For Grades 5-8 , week of May 01, 2023

1. School Bus Hero

It’s often said that anyone can become a hero. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, in all ages and from all backgrounds. In the state of Michigan, a seventh-grade boy is being hailed as a hero for fast thinking and quick action that saved schoolmates from severe injuries. Dillon Reeves, a student at Lois E. Carter Middle School in the city of Warren, saved his schoolmates by jumping from his seat and bringing their fully loaded school bus to a stop after the driver lost consciousness from a medical condition. Dillon, who was seated about five rows back, “threw his backpack down, ran to the front of the bus, grabbed the steering wheel and brought the bus to a stop in the middle of the road,” the school superintendent told CNN News. In a video released by authorities, Dillon is seen taking control of the steering wheel as students screamed in fear, slowly pushing the brakes, and then yelling to the other passengers: “Someone call 911. Now. … Someone call 911!” Before he took action, the bus had begun weaving in traffic and veering toward oncoming cars. No students were injured. People of all ages can become heroes when faced with threats or emergencies. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about someone who did something heroic. Use what you read to write a short editorial describing what the person did, what skills or character traits were needed and how the person’s actions helped others or the community. Share with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

2. Stop Wasting Food

Food waste is a big problem in the United States, and it is getting bigger every day. Each year, 119-billion pounds of food is wasted in the nation — an amount equal to 130-billion meals with a value of more than $408-billion, according to the Feeding America organization. Overall, nearly 40 percent of all food in America is wasted, and the average U.S. family wastes more than a third of the food it buys. Most wasted food ends up in landfills at a time when 35-million Americans are living daily with food shortages. In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a new program is looking to reduce food waste by teaching students, families and other adults how to shop smarter, use what they buy and make the most of leftovers. The Drexel University Food Lab will work with families and community organizations to find new ways to reduce the “fork to trash” problem while lessening food insecurity of families that do not have enough to eat, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reports. The Food Lab is starting by putting a price tag on the cost of food waste — $1,500 a year for the average family. And it is stressing how reducing food waste can help feed the hungry. A 2010 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that wasted food “contains enough calories to feed more than 150-million people each year,” far more than the estimated 35-million Americans who do not get enough to eat. 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: 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. Historic Recognition

As in the United States, indigenous people lived in the South Pacific nation of Australia for thousands of years before white settlers arrived. And as in the U.S., those native people have long complained that they have not been given fair recognition by the government. Now, in a historic national vote, Australians will decide whether indigenous people should get that recognition. In the first referendum vote in 24 years, Australians will decide whether the nation’s constitution should be changed “to recognize the First Peoples of Australia.” A “yes” vote would recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution and create an indigenous body to advise the Parliament legislature on policies and projects relating to indigenous people, CNN News reported. To pass, the referendum needs to win the majority of votes nationwide, and the majority of votes in the majority of states. “Today we take a big step forward on the long journey to constitutional recognition, through voice,” said Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, a member of the Wiradjuri indigenous nation. “We believe that this is so just. We believe this will appeal to the fairness of the Australian people. And we believe that we have history on our side.” The referendum vote in Australia is an attempt by a government to address an injustice from the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another effort by a government to right a wrong from the past. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining what the government is attempting, what impact that would have and whether you think it is sufficient.

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. Butts Are the Worst

Many kinds of pollution affect communities in the United States and in nations around the world. One of the most widespread doesn’t attract attention like bottles, cans and plastic wrappers. Yet cigarette butts are everywhere, littering city streets, parks and other public places. To call attention to the problem of cigarette butts, environmental activists in the European nation of Portugal gathered more than 650,000 butts from city streets and dumped them in a huge pile in a city square in the city of Lisbon. They are “highly toxic” and “should be considered as toxic waste," the protest organizers said. The World Health Organization agrees, noting that cigarette butts are filled with heavy metals, chemicals and plastic fibers that can take decades to break down and decompose. More than 4.5-trillion butts are littered every year, WHO says, including more than 9.7-billion butts in the United States alone. Many are tossed by people as they walk, but many others get thrown from cars because new models don’t include ashtrays. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cigarette butts are the Number One most littered item in the world, CBS News reported. Cigarette butts are a pollution problem and a health problem for communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another form of pollution that poses health risks. Use what you read to write a paragraph or sort paper detailing the source of the pollution, what health risk it poses and what can be done about it.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific visual or textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Invasive Hippos

Invasive species can “invade” new areas in many different ways. They can hitch rides with shipments of food or other materials. They can float in on rivers or travel on winds. Or they be released by pet owners who don’t want them any more. In the South American nation of Colombia, an invasive species was introduced, because a drug lord wanted a collection of unusual animals to entertain himself. The drug lord was Pablo Escobar who ran the Medellín drug cartel before his death in a shootout in 1993. The invasive species are the hippos Escobar brought to his ranch to be part of his personal collection. After Escobar’s death most of his exotic animals were relocated. Except for the hippos. Now, 30 years after the drug lord’s death, the hippos have reproduced so much that their population is a threat to local rivers and communities, CNN News reports. To deal with the problem, the local Colombian government will spend approximately $3.5-million to relocate 70 hippos from a herd of 160 to zoos, sanctuaries and other regions to reduce their numbers. “We’re looking to save the lives of the hippos, but also to protect the lives of people in [our] region,” the local governor said. Invasive species cause problems that are difficult to solve. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about two invasive species that are causing problems. Use what you read to create a chart or graphic organizer comparing where the species came from, how they got to their new environment, the impact they are having on native plants or wildlife and how they can be dealt with. Give your chart an eye-catching title and share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using lists, concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.