For Grades K-4 , week of Apr 24, 2017

1. Setting Records in Space

At age 57, Peggy Whitson is the world’s oldest and most experienced female astronaut. And last month she set a new record aboard the International Space Station. Actually, she set a record OUTSIDE the space station, completing her eighth spacewalk while orbiting 200 miles above the Earth. Whitson’s seven-hour spacewalk gave her a record-setting 53 hours walking in space. Whitson, who is a member of America’s NASA space agency, will set another new record later this month, when she will mark her 534th day in space on a combined three missions to the space station. That will top Jeff Williams’ record for the most time spent in space by an American astronaut. Whitson made her first trip to the space station in 2002 and spent six months aboard. During her second mission in 2007, she became the first female space station commander in history. Her current mission is scheduled to end September 3. Astronauts perform a great many duties on space missions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an astronaut who is on a mission in space or training for a mission. Use what you read to draw a picture or illustration showing things the astronaut is doing. Use your reading to explain your drawing for the class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Amazing Wildflowers

In recent years the state of California has had a severe shortage of rain, but this winter the skies opened up to relieve the lack of water. As a result, wildflowers in the state are having a “super bloom” that is covering fields and hills that are usually dry. The amazing colors cover so much area that they can be seen from space in satellite photos. “Super blooms” occur when there is extra rainfall that allows wildflower seeds to sprout, grow and bloom. The winter rainfall was especially heavy this year because of the El Niño weather system. The “super bloom” of wildflowers in California is attracting thousands of tourists because the situation is rare and unusual. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos of California’s “super bloom.” Then write out the alphabet in two columns on a sheet of paper. For each letter, see if you can come up with an adjective to describe the “super bloom” situation. You may work in pairs or teams if you like.

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Solar-Powered Coal Museum

You wouldn't expect a museum that focuses on the coal industry to run on anything but coal — but a mining museum in Kentucky is going solar. The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in the town of Benham is switching to solar power to save money. The museum, which tells the story of Kentucky coal mining, expects to save $8,000-$10,000 by using solar power generated by sunlight. Unlike coal, solar is a renewable energy source, and also produces less pollution. Twenty solar panels were installed in the project, which was funded by an outside foundation. The museum is run by Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. Because there is an endless amount of sunlight, solar power is considered a renewable energy source. As a class, discuss other types of energy that are considered renewable. Use the newspaper or Internet to find images that would illustrate renewable sources of energy. Use the images to create an art collage to call attention to “Renewable Energy.”

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Sapphires with a Risk

Sapphires are gems used to make jewelry for movie stars, celebrities, kings and queens. But in the African nation of Madagascar, an increase in mining for sapphires could endanger some of the Earth’s rarest creatures. Madagascar has become one of Africa's leading producers of the colored gems since they were first discovered in the island nation in the 1990s. As a result, there is now a “sapphire rush” to mine for them in one of the largest areas of rain forest that remains. Illegal and unlicensed miners have been flooding into the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor and are digging in sensitive natural areas in search of high-quality green and blue sapphires. The area is home to thousands of plant and animal species, including the largest known species of lemur — the Indri — as well as many rare birds and amphibians. Wildlife supporters have asked the Madagascar government to crack down on the illegal miners. When people want natural resources like sapphires or valuable minerals, there can be conflicts with people who want to protect natural areas. As a class, use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read a story about a conflict over using natural resources. Use what you read to write a list of reasons people would want to use the resources and a list of reasons people would want to protect the area they are in. Discuss which reasons seem stronger to you.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

5. Close Encounter

When people travel to other areas, they often want to see the wildlife that live there. A family from the state of New Jersey, however, wish they’d seen one less species when they traveled to Indiana. A 30-pound wild turkey crashed through their vehicle's windshield while they were driving to Chicago to catch a flight home after visiting a daughter at the University of Notre Dame. Driver John Tarabocchia and his three passengers suffered only minor cuts in the accident, but Tarabocchia had to make an emergency stop after the bird flew through the windshield and sprayed glass all over them. A local sheriff said he had “never seen something like that” in 31 years on the job. The turkey did not survive the crash. People often have to think quickly to deal with emergencies. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone showing quick thinking to handle an emergency. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, praising the person for his/her quick action, and telling what other people could learn from it.

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.