1. Nature Is Good for You
Earlier this month, the world celebrated Earth Day and the many benefits of nature. But people who enjoy nature may get even more benefits than previously realized. A new study has found that living in, or near, green areas can help women live longer and improve their mental health. Women in the greenest U.S. areas had a 12% lower death rate than those in the least green areas, according to the results of a nationwide Nurse’s Health Study that looked into risk factors for major diseases from 2000 to 2008. The researchers from Harvard University said they believe the findings would be similar for men if they were included in the study. Parks and other nature areas add benefits to most communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a park or nature area in your state or community. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor describing benefits that the park or nature area provides. Finish by suggesting ways people could improve the area.
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
2. Train of the Future
It sounds like something from a science fiction story: A nearly silent train that glides along its tracks, produces no pollution and gives off nothing more harmful than water vapor. Yet the new “Hydrail” train may soon be operating on the continent of Europe. The nation of Germany has conducted successful tests of the first Hydrail trains being produced by a company in the neighboring nation of France. The trains run on hydrogen gas and oxygen from the air, generating power from a fuel cell. They can travel up to 500 miles per day on a single tank of hydrogen and carry 300 passengers at a time in two cars. The first trains are expected to go into use by the beginning of 2018. The Hydrail trains are an example of technology being used to do new things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about technology being used in another new way. Write a paragraph explaining what the new technology does and why that is an improvement. Share findings as a class and discuss.
Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; ; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
3. A New Mummy Find
The North African nation of Egypt was home to one of the world’s great early civilizations. Its early people created the pyramids, the Great Sphinx monument and hundreds of tombs marked with hieroglyphic picture writing. Now archaeologists there have made a new discovery that could shed more light on Egypt’s ancient life. Egyptian officials announced this month that they have unearthed eight mummies, 10 colorful sarcophagus urns for burial and numerous figurines in 3,500-year-old tombs near the city of Luxor in southern Egypt. Egyptian officials said excavation work will continue “to reveal the secrets of these tombs.” Historians and archaeologists study items from the past to discover how people live. What could future archaeologists learn from the way we live? In the newspaper or online, find and closely study a photo of an indoor or outdoor scene where people work or live. Make a list of items you see that would tell future archaeologists things about the way people live today. Cut or print out your photo and share your findings with the class.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it.
4. Big Earth Changes
Global warming and climate change are affecting natural areas all over the world. And for the first time in modern times, scientists have found evidence that climate change has shifted the way water flows into bodies of water. In Canada’s Yukon territory, the melting and “retreat” of a huge glacier led to the rerouting of the glacier’s “meltwater” from one river system to another — and cut down flow to the Yukon’s largest lake in the process. Researchers said such “river piracy” had occurred in the Earth’s distant past, but never as a present-day event. In just a few years, the Slims River went from a healthy level of water to “barely flowing at all,” the researchers said. They concluded that the melting of the glacier was due to rising temperatures from human-caused climate change. Global warming is affecting people, wildlife and habitats all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to create a series of comic strips explaining the effect. Your comic can have plants or animals as characters, as well as people.
Common Core State Standards: 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.
5. The Giant Shipworm
In the natural world, there are many weird creatures. One of the weirdest — and hardest to find — has been the giant shipworm. A relative of clams and mollusks, the shipworm has a tube-like shell and can grow up to three feet long. It was so rare it was called “the unicorn of mollusks” because scientists didn’t even know where it lived. Now they do. Giant shipworms have been found living in a lagoon in the nation of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia. The discovery came after a local TV station aired a short segment about strange shellfish living in the lagoon. Scientists collected a specimen and shipped it off to a lab. There researchers found its flesh is jet black and the worms are very heavy, “like picking up a tree branch.” Scientists are constantly making new discoveries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a scientific discovery. Use what you read to brainstorm a short video explaining the discovery. Write an outline for your video, including images you would use. Give your video an eye-catching title.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.