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For Grades 5-8 , week of May 09, 2022

1. Ukrainian Mothers

Sunday was Mother’s Day in the United States and other nations, and First Lady Jill Biden used the occasion to support some of the most stressed and beleaguered mothers in the world. The U.S. First Lady traveled to the European nation of Slovakia and met with Ukrainian mothers and families who have been displaced by the Russian invasion of their homeland. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began two months ago, nearly 5.5-million people have left the country, according to the United Nations refugee agency. On Mother’s Day, Biden met with Ukrainian mothers and children in the communities of Kosice and Vysne Nemecke in eastern Slovakia, which borders Ukraine. This was not the first time the First Lady has shown support for the Ukrainian people. During President Biden’s State of the Union address this spring, she invited a Ukrainian envoy to Washington, DC to sit with her, and on a number of occasions she has worn a coronavirus safety mask decorated with a sunflower, Ukraine’s national flower. Mothers and children make up the vast majority of refugees who have fled Ukraine (fathers and other men have stayed behind to fight for their homeland). They have enormous needs as they settle in other countries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the refugee needs of women and children, and agencies attempting to help them. Use what you read to write an editorial focusing on agencies that are doing essential relief work and how American businesses, individuals and non-profit groups can best support them.

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. Lights Out

Every spring, billions of birds migrate through the United States from the warm southern places where they spend the winter to cool northern areas where they breed and raise families. For many species, much of this movement comes at night — and that increases the dangers of their journey. The lights of tall buildings and other landmarks confuse the birds, causing them to fly into windows and become injured or even die. To reduce these night collisions, the birding organization known as the National Audubon Society runs a Lights Out program each spring to get cities to turn off or reduce the number of lights left on at night and save birds from injury. The program runs from the start of April to the end of May and involves communities as far west as the state of Oregon, as far south as Texas and as far east as New York and Massachusetts. Wildlife experts say night migration allows birds to navigate by the moon and the stars and avoid predators like hawks. Many species of birds travel great distances in their spring and fall migrations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one species that does this. Use what you read to create a PowerPoint presentation explaining the challenges faced by this species on its spring migration and what benefits it gets from its final destination.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Baseball Breakthrough

In the United States and around the world, women are making history in jobs that women could never get in the past. One of them is Rachel Balkovec, and she is doing something a woman has never done before in baseball. She is the manager of the Tampa Tarpons, a Class A minor league team connected to the New York Yankees. With her appointment, the 34-year-old Balkovec became the first woman to manage a team affiliated with a Major League team, the New York Times newspaper reported. Balkovec paid her dues with lower-level baseball jobs before getting her chance to manage. She was the first woman hired as a full-time hitting instructor by a big league team with the Yankees and before that was a minor league strength and conditioning coordinator with the St. Louis Cardinals. “Rachel always has good ideas,” said one of her players, Antonio Gomez, a top prospect in the Yankees’ minor league system. Women often face challenges not faced by men in attaining leadership jobs. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a woman who has attained a leadership position. Use what you read to write a personal or political column detailing the obstacles this woman faced that a man would not have faced, and how she overcame them.

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.

4. All-Electric High Rise

In an effort to reduce global warming, governments and businesses all over the world are replacing fossil fuels as a source of electricity and turning to alternatives like wind, solar and hydroelectric power. In New York City, the banking giant JPMorgan Chase has just announced it will build a new global headquarters in the city that will be run entirely on renewable energy. Powered by a hydroelectric plant, the 60-story skyscraper will be New York’s largest “all-electric” building, according to the architects for the project. It will stand 1,388 feet tall — 140 feet taller than the roof of the Empire State Building — and employ a wide range of energy-efficient features and systems. It also will make use of “intelligent building technology” by using sensors to monitor and reduce energy consumption, CNN News reports. The all-electric plans for the building come as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio won approval for a law restricting the use of fossil fuels in all new residential and commercial buildings. Reducing the use of fossil fuels like gasoline, oil and coal helps combat global warming because those fuels produce the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when burned. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor suggesting things individuals or your community could do to help combat global warming in this way.

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. Scare Tactic

In large communities and small, speeding by drivers of cars and trucks is a dangerous and ongoing problem. In New York City, traffic deaths are at their highest level in eight years, and officials are trying an unusual approach for dealing with the problem. They’re trying to scare drivers into slowing down. Throughout the city, electronic billboards are being installed showing pedestrians or bicyclists being hit by cars and thrown into the air. Posters on the back of public buses show similar scenes of injury and mayhem. And a series of TV and Internet ads will reinforce the message. The $4-million campaign will target three dozen neighborhoods where traffic injuries and deaths are the highest in the city, the New York Times reports. “This is a crisis and we need to use every tool possible to make our streets safer,” said the leader of one traffic safety group. Communities often launch special campaigns to address ongoing problems. With a partner, use the newspaper and Internet to read about an ongoing problem in your community or state. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea to call attention to this problem. Create three public service ads for the newspaper or Internet to call attention to this issue. Give your ads a theme that will tie them together and write text for each focusing on an aspect of the problem.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.