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For Grades K-4 , week of Sep. 25, 2023

1. END OF THE DVD ERA

On Friday, Netflix announced they will no longer offer the mail-order DVD service that launched the company 25 years ago. Netflix once mailed 1.2 million DVDs a week in its signature red envelopes, changing the way people watched movies at home, free from due dates and late fees that people ran into at local video rental stores. Fun fact: The first movie Netflix ever shipped was “Beetlejuice.” At its peak, Netflix was the US Postal Service’s fifth largest customer, offering one-day delivery to almost all of its customer base long before Amazon Prime got in the game. Even as the service prepared to shut down, Netflix was still mailing around 50,000 DVDs a week to a loyal base of around one million customers. In its announcement, Netflix invited the DVD customers to keep their last rentals. Stories like this highlight the way technology changes during our lifetimes. Think about the technology you use on a daily basis—watching TV, doing homework, talking to friends, playing games. How do you think that might change in the next ten years? How about fifty years? Write down your ideas and share them with your classmates.

2. WOMEN IN GOVERNMENT

India is taking a large step for gender equality. Their legislative branch of government, like ours, has two houses—an upper and lower house. The country passed a law that will require at least one-third of the seats in the lower house of Parliament, and in state legislatures, to be filled by women. It doesn’t apply to the upper house, but those members are chosen by the state legislatures, which will be affected by the new rule. While the rule won’t go into effect for India’s elections next year, it will eventually give women better representation in the country’s political process. Think about how this kind of rule would work in the United States. Do you think it’s a good thing to implement? Why or why not? Write down your thoughts and share them with your classmates.

3. AN IMPRESSIVE FIND

A woman who purchased a painting at a New Jersey thrift store for $4 in 2017 was shocked to find out that it was an original oil painting by a famous American illustrator. It was by N.C. Wyeth, who is best known for illustrating “Treasure Island” and “Robin Hood.” The buyer posted pictures of the painting and the signed label on the back of it on Facebook, where it drew the attention of an art expert, who examined it and told them who the artist was and where it came from—it was part of a four-image set Wyeth created for the book “Ramona,” published in 1939. The painting sold in an art auction last week for $191,000. If you were going to interview the person who bought the painting at the thrift store for an article about the story, write down some questions you would ask them.

4. A MISSING PLANE

Last week, a military pilot parachuted away from his fighter jet, falling more than 1,000 feet into a home’s backyard. He lost sight of the plane as he was falling and it took officials another day to find where it landed. Because of a safety feature that keeps the plane steady if a pilot’s hands are no longer on the controls, it kept flying for another 60 miles before crashing in a rural area of South Carolina. While planes are normally tracked with radar, another safety feature of the fighter jet erases its communications when a pilot ejects from the plane—to protect the pilot’s location if they were dropping into enemy territory—made it hard to find the plane as it continued to fly and finally crashed. Write a short article about the event and draw a picture or pictures to help illustrate your story.

5. A HEARTWARMING OPERATION

A 58-year-old Navy veteran was dying from heart failure and wasn’t eligible for a transplant because of other health problems. But surgeons found an opportunity to try to help him and advance medical research at the same time. They implanted a pig’s heart into the man, a procedure that’s only been done one other time—that man lived two months after the transplant. People’s immune systems usually attack animal-to-human organ transplants, but scientists have been working on genetically modifying pigs to make their organs more similar to humans. This would help with the shortage of human organs donated for transplant and could be lifesaving for thousands of people. Write a short article that summarizes the facts of this story and how it might help humans in the future.