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For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 04, 2024


In Texas’ panhandle, firefighters are battling the largest wildfire in state history. The Smokehouse Creek fire merged with another wildfire and is covering 1,700 square miles. Snow fell in the area on Thursday as temperatures dropped, helping the firefighters who were trying to control the blaze in the rural section of the state. Part of the fire has crossed the border into Oklahoma as well. Officials haven’t yet said what started the fire. Look up the rates of wildfires in North America—are they happening more or less frequently nowadays? Write a short article that summarizes the trends and gives theories as to what might be causing it.


Manuel Rocha, a former US diplomat, has said in court that he will plead guilty to charges that accuse him of working for Cuba as a secret agent. The 73-year-old worked for the State Department for two decades as an ambassador and in other roles, but was apparently acting as a spy for the communist country of Cuba. He is accused of both providing information to Cuba and lying to the US government; he was arrested after making admissions to an undercover FBI agent who posed as a member of Cuban intelligence. Investigations since then show that the CIA received tips that weren’t pursued about Rocha or a mole for Cuba in the government. Read about the history between the US and Cuba. Then, write an article that summarizes how Rocha’s behavior could have affected the United States.


Longtime Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced he would not seek reappointment to lead his party in Congress following November’s elections, though he would fulfill his term as a Senator that ends in 2027. He acknowledged the politics of his party, stating that his views on national security were out of sync with the rest of his party. He also has a contentious relationship with former President Donald Trump, who he criticized for his role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol while acquitting him during the impeachment trial on charges of inciting an insurrection. Research McConnell’s history as a Senator and leader of the Republican Party. Then, write an article that summarizes his tenure as a congressional leader and his recent announcement.


Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended the requirement that people who test positive for Covid-19 have to stay in isolation for five days. They now say that if a person who tests positive begins improving and it’s been at least one day since they’ve had a fever, they can resume their regular activities like going to work or school. Experts say their goal is to still protect those at risk from severe illness, like people whose immune systems are compromised and the elderly, but experts worry that the change could impact those groups. The guidance still emphasizes that people should stay home while they are sick, especially with any respiratory symptoms. Some states, including California and Oregon, had already changed their isolation guidelines in a similar way and did not see an increase in cases afterwards. Research current Covid-19 rates, including incidents of infection, hospitalization, and death. Then, write an article about the new CDC guidelines and what people should know about the virus nowadays.


Researchers have found evidence of fifteen ancient settlements in the Amazon rainforest of South America. Using Light Detection and Ranging (also known as Lidar), they’ve been able to identify remains of manmade structures on the ground, something that was previously difficult given the thick tree cover of the rainforest. Scientists believe they found the earliest and largest urban settlement discovered in the Amazon after nearly thirty years of research in the area. The ancient cities, complete with evidence of homes and communal plazas, cover 115 square miles and are connected by pathways and roads. The planned cities are evidence of engineering and building skills and challenge the longstanding theory that the ancient people of the Amazon were nomadic. Write an article that summarizes this discovery and explains why it would’ve taken so long to discover evidence of these ancient cities.