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For Grades K-4 , week of May 23, 2022

1. Flying on Mars

Just over a year ago, America’s NASA space agency made history by flying a tiny helicopter named Ingenuity above the surface of the planet Mars. The helicopter was the first aircraft NASA had ever flown on another planet, and scientists were excited to see what it could do. It turns out Ingenuity was able to do A LOT. Scheduled for just five flights, it has flown 28 in 13 months and has “far exceeded” all expectations, NASA scientists said. It has sent back thousands of photos, visited a crater that could not be reached from the ground and recorded evidence that water existed long ago in an area called Lake Jezero. Working with the Perseverance rover craft, Ingenuity overcame challenges and difficulties and managed to keep flying. Now it faces its biggest challenge of all: the arrival of Martian winter that will bring deep-freeze temperatures and dust storms that will coat the helicopter’s sun-driven solar panels. That could limit the power it has to fly or halt flights entirely. “At this point, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen next,” one scientist told the Washington Post newspaper. “We’re still working on trying to find a way to fly it again.” The helicopter Ingenuity overcame obstacles and challenges to keep flying on the planet Mars. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person, group or organization that has also overcome obstacles to succeed. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how the obstacles were overcome and how the effort could inspire others.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Books Open Doors

It’s often said that reading can open doors for people by exposing them to new ideas or experiences. In the South American nation of Bolivia, reading is opening doors in a purely physical way for prisoners in the nation’s jails. Prisoners who read or learn to read while in jail can have their sentences reduced and get out of prison earlier than scheduled. Just as significantly, the state program called “Books Behind Bars” offers prisoners hope for a better life, the Reuters news service reports. Forty-seven prisons and nearly 1,000 prisoners are taking part in the program so far. Most of those prisons do not have education and support programs to give prisoners hope that their lives will be better after their release. “Books Behind Bars” gives them that kind of encouragement. “When I read, I am in contact with the whole universe,” said a woman at a prison in the city of La Paz. “The walls and bars disappear.” Reading can open doors in many ways. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about students or adults who have found new skills, new opportunities or new experiences by learning to read well. Create a public service TV ad showing different ways “Reading Opens Doors.” Discuss ads as a class and talk about ways reading has opened doors in some way for you and your classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. Cliff Diving

In the sport of cliff diving, athletes jump from great heights off rocks, bridges, waterfalls or buildings, and perform acrobatic tricks in the air before hitting bodies of water below. For fans of the sport, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series provides a showcase for some of the world’s most daredevil divers performing at nearly 3 times the height of Olympic high diving at speeds of more than 50 miles per hour. This year the Red Bull world tour kicks off in the city of Boston, Massachusetts with competition right on the Boston Waterfront on June 4. Athletes will jump off a platform atop the four-story Institute of Contemporary Art on the waterfront and land in the water of Boston Harbor below. Two dozen of the world’s best divers will compete — 12 men and 12 women— and perform an array of somersaults, twists, flips and other maneuvers. Boston is the only American stop on this year’s Red Bull tour, which will also travel to cities in France, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Italy and Australia. Cliff diving is an “extreme” sport that challenges athletes in unusual ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another “extreme” sport. Use what you read to write a sports column detailing the special skills athletes need to succeed in this sport. Compare those skills to those needed for a more familiar or traditional sport.

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.

4. A Dust Storm … and More

A derecho is a wild weather system that can cause high winds, thunderstorms and even tornadoes. This month a derecho (deh-RAY-cho) caused a giant dust storm in America’s Midwest that was so intense that people driving on highways couldn’t see and officials had to shut down roads. The rare dust storm hit residents of the Midwestern states of Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, before the derecho moved on to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. To be a derecho, a storm line has to be at least 250 miles long, have gusts of wind 58 miles per hour along its entire length and super-gusts of 75 to 100 miles per hour. The winds of this month’s derecho knocked down power lines and trees, overturned cars and trucks and tore wood and roof shingles off buildings. Severe weather events often occur in the summer. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about one such event. Use what you read and other resources to draw up a list of tips that could keep people safe in this severe weather event.

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. Walk Between Mountains

When kids are little, they often draw pictures of mountains with their peaks rising up in a blue sky among the clouds. Sometimes they draw imaginary bridges between the mountains so that people can walk between the peaks without going down to the ground. In the European nation of the Czech Republic, engineers have gone even further than children’s imaginations. They have created a real-life mountain bridge — and it is the longest suspension walking bridge in the world. The bridge, which connects two peaks in the Jeseníky Mountains, is 2,365 feet long — almost a half mile — and hangs from cables nearly 3,700 feet above sea level, CNN News reports. It is about 4 feet wide and is open to adults and children of all ages and heights (but not people in wheelchairs). The bridge is called the Sky Bridge and is part of the Dolní Morava vacation resort in the northeast corner of the Czech Republic. It is 505 feet longer than the second longest suspension walking bridge, located in the Asian nation of Nepal. The Czech walking bridge is a history-making achievement in the construction of new structures. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo or story about another new structure that is making history in some way. Use what you read to write a paragraph telling what challenges had to be overcome to build this history-making structure.

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.

For Grades K-4 , week of May 23, 2022

1. Seeking NATO Security

For more than 70 years, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has served as a counterbalance to the power of Russia, and before that the Soviet Union. NATO has been in the news a lot this year, because Russia said it invaded Ukraine in part to keep it from joining NATO, whose members have pledged to defend each other from outside forces. Now two nations that previously have been neutral — Sweden and Finland — have formally applied to join NATO in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine. The application has been hailed by NATO leaders as “a historic step” in the history of the organization that was formed following World War II. The applications by Finland and Sweden must be approved by NATO’s 30 member nations — 28 nations on the continent of Europe plus the United States and Canada in North America. Approval would ordinarily take more than a year, but observers say the process could be fast-tracked because of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Finland shares an 810-mile land border with Russia and Sweden shares a 340-mile border with Finland. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO has gotten new attention because its members have pledged to aid each other militarily, politically and diplomatically. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about NATO and the Ukraine war. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the renewed importance of NATO in Europe.

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. ‘Shoot Cameras Not Guns’

All across the nation this spring, gun violence has caused fear and heartache for families and communities. In the state of Indiana, a program in the city of Indianapolis is trying to reduce gun deaths in an unusual way — by teaching kids to “Shoot Cameras Not Guns.” The program offered by the nonprofit group Purpose 4 My Pain seeks to keep teens and preteens off the streets and away from potential violence by teaching them how to make movies. And not just any movies — movies that connect with their lives. “Instead of picking up a gun, pick up a camera,” program founder DeAndra Dycus told WRTV news. “Show your truth, show who you are and dominate it.” Dycus created the program with her husband, Eric, and every Saturday he opens his film studio to students who want to learn about moviemaking. When the films have been completed, they will be shown at a local movie theater. “There are so many out here who … are looking for someone to help them express their ideas,” DeAndra Dycus says. “So I say just go do it.” Movies often tell the real-life stories of people. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about movies that have done this. Then brainstorm an idea for a movie that would “show your truth” and tell a story about you, your family or your neighborhood. Write an outline for your movie. Then write the opening scene, including images you would show. Share ideas as a class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

3. Out of Russia

McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain, with outlets in nearly 120 countries. As a result of the war in Ukraine, it soon will have operations in one fewer nation. McDonald’s has announced it intends to sell its business in Russia as a result of the war and turn nearly 850 restaurants over to local or new owners. The sale will end more than 30 years of McDonald’s operations in Russia and affect more than 60,000 Russian workers. In a statement, the burger chain said the “humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the … unpredictable operating environment [in Russia], have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values,” CNN News reported. “We have a commitment to our global community and must remain steadfast in our values. And our commitment to our values means that we can no longer keep the Arches shining there.” Once the sale is finalized, the Russian restaurants will no longer be allowed to use the McDonald’s name, arches, logo or menu. Many large companies are pulling out of Russia as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different companies that are doing this. Use what you read to write a business column analyzing which actions by companies will have the biggest impact on Russia and its economy.

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. ‘Jurassic’ Fossil Sale

In the “Jurassic Park” movies, velociraptors were deadly dinosaurs that hunted with speed, smarts and a fearsome claw on each foot. In real life velociraptors were not quite like the movie version. But a species that inspired the movie killers made headlines this month when a nearly complete fossil of it was sold at an auction. The fossil was of a species known as “Deinonychus antirrhopus” that was found in the state of Montana in 2013. It had the deadly claw of the movie velociraptors on its rear legs and lived 115 to 108 million years ago. (In the ancient Greek language “Deinonychus” is pronounced “die-NON-i-kus” and means “terrible claw.”) The 9-foot-long fossil that was auctioned off consisted of 126 fossilized bones and is the most complete skeleton of Deinonychus ever found, according to the Christie’s organization that ran the sale. It sold for a whopping $12.4-million — more than double the $4-million to $6-million that had been predicted. Dinosaur fossils reveal a great deal about species that lived long ago. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a dinosaur fossil has been discovered or is on display at a museum. Use what you read to write a letter to a younger student telling why this fossil is important to scientists who study dinosaurs. Remember to use simple language that younger readers would understand.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. What a Marathoner!

At 26.2 miles, the marathon distance race is the most challenging in running. So how challenging must it be to run 104 marathons in 104 days? With just half of a left leg? Yet that is what an amputee athlete from the state of Arizona did this spring, setting an unofficial women’s world record for marathons run on consecutive days. Jacky Hunt-Broersma, who lost her left leg below the knee to a rare form of cancer, started her quest in January and finished at the end of April. She ran on traditional courses, loop tracks and treadmills, using a carbon-fiber, replacement-leg prosthesis called a running blade. All in all she covered 2,724.8 miles — almost the distance between Los Angeles, California and New York City— and raised $200,000 from online supporters. She will use the money to buy running blades for other amputee runners (they can cost more than $10,000 each). In a journal she said she hopes her effort will inspire others and noted that running has “given me courage, strength, friendship and confidence to be who I am.” People often overcome physical challenges to do amazing things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who has done this. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend telling how this person’s achievement could inspire others.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.