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For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 20, 2020

1. Draft at Home

The NFL college player draft is one of the biggest events of the year in professional football. But this year it will be much different when it takes place April 23-25. Due to the coronavirus, the National Football League has eliminated the splashy public events it has held around the draft in recent years. Teams, players and league officials will be participating from home, starting with commissioner Roger Goodell, who will lead the draft from the basement of his home outside New York City. Teams will call in their draft choices remotely, and up to 58 top draft prospects will be available by Zoom or smart phone connections to discuss their selections, the league said, rather than being introduced in person. Among the top players to be chosen in this year’s draft are quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow of Louisiana State University and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa of the University of Alabama. The NFL draft gives each team a chance to get better by selecting a player who can help them at a key position. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about what different teams might be looking for. Use what you read to write a sports column discussing what one team, or a favorite team, might do in the draft.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

2. Antarctic Invasion

Invasive species are a danger to the environment because they upset the balance of nature. They often have no natural predators or controls and overrun the habitat they settle in. The continent of Antarctica has long been free of invasive species due to its cold temperatures, harsh environment and isolation. But no more. Scientists report that a colony of mussels not native to Antarctica has been discovered in Fildes Bay on King George Island near the Antarctic Peninsula. Researchers believe the mussels got to the Antarctica islands by hitching a ride on a ship traveling from Patagonia at the tip of South America 1,000 miles to the north. Many ships carrying tourists and cargo stop at Fildes Bay. While the mussel colony did not appear to have survived its first Antarctic winter, scientists worry that climate change and warmer waters could bring more invasive species. “Species might find suitable conditions in the future,” one told the New York Times. Invasive species can cause great damage to the natural environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an invasive species that is doing this. Write a paragraph describing the damage that is being done, and how communities are responding.

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.

3. On a Roll

The business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus have forced owners to try new things to survive. In the European nation of Finland, a bakery saved itself from closing for good by creating a cake of an item that every family craves during the corona emergency. The cake looks just like a roll of toilet paper, with the first sheet partially unfolded. The cake was a lifesaver for the Ronttosrouva bakery, whose orders from customers had dried up in the city of Helsinki as a result of the virus. The bakery sold the first five in less than an hour, and when photos were shared online, orders started coming in by the hundreds. The added business not only allowed the bakery to keep all its employees, but enabled it to hire two others to meet the demand. “For us it’s a game changer and I am relieved because I know all my employees are safe for months now,” owner Saana Lampinen told Reuters News. With coronavirus restrictions on customers, business owners have been forced to try new things or change the way they operate. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about businesses that are making changes. Use what you read to write a business column analyzing the challenges that the changes present to the businesses trying 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.

4. It's a Zonkey!

In nature it’s rare for one species to mate with another. A zebra that escaped from a national park in Kenya, however, has proved that it can happen. The female zebra escaped about a year ago from the Chyulu Hills National park in the African nation, and joined up with a herd of cattle and other domestic animals. One of them was a male donkey, park officials said, and at some time during the zebra’s escape she and the donkey mated. The zebra eventually was returned to the park and recently gave birth to a zebra-donkey hybrid, or “zonkey.” The zonkey has stripes on its legs like its mother, but its back and torso are mostly brown. Its body is sturdy and muscular, but looks more like a donkey than a zebra. “Working with wildlife, one learns to expect the unexpected,” a rescue group that examined the zonkey said in a news release. “Even the most seemingly straightforward story can … reveal its true stripes and end up surprising us all.” Wild animals are often in the news for doing unexpected or unnatural things. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about an animal doing something like this. Use what you read to write a creative story based on the animal’s actions. What made the animal act that way? What was the result? What could happen in the future? Tell your story from the animal’s point of view, if you like.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing visual and textual evidence when writing or speaking.

5. Run for Relief

With the spread of the coronavirus, businesses and health care workers are both struggling. To help them survive the emergency, a New York man came up with an unusual idea. He decided to go running … and running … and running. David Kilgore, who lives in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City, announced he was going to run 100 miles in a single day to raise money to help businesses and health care workers on the front lines fighting the virus. Through social media he set up a GoFundMe account where supporters could buy gift cards from running stores to be given to health care workers. The goal was to help the workers buy comfortable footwear for their long days on the job. Kilgore, 28, ran his special race March 27 while sheltering with his parents in the state of Florida, the Washington Post newspaper reported. He checked in with followers while running to urge them to contribute. — and contribute they did. He raised more than $15,000 for health care workers, and supported small businesses as well. In the battle against the coronavirus, private citizens are helping in many different ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a private person doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor thanking the person, and detailing how he/she could be an example for others.

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