For Grades K-4 , week of May 20, 2024


A Vermont university has given an honorary degree to an unlikely member of the campus community. Max the Cat is a friendly feline that lives near Vermont State University’s Castleton campus with his human family. He spends his days roaming the campus, hanging out with college students who often pose for selfies with him. The university is honoring Max with a “doctor of litter-ature” degree with the class of 2024’s graduation. Write a short story or draw a comic strip about Max the Cat being given an honorary degree from the college.


The subject of a portrait in Australia has requested the museum take it down. It’s a portrait of Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, and it’s a part of a collection of paintings by Vincent Namatjira, an indigenous Australian artist. The 21 portraits in the collection are displayed together and called “Australia in Colour.” Other people Vincent included are Queen Elizabeth II, American musician Jimi Hendrix, and even a portrait of himself. Some say that Gina’s demand that the portrait be taken down because she doesn’t like it could hurt creative expression if the museum followed through on her request. Do you think the subject of a painting or other art should have a say in whether it’s displayed for people to see? Why or why not? Write at least 5 sentences about how you feel, then share with your classmates and listen to their different perspectives.


Emojis are a fun way to communicate using colorful pictures and symbols instead of words. However, they’re less clear and can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. People from different generations often interpret emojis in different ways, which can lead to confusion. Additionally, some emojis have different meanings in different cultures. (For example: The “OK” hand sign, as we know it in the US, is a rude gesture in Brazil, a sign for money in Japan, and a symbol of evil in the Middle East.) But in some ways, it can actually be a benefit—in a workplace survey, more than two-thirds of people said they felt more bonded with a coworker who understands their emoji use. In another study, 89 percent of people surveyed around the world said that emojis helped bridge language barriers. There will be 118 new emojis added in 2024. If you could create an emoji, what would it look like? What would it mean and how would you use it in conversation? Would it be literal or a symbol for something else? Draw your own emoji and write at least five sentences about why you chose it and how it’d be used.


In recent years, many people in the fashion industry have tried to become more environmentally friendly and change the processes and materials they use to ones that are more sustainable. Some people have gotten very creative with different materials, like Human Material Loop, a Dutch company that uses a very unusual material: human hair! The company collects hair cuttings from hairdressers and turns them into fabric that they use for clothing, furniture, and home decorations like curtains and rugs. The founder compares human hair to animal fibers like wool, which is used all the time in fashion. It doesn’t require land, water, or resources to create like raising sheep for wool or making synthetic materials like polyester from chemicals, so it is environmentally friendly and actually keeps tons of hair from ending up in landfills from hair salons. Can you think of other unusual materials that could be recycled and turned into fabric? Brainstorm ideas with your classmates, then write a paragraph about how your material would help use something that would otherwise go to waste.


Last week, the sun released solar flares that made auroras visible in the night sky across the Northern Hemisphere. Auroras are bright green, purple, and pink lights in the sky that happen when clouds of protons and other charged particles are put off by the sun and enter the Earth’s atmosphere. These particles bounce off the oxygen and nitrogen in our atmosphere and create beautiful lights. They’re usually only visible where the magnetic field is the strongest—at the North and South poles—but the recent solar flares form the sun were so strong, auroras were visible much farther away from the poles. Write a summary of this story, including five facts you learned, and draw a picture of what you think the sky would look like with an aurora visible.