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For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 26, 2022

1. Ace-ing a Championship

When people do well with a test or challenge, it’s often said they “aced it.” In sports, the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA aced it big time in the finals of the Women’s National Basketball Association. They easily defeated the Connecticut Sun 3 games to 1 to win their first WNBA championship. The championship was also the first in any professional sport for the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. The Aces get their name from the highest ranked card in a deck of cards in games such as those played at Las Vegas’s gambling casinos. Like the top-ranked card, the Aces were the highest ranked team in the WNBA playoffs this year after compiling a 26-10 record in the regular season. Aces guard Chelsea Gray was named the Most Valuable Player for the finals after scoring 20 points and collecting five rebounds and six assists in the championship game. Gray, who played college basketball at Duke, averaged 18.3 points overall in the finals and shot 58 percent from the field. Chelsea Gray was a team leader for the Aces in the WNBA championship series. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another athlete who is a team leader. Use what you read to write a sports column detailing the skills, character and personality traits that make this athlete a leader. Discuss which of these traits would make someone a leader in another career as well.

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. Saint Javelin

Saint Javelin isn’t a saint you’ll find on any list of holy figures in the Catholic Church or other denominations. She bears a resemblance to the Virgin Mary, a saint celebrated by Catholics and others as the mother of Jesus. But instead of holding a baby in her arms, Saint Javelin cradles a Javelin missile — an American-made anti-tank weapon playing a big role in the war in Ukraine. Beyond her image, this unusual saint has distinguished herself in another way. In just a few months, she has raised more than $1-million to support the Ukrainian resistance to the invasion by the neighboring nation of Russia, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The fund-raising has come about through a business created by Christian Borys, a former journalist based in Canada who has covered conflict in Ukraine and other areas around the world. A portion of anything Borys sells with the Saint Javelin image is used to support Ukraine — and he’s selling a lot. The image is now available on T-shirts, flags, murals, stickers, accessories, apparel and even tattoos around the world. Javelin missiles are among the most important weapons sent to Ukraine by the United States and other nations. The Javelin’s warheads can penetrate steel up to 31.5 inches thick, with a range of more than 1.5 miles. Support for Ukraine in its war with Russia continues to pour in from around the world. And the Ukrainians are using it well, pushing Russian troops back in key areas and performing better than war experts had expected. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the Ukraine war. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining the biggest challenges faced by Ukraine forces in the weeks ahead and how other nations can help them.

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.

3. Goodbye, ‘Phantom’

Broadway musicals use songs, music, dancing and amazing sets to tell stories that touch people in special ways. One of the most popular ever has been “The Phantom of the Opera,” which has been running on Broadway in New York City for an astounding 35 years. That is a record, but soon the “Phantom’s” Broadway run will be coming to an end. Show officials have announced that it will stage its last performances in February, ending one of Broadway’s most remarkable stories. Based on a novel by French author Gaston Leroux, “Phantom” tells the tale of a mask-wearing opera lover — the Phantom — who haunts the Paris Opera House and becomes obsessed with a young singer-dancer. The show features some of the most memorable songs in Broadway history, plus a kidnapping and show-stopping special effects. On Broadway, the show has run for nearly 14,000 performances, been seen by 19.8-million people, and has grossed $1.3-billion in ticket sales. Show officials said it is closing because sales have not rebounded from a drop-off caused by the coronavirus and can no longer cover expenses. Like Broadway shows, businesses and other institutions often have to close when they can no longer cover their operating costs. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a business or institution that is closing. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, analyzing the reasons the business is closing and whether it could succeed with new management.

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.

4. Foggy and Wet

The California city of San Francisco is known for its cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Giants and 49ers sports teams, and for … fog. In the summer months, water vapor rises from the Pacific Ocean, turns into droplets that cling to particles in the air and forms low-lying cloud banks that roll in off the ocean in the afternoon or evening. Fog can turn a bright sunny day into a cold, damp evening in a matter of minutes, surprising tourists who don’t bring the right clothes. San Franciscans, however, have grown used to the fog, and now some of them are looking to put its moisture to work, the New York Times newspaper reports. They are hoping to collect water from fog to support dried out farms and communities in the way redwood trees collect moisture from fog in groves along the coast. Scientists are working to develop “fog catchers” that will collect moisture with mesh netting or filters to be used for other purposes. Some have collected more than 30 liters of water in a single day, but most collect a liter or less. Still, every little bit helps in a rain-starved state such as California. “Fog is great,” one scientist said. “It’s not rain. But it’s something.” Scientists are working to develop new ways to provide water for areas that need it. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an effort to use science to help communities or the environment. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper, detailing how the science would work, what it would cost and how effective it would be long-term.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

5. Great (Horned) Rescue

In lessons about the environment, teachers are always outlining ways people can help animals, birds and other wildlife. At a middle school in the state of Wisconsin, a seventh grade teacher gave students a real-life lesson in how it can be done. Science teacher Abbie Ward sprang into action when she learned a great horned owl had been caught in a soccer net on the playing fields of Riverview Middle School in the city of Plymouth. The owl, which is the largest owl species in North America, had gotten tangled in the thin netting while hunting at night and couldn’t escape. As students and other teachers watched, Ward grabbed a pair of scissors and heavy-duty chemistry gloves, and rushed to free the panicked bird, the local CBS TV station reported. Avoiding its sharp beak and talons, she carefully cut away the tangled pieces of net until the owl could free its legs and wings. Then as students clapped and cheered, the great horned spread its huge wings and flew off. “It was just the greatest,” Ward said. Great horned owls, which get their name from tufts of feathers on their heads, can grow up to 25 inches tall and have a wingspan of more than 50 inches. People often help wildlife in unusual ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a person or group doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend or family member, detailing the challenges faced by the people seeking to help — and how they overcame them.

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.