Yak’s Corner

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for Grades 5-8

Dec. 11, 2017
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For Grades 5-8 , week of June 12, 2017

1. Antarctica Crack-Up

A huge crack across one of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves has expanded rapidly this spring and is nearing the point that an iceberg the size of the state of Delaware will break free. Scientists who have been observing the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf, say it grew by an incredible 11 miles in a one week period between May 25 and May 31. It now has just 8 miles to go before a 2,000-square-mile iceberg breaks off into the ocean around the Earth’s South Pole. To make matters worse, scientists report the crack appears to be curving toward the ocean, which could speed up the timetable for the break. The break would reduce the amount of ice in the Larsen C shelf by more than 10%. Global warming and climate change are affecting natural environments all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film explaining what is happening. Write an outline for your film, including images that would be used. Then write the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. LeBron James Targeted

LeBron James is one of the most famous, popular and successful African American athletes in the world. That did not prevent him from becoming the target of a racist attack on his home in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles police said the n-word was spray-painted across the front gate of James’ home and the vandalism is being investigated as a hate crime. In a press conference, James pulled no punches about how the incident had affected him. “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go, for us as a society and for us as African Americans, until we feel equal in America.” James and his family live in the house in the offseason, and were not home at the time of the incident. Racial bias and intolerance are often in the news in the United States today. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an incident involving racial bias. Use what you read to write a short editorial, outlining ways to correct or eliminate the bias in such cases.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Snakes in Packs!

Snakes are reptiles and are generally not known for their higher thinking skills. But a species known as the Cuban boa is proving that reptiles are a lot smarter than people give them credit for. A scientist from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has discovered that Cuban boas hunt in groups, and through teamwork improve their chances of catching prey. The scientist, Vladimir Dinets, observed the snakes hunting fruit bats in Cuba and found that they join together to form “fences” across the mouths of caves to block the flight paths of the bats. Other snakes climbed the walls of the cave and hung from the ceiling to snatch bats out of the air. It's the first time that reptiles have been observed to have been involved in “coordinated hunting.” Scientists are always discovering new things about wildlife behavior or abilities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about new wildlife discoveries. Use what you read to create an art collage illustrating one discovery and why it is important.

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; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

4. Weapon Against ‘Superbugs’

“Superbug” bacteria that have grown immune to antibiotics are one of the growing worries facing the medical world. Now scientists in the United States have developed new drug by turning to the past. They have modified a decades-old antibiotic known as vancomycin and have found it is much more effective at fighting a “superbug” that can cause dangerous wound and blood infections in hospitals. A research team from The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the re-engineered vancomycin was “magical” in its strength, and could be used in smaller doses as a result. It will not be available as a mass-produced medicine for years, however, because extensive clinical trials must be conducted to measure its effectiveness and risks. “This is a relatively simple modification that's made a much better drug,” Dr. Andrew Edwards told CNN news. Medical advances are often in the news because they affect so many people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a medical advance. Use what you read to write a health or consumer column, detailing what is important about the advance, whom it will affect most and how soon.

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;

5. Deporting Gang Members

In his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, President Trump has targeted gang members and criminals for deportation back to their home countries. One gang getting special attention is the gang known as MS-13, whose members are drawn from the immigrant community that came to the United States from the Central American nation of El Salvador. In the first five months of this year the U.S. government has deported 398 gang members back to El Salvador, compared with 534 in all of 2016, according to statistics from the Salvadoran government. The deportations worry Salvadoran officials because the nation is already one of the most violent in the Western Hemisphere, with a history of gang rivalries. Efforts to crack down on illegal immigration continue to make news across the country. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effort or case. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, giving your view on what is happening.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.