt these protections for “useful arts” were so important they included them in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution that set up the government. This month the U.S. Supreme Court upheld copyright protections once again in a case involving the rock star Prince, the famed artist Andy Warhol and a photographer who took a picture that Warhol turned into an artwork. The picture was taken by photographer Lynn Goldsmith in the early 1980s and used by Warhol to create a silk-screen portrait of Prince and an illustration for Vanity Fair magazine. Warhol used the photo as the basis for his art without Goldsmith’s permission, credit or payment, the Washington Post newspaper reported. A federal district judge in New York said Warhol’s work created something new and was permissible within the “fair use” exception to copyright law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit disagreed and said Goldsmith could press her claim, while warning that a district judge “should not assume the role of art critic.” The Supreme Court agreed in a 7-2 vote, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor declaring for the majority that “Lynn Goldsmith’s original works, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protection, even against famous artists.” Andy Warhol died in 1987 and this month’s ruling was issued against the Andy Warhol Foundation. Copyright laws protect the rights of artists, inventors and creators of other original works. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a case involving an artist or inventor. Use what you read to write an opinion column examining why copyright laws are needed, and what penalties would help protect copyrights.

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.

2. Lordly Butterflies

In the “Lord of the Rings” books and movies, the evil Sauron is the Dark Lord and leading villain of the Middle Earth fantasy series. And not just any villain — he usually is portrayed not as a person but as a disembodied, flaming Eye. That creepy Eye has left an impression on millions of readers and movie-goers since the “Lord of the Rings” books first came out nearly 70 years ago. Now it has left an impression on scientists who study butterflies. A newly identified butterfly group has been named Saurona because its colorful wing markings reminded the scientists of the Eye of Sauron. The markings on the insect group’s hindwings featured “distinctive fused orange rings” surrounding dramatic black-and-white eyespots, CNN News reported. The butterflies in the Saurona genus live in lowland rain forests in the Amazon jungle in South America. They are “tiny and rare” but “very colorful and pretty,” researchers said. They are the first butterflies named for Sauron, but not the first wildlife species. A dinosaur, a frog and a dung beetle also have names inspired by Sauron. Millions of species of plants and animals live on Earth, and scientists are constantly discovering new ones. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one new discovery. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing how scientists discovered the species, where it lives, what other species it is related to and why the discovery is important.

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

3. Listen to the Birds

In a world of stress, anxiety and uncertainty, people are often looking for ways to relax, decompress and improve their mental and emotional health. A pair of new studies have found that a good way to start is to stop, look and listen to the sounds of birds that live around us. Listening to birdsongs can have healing effects for a wide range of emotional issues and improve mental wellbeing, the Washington Post newspaper reports. And even if you can’t get out into nature to see birds, you can benefit just by listening to their songs on recordings. The new findings about the positive effects of birdsongs support research that has consistently found that more contact with nature can reduce stress, combat depression and improve mental and emotional health. Birds provide a way to connect to nature, and even if they are hidden in trees people can enjoy their songs. “Try to be aware,” the author of one study said. “That’s actually all that you need to do. And with [that] little step, you can be one step closer to getting these beneficial effects.” Getting outside and enjoying nature, birds and other wildlife can have many benefits for emotional and mental health. In the newspaper or online, find and study a story or photo of a natural outdoor space. Use what you find to write a personal column detailing how visiting this place could help people relax, decompress or improve their mental and emotional health. Compare it to places you like to go to relax and feel better. Share columns as a 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.

4. Slingshot Rescue

Slingshots are old-fashioned, hand-powered weapons that date back to the 1800s and the invention of commercial rubber. They are used today for target practice and hunting, but in the state of Michigan this month a teenager used one to save his sister. Owen Burns, who is 13, used his bright yellow slingshot to drive off a would-be-kidnapper of his 8-year-old sister by hitting the kidnapper with a rock and a marble shot from 200 feet away, police said. The kidnapper, who is 17, had tried to drag Owen’s sister into the woods from their yard in northern Michigan. “I shot him in the head and chest and she starts running,” Owen told NPR Radio. “I said, ‘It’s all right, he can’t hurt you now.’” The suspect was arrested a short time later and charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted assault and assault and battery. Owen’s sharpshooting allowed police to identify the suspect from bruises on his head and chest. Slingshots are Y-shaped devices equipped with stretchy rubber. To fire a rock, marble or other projectile a shooter pulls the rubber back and releases it. Owen Burns is being hailed as a hero for quick thinking and actions that saved his sister from harm. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about someone else who has done something heroic. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing what the person did, why that was important and what skills and personal qualities the person needed to become a hero.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. A Very Famous Mansion

Frank Lloyd Wright was one of America’s most famous architects, and the buildings he designed are now considered works of art. In a 70-year career, he won worldwide fame designing homes, offices, churches, schools, skyscrapers, hotels and museums. Now one of the largest homes he ever designed is up for sale after a two-year project to restore it to its original beauty. The home is a 10,000-square-foot mansion called Westhope that Wright designed for his cousin in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1929. The mansion, which has been included on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972, is listed for sale for just under $8-million. Built with concrete and glass, Westhope features an open floor plan, five bedrooms and four baths. The home’s exterior includes patterned concrete blocks and 5,200 panes of glass (see here). Its original owner, Richard Lloyd Jones, was publisher of the Tulsa Tribune newspaper and a leading figure in the community at the time. Communities, individuals and private organizations often seek to preserve important buildings so that future generations can enjoy their beauty and historical significance. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a community seeking to preserve such a building. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining the importance of the building in local history, its artistic significance, and why preserving it would benefit the community in the future. Finish by discussing important local buildings in your community.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.