Yak’s Corner

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for Grades 5-8

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For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 02, 2017

1. Tragedy in Puerto Rico

Hurricane season has been brutal for the United States this year. First Hurricane Harvey flooded Texas. Then Hurricane Irma slammed Florida. And if that weren’t enough, Hurricane Maria took aim and devastated Puerto Rico. Recovery may take longest in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory located on an island in the Caribbean Sea. Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, tearing apart buildings, ripping up roads and knocking power out for 3.4 million people. A week after Maria hit, about 97 percent of the island’s people had no power and about half did not have running water. The airport was knocked out, making travel and delivery of food and other supplies impossible. As a result, people were forced to ration food and collect and boil water from mountain streams. A U.S. military hospital ship was sent to provide additional medical care, but other efforts to provide supplies were slow to get moving. The residents of Puerto Rico are American citizens, but the U.S. government has been criticized for being slow to respond. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about recovery struggles in Puerto Rico. Use what you read to write a short editorial, giving your view on what the U.S. government should be doing to help over the next few weeks.

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.

2. Phone Fights Mosquitoes

All over the world, mosquitoes are both a threat and a nuisance to people. They spread deadly diseases like malaria, and cause disruption to outdoor activities even when disease-free. Now the LG electronics company says it has come up with a solution — a smart phone that uses technology to keep mosquitoes away. The LG K7i phone emits ultrasonic waves that repel the pests and are “absolutely safe and harmless for humans,” the company says. The South Korean firm is introducing the phone in the Asian nation of India, which has a significant problem of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue. LG says it is considering plans to roll the anti-mosquito phone out in other countries, where it could not only block diseases but eliminate the nuisance of mosquitoes in outdoor areas. The mosquito-fighting smart phone is an example of technology being used in a new way to help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another example of technology being used in a new way like this. Write a consumer column for the newspaper, outlining the advantages of this new use of technology.

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.

3. Slavery and a School

Slavery was a practice that not only affected people in the American South — it touched people and institutions all over the country. Thanks to the efforts of a group of high school students, one of the oldest schools in Washington, D.C., has learned how it benefited from slavery in the 1800s. Research by the students at Gonzaga College High School found that the school earned income from slave plantations in the South, and even had two young slaves working on school grounds when it was known as Washington Seminary. The Seminary at that time was part of Georgetown University, which last year apologized for its role in the slave trade and plantation system. All over the country, institutions and organizations are re-examining their history to determine if they had connections to slavery or slave-holders in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about one institution’s efforts. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short video or film examining what research the institution is doing, what it has found out, and what it is doing in response. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene, in the form of a screenplay.

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.

4. A Tree Rat Discovery

Scientists who study wildlife around the world are always looking for new species. They were rewarded in the Solomon Islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean when workers in a rain forest stumbled upon a giant tree rat that had long been talked about by local residents — but never seen. Known as the “vika,” the species is large by rat standards, weighing two pounds and measuring 1.5 feet in length. It has orange-brown fur, short, round ears, a smooth tail with fine scales and broad back feet. It had not been documented because it lives in the canopy of rain forests and is hard to spot. In a paper published this summer, scientists say the vika was finally seen when loggers cut down a tree it was climbing in. Unfortunately, it died from injuries in the accident, but not before scientists had an opportunity to examine it closely. When scientists discover a new species, it adds to their knowledge about the diversity of wildlife in different areas. It also sheds light on the threats that rare species face. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about the discovery or documentation of a new species. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short essay summarizing the risks this species faces for survival, and what that says about its habitat.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Women Can Drive

In the United States, driving a car is an activity people take for granted. In the Middle East nation of Saudi Arabia, however, women have long been prohibited from driving by Islamic religious law. Until now. A royal order issued by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will allow women to drive by next June. Saudi Arabia follows a strict form of Wahhabi Islam that bans the mixing of sexes at public events and places numerous curbs on women. Up to now, those included driving a car, which complicated the lives of working women. “Saudi Arabia will never be the same again,” said Manal al-Sharif, one of the women who led a Women2Drive campaign in the Mideast nation. “The rain begins with a single drop.” In many countries, women do not have the rights they have in the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about women in another country seeking to gain new rights. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, detailing ways the United States or other nations could help these women gain rights.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.