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For Grades 5-8 , week of July 10, 2017

1. Drug Lollipops

Drug dealers will go to great lengths to conceal or disguise the drugs they are selling. In Harris County, Texas, this summer, a drug bust revealed just how unusual those efforts can be. Manufacturers of methamphetamine had molded the drug into children’s lollipops shaped liked Batman, Star Wars characters, flowers and butterflies. While the shapes could appeal to children, drug experts said making meth look like candy was more likely designed to make it easier to smuggle. As one drug expert said, Yoda-shaped lollipops look a lot more harmless than meth in crystal form. The lollipops had a street value of about $1 million. Stopping the sale of illegal drugs is a constant challenge for police and other government agencies because dealers are always trying new things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a new approach drug dealers have tried. Use what you read to write a paragraph describing the new approach and what police did (or need to do) to stop it.

Common Core State Standards: Closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Business Free Speech

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech for U.S. citizens — even if the speech is hateful or offensive. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that business trademarks also have First Amendment protection. The High Court ruled last month that a 1946 law that prohibits the government from registering trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment. The case was brought before the court by an Asian American rock band that wanted to call itself The Slants as “a badge of pride.” It also could have effect on a long-running debate seeking to get the Washington Redskins NFL team to change its name because “Redskins” is an offensive term to Native Americans. The Redskins case is also being argued in the courts, after the team was stripped of its trademark protection based on the same law. Freedom of speech can take many forms — from talking, to trademarks, to making movies, to creating art. With family or friends, discuss all the forms freedom of speech can take. Find and read about examples in the newspaper or online. Use what you find and images from the newspaper or Internet to an art collage on “Free Speech.”

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Climate Study Woes

The effects of climate change have sparked studies by scientists all over the world. But a planned $17 million study in Canada had to be put on hold last month — due to the effects of climate change. Scientists working in the first phase of a study of Hudson Bay lost the use of an icebreaker ship as a research vessel because the icebreaker kept being called to respond to emergencies caused by melting sea ice. Because of warmer temperatures in the Arctic region around the Earth’s North Pole, hazardous sea ice is traveling farther south than usual, and the icebreaker has been diverted several times to emergencies off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland province. Global warming and climate change are having effects all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect somewhere in the world. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing what is happening and what the impact will be in the future on the environment, wildlife and people.

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. A Happy Ending

Talk about a Goodwill story! When an Ohio couple made a charity contribution to Goodwill Industries last month, they thought they were just donating used clothes. But inside the box with the clothing was a duffel bag containing $97,000 in hundred dollar bills! Fortunately for Dan and Lynette Leckrone, employees for the charity organization quickly realized that a mistake had been made and tracked down the Leckrones through legal documents in the bag. The money had been withdrawn from a bank ,and before the mixup was supposed to be deposited in another bank for the purchase of a new home. The employees of Goodwill Industries in Ohio “did the right thing” when they worked to return the large sum of money they found. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone else choosing to do the right thing. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, thanking the person for his/her actions and stating how that could inspire other people.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it.

5. Modern Slavery?

The West African nation of Mauritania was the last country in the world to officially abolish slavery, doing so only in 1981. The government says slavery no longer exists within its borders, but human rights activists and the U.S. State Department say slave owning practices still remain. According to an investigation by CNN news, most slaves in Mauritania are the descendants of individuals who were captured centuries ago. They typically are not bought and sold but can be given away as gifts, CNN reports, and their offspring automatically become slaves, too. The CIA World Factbook says that up to 20% of Mauritania's 3.67 million population is estimated to be enslaved, though other sources estimate the percentage is much lower. Modern day slavery is a violation of human rights. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another situation that violates human rights. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short documentary film about one situation. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene or introduction to the topic.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.