1. Animated Oscars
The Oscar awards have been given out for more than 90 years to honor excellence in the world of movies. One of the most popular categories for families is always the competition for Best Animated Feature because cartoon movies are very popular with kids. Voters for this year’s Oscars will have some tough choices to make, because the Animated category includes movies that drew millions of viewers to theaters. Will the Oscar go to “Incredibles 2,” “Isle of Dogs,” “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” or the Japanese film “Mirai”? Also of interest to families this year is the Best Picture category, in which “Black Panther” is the first superhero movie ever to be nominated for the Oscars’ top award. As a class, discuss what movies you saw this year that you liked. Which were the most popular among your classmates? Pick one movie you liked and write a review of it for the newspaper. Use specifics from the movie to tell people what you liked about the movie, what surprised you most, and why you would recommend it to others.
Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
2. Old vs. Young
This year’s Super Bowl will be played next Sunday to determine which team will be pro football’s champion. With the New England Patriots facing the Los Angeles Rams, it will feature two very different teams. The Patriots have been to nine Super Bowls since 2002 and four of the last five. The Rams have not been to the Super Bowl since 2002, when they lost to the Patriots. The Patriots are led by the league’s oldest starting quarterback, 41-year-old Tom Brady. The Rams are led by the league’s fourth youngest quarterback, 24-year-old Jared Goff. The Patriots are coached by Bill Belichick, who has led the team since the year 2000. The Rams are coached by Sean McVay, who has been a head coach just two years. At age 33, McVay is the youngest coach in the NFL and the youngest to ever lead a team in the Super Bowl. At 66, Belichick is the league’s second oldest. Who will win this year’s Super Bowl? Search the newspaper and Internet for stories about players or coaches who could determine which team wins. Use what you read to write a short sports column, predicting which team you think will win, and why.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
3. A Threat to Trees
Baobab trees are among the oldest on the continent of Africa, but climate change may be threatening them. A 2018 report in the science journal Nature Plants notes that many baobabs in southern Africa have died in recent years, or suffered splits in their giant trunks. Researchers say hotter and drier conditions may be placing new stress on the ancient trees, because southern Africa is “one of the fastest warming areas on the Earth,” one scientist told CNN news. Examination of one baobab that collapsed found that it had just 40% water in its stems, compared to between 70% and 80% for healthy baobabs. Baobabs (pronounced BAY-o-babs) can live to be 3,000 years old and have trunks more than 30 feet wide. Global warming and climate change are affecting natural environments all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one way that warming is having an effect. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor calling attention to this effect. In your letter list steps people or governments could take to address the situation.
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. Record Dragon Boat
Dragon boats have a history that goes back to competitions nearly 2,500 years ago in the Asian nation of China. Now a team from the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia has re-written that history in a big way. The team has set a new Guinness World Record by building a dragon boat almost as long as a football field! The boat measures 286 feet, 5 inches long and was built by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia and the Prey Veng Provincial Administration, UPI news reported. In dragon boat racing, boats are paddled by teams of competitors to the beat of a drum. People set new records in different ways. In sports or other fields, they can set records just by performing at a high level. In other cases, people plan ahead and take special steps to break records. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about people breaking records in these two ways. Use what you read to prepare an oral report for the class, telling how the record-breaking efforts were different.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. Oysters to the Rescue
Oysters, mussels and clams play a special role in ocean environments. These shellfish not only provide food for other marine life — they can clean polluted water by filtering it through their gills. In New York City, a non-profit environmental program wants to use that special skill to clean up the polluted waters of New York Harbor. The Billion Oyster Project seeks to re-establish oyster beds and reefs in the harbor as a way to reduce pollution. The goal is to re-create the oyster reefs that existed when European settlers first arrived in the 1600s. The reefs not only kept the water clean, but also provided protection from ocean storms. So far the Billion Oyster Project has introduced about 30 million oysters to harbor waters. The Billion Oyster Project is an effort by people to help the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another effort to help the environment. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short movie or video telling how people are working to help the environment and why that is important.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.