Yak’s Corner

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for Grades 5-8

Dec. 11, 2017
Dec. 04, 2017
Nov. 27, 2017
Nov. 20, 2017
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Nov. 06, 2017
Oct. 30, 2017
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Mar. 06, 2017

For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 06, 2017

1. A Smile Mirror

If you ever doubted that technology could be a force for good, you need to know about the Smile Mirror. This high-tech mirror won’t show your reflection unless you smile at it! Invented by industrial designer Berk Ilhan, the Smile Mirror uses facial recognition technology to pick up the smiles. Its surface is made of programmed “smart” materials that show images only when smiles are recognized. While the Smile Mirror has benefits for everyone, it was developed as a way to improve emotions and quality of life for cancer patients. Ilhan said he focused on smiles after reading research that indicates smiling and laughter can decrease stress and boost the body's immune system. New uses for technology are being developed every day. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a new use of technology. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining what the technology does, how it was developed and how it benefits people.

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. Lost in Plain Sight

In the art world, discovery of a lost or misplaced work always causes great excitement. So it was no surprise there was a lot of buzz when a carved marble statue by the French artist Auguste Rodin turned up in the state of New Jersey. The surprise was that it had been displayed in plain sight for more than 75 years and people had not recognized how valuable it was. The statue of the French emperor Napoleon had been on display in the Borough Hall of Madison, New Jersey, collecting dust in a corner of the room where the borough council meets. It was signed “A. Rodin” but no one believed the signature was real. Until Drew University student Mallory Mortillaro was hired to catalog the artworks in the building. She zeroed in on the statue and contacted the Rodin Museum in Paris, France. An expert came to New Jersey and immediately confirmed the statue was the real thing. It now is going on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. People often make news by making unusual discoveries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a discovery like this. Use what you read to write a creative story telling what happened BEFORE the discovery, or what might happen AFTER the discovery. Give your story an eye-catching title.

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.

3. Rising Seas

The world’s oceans are changing because of global warming. Higher temperatures are melting sea ice and glaciers at the Earth’s North and South Poles and that is raising sea levels all over the world. Now scientists say that the rise in sea levels could be both faster and greater than previously thought. A new study by a team of Australian scientists projects that sea levels could rise by as much as six feet by the year 2100 — an increase more than twice as great as previous estimates. Researchers say the increase is tied to the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline, which produce greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere. This causes more ice to melt and could lead to “much more sea level rise,” according to one of the study’s authors. Global warming is affecting wildlife and the environment all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper summarizing the effect and why it is important.

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.

4. Automated Restaurants

A two-year experiment to run restaurants that have no staff serving the public has stumbled. The Eatsa company has announced it is closing all but two of its fully automated restaurants, which used technology to replace order takers, servers and clean-up crews. Founded in San Francisco, California, Eatsa had quickly expanded to New York, Washington, D.C., and Berkeley, California, in hopes that people would prefer to order with credit cards on kiosks and receive food in glass cubbyholes. The vegetarian meals were prepared by a staff walled off from the public. Though some outlets did heavy business during peak times, critics complained that complete automation took the human element out of the restaurant experience. Businesses often try new things to attract customers. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories and/or ads about a business trying something new. Use what you read to write a consumer column, analyzing whether you think customers will like the idea. Use evidence from your reading or research to support your points.

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.

5. Endangered Seabirds

The state of Hawaii takes pride in the variety of its wildlife, and works to protect endangered species. Two endangered species of seabird, however, are now more in danger than ever because of power lines put up on the island of Kauai. An analysis conducted for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has estimated that as many as 1,800 endangered seabirds are killed each year by the power lines because the birds can’t see them at night. The two species known as Newell’s shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels are nocturnal and only come ashore to their breeding colonies at night. They are killed when they collide with the power lines, which are nearly impossible to see in the dark. “Without dramatic changes to these power lines and significant conservation resources … Kauai will lose these incredible seabirds forever,” said Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity. Protecting endangered species is an issue that concerns people all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about one species people are working to protect. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing threats faced by the species, what is being done to help the species and how successful the effort will be in the near future.

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.