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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 20, 2023

1. ‘The Big Help Out’

In the European nation of Great Britain, King Charles III became head of the British royal family immediately upon the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II last September. But his official coronation as king won’t take place until six months later on May 6. That event will feature pomp, pageantry, celebration and ceremonies for all the nation’s people to enjoy. It will also feature a day of volunteering called “The Big Help Out.” On that day people are being encouraged to volunteer to improve their communities or “help causes that matter to them.” “It is going to be a festival of volunteering,” said a spokesman. “The aim is to create a legacy of better-connected communities long beyond the coronation itself.” Before becoming King, Charles III supported many charitable causes and volunteer organizations. Volunteers can make a big difference in schools, neighborhoods and communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about volunteers who are making a difference. Then brainstorm an idea for volunteering by which you and your classmates could make a difference. Write an open letter to your classmates describing your plan and telling why they should support it.

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.

2. No Skating

In winter months, people who live in cold climates like to get outdoors and go ice skating. This year, due to rising temperatures from global warming, people may have to use indoor rinks if they want their skating fix. In the Canadian city of Ottawa, Ontario, for example, the largest natural skating rink in the world has been unable to open this winter due to thin ice, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The Rideau Canal Skateway has not been able to build up ice of the necessary thickness due to “persistent above-average seasonal temperatures,” officials said. And it is not certain that the city and Skateway will get enough cold weather to freeze the canal to the required 12-inch thickness for safe skating. The 4.8-mile ice path ordinarily runs from January through early March but has yet to open this year. The Skateway is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest naturally frozen ice rink in the world and attracts up to a million visitors a year. Global warming is affecting human activities in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such effect. Use what you read to write a short editorial describing the effect and what can be done about it. Think creatively when discussing possible solutions.

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.

3. Pioneer in Space

U.S astronaut Jessica Watkins made history last year when she became the first Black woman to serve on the International Space Station orbiting 200 miles above the Earth. She served six months on the station and conducted hundreds of experiments ranging from growing plants in space to studying fire safety to measuring astronauts’ strength gripping objects. She is not done with space exploration, however, CNN News reports. At 34 years old, she is a member of the Artemis team put together by America’s NASA space agency to return astronauts to the Earth’s moon and eventually take them to the planet Mars. She would especially like to be selected to travel to Mars to explore some of the landmarks she’s only been able to analyze through data collected by satellites and Martian rovers. “To go to those areas that we have studied — and that I, in particular, have studied — and be able to get boots on the ground … will be pretty amazing,” she said. February is Black History Month and a time to celebrate achievements like those of astronaut Jessica Watkins. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the achievements of a Black man or woman in America. Use what you read to prepare a report for younger students telling what this person has achieved, why that is important and how it could influence or inspire other people. Remember to use language in your report that younger students will understand.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; 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. Superb Owl

Each year around football’s Super Bowl, owls get lots of attention on the Internet. That’s because if you shift one letter in the phrase “Super Bowl” it becomes “Superb Owl.” In New York City, a Superb Owl is getting lots of attention this month after escaping from the Central Park Zoo. The male Eurasian Eagle Owl has surprised and calmed zoo officials by learning hunt for himself and live in the wild. The owl, named Flaco, escaped when his enclosure was vandalized, and zoo officials worried at first that he would not have the skills to survive on his own, ABC News in New York reported. After a few days, however, zoo officials were encouraged to see the owl fly and hunt successfully in the 843-acre Central Park. That prompted them to change their strategy to monitoring and tracking the owl instead of trying to re-capture him. The Eurasian Eagle Owl is the second largest owl species with a wingspan of more than 6 feet and a height of more than 30 inches, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The owls have large talons, orange eyes, black and orange feathers and distinctive ear tufts like those of great horned owls. Native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa, they feed on rats, mice, rabbits and smaller birds. Many people are fascinated by birds of prey like eagles, owls and hawks. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one of these bird species. Write the letters of the alphabet down the side of a sheet of paper and use each one to begin an adjective to describe your bird. Stretch your thinking and share with the class. Who can come up with the most adjectives?

Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using lists, concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Eating Out, Old School

All across America, people like to go out to eat at restaurants for fun or special occasions. It turns out that’s not such a new tradition. A new discovery in the Middle East nation of Iraq has revealed that people liked to go out to eat at least 5,000 years ago. The discovery in the ancient city of Lagash has revealed that people went to restaurants and taverns for both indoor and outdoor dining, CNN news reports. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and other colleges have unearthed an eating establishment that featured an open-air dining area and a room containing benches, an oven, ancient food remains and even a primitive 5,000-year-old refrigerator. Lagash, now the Iraqi town of al-Hiba, was one of the oldest and largest cities in southern Mesopotamia, an area often called “the cradle of civilization” for its development of the wheel, cities, writing, mathematics and agriculture. The discovery of the ancient restaurant in Iraq gave scientists new information about how people lived 5,000 years ago. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo of a scene that would give future scientists information about how we live. Use what you find to write a paragraph or short paper detailing what information the scene would provide and which items are the most important to how we live.

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.