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For Grades K-4 , week of Oct. 09, 2023


Did you know that footprints could tell history of humans? Researchers have studied fossilized human footprints in New Mexico and determined they are the oldest direct evidence of humans in North and South America. The footprints are between 21,000 and 23,000 years old. To figure out their age, scientists used a technique called carbon dating on aquatic plants, conifer (or pine tree) pollen, and quartz from the area around where the footprints were found. Previously, scientists thought humans first came to the Americas around 15,000 years ago, so the new finding changes the whole timeline of humans reaching these continents. Write a short article that summarizes the facts of this story. Draw a picture to go along with it.


Every year, the MacArthur Foundation awards fellowships, known as “genius grants,” to people who have outstanding talent in some way. This year’s fellows include a lawyer who shaped federal election laws, a composer and pianist that focuses on the experiences of African Americans, and a cultural preservationist who is a master Hawaiian hula dance teacher. Each receives a grant of $800,000 to spend over five years to spend however they want, and many don’t know they’ve been nominated or are being considered until they are awarded the fellowship. Many people think of a “genius” as a scientist or mathematician, but the MacArthur genius grants are given to people from all careers and walks of life. Think about what would make someone a “genius” as a poet, an artist, a musician, or a teacher. Write your own definition of the word genius and explain how it could apply to anyone.


While we may not think of languages as living things, it is possible for a language to die. A language is considered dead when it is no longer used for communication—once it’s no longer being taught to new generations as a native, primary language, it will eventually be forgotten. People in an ethnic enclave (an area where a specific ethic group lives, like Chinatown in San Fransisco or Jewish communities in Manhattan) in Moldova, a country in Europe, are worried that their language will soon die out. It’s called Gagauz and is in the same language family as Turkish. Most of the country speaks Romanian, and many in the Gagauz area also speak Russian, leftover from the days when Moldova was part of the Soviet Union. Since the language was declared endangered by the United Nations in 2010, scholars and teachers have worked hard to keep it alive, including by teaching it to children as young as kindergarteners. Write an article that summarizes what it means for a language to die and how people can prevent that from happening.


The winners of the Nobel Prize, which includes categories for literature, physics, chemistry, and the prestigious Peace Prize, were awarded last week. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Narges Mohammadi, an activist for women’s rights in Iran. She’s currently in prison in Iran for the thirteenth time, and in total she has been sentenced to 31 years behind bars for her human rights work. Her husband, who was exiled from Iran and now lives in Paris, said she likes to repeat that “Every single award will make me more intrepid, more resilient and more brave for realizing human rights, freedom, civil equality and democracy.” Write down some questions you would ask if you were going to interview Narges Mohammadi for an article about her life and the Nobel Peace Prize.


Another of the Nobel Prize winners is Jon Fosse, an author from Norway with a unique claim to fame: He wrote an entire book with just one sentence. His book “A New Name: Septology VI-VII” is the last installment in a seven-novel series and written without any periods or other sentence breaks. His writing focuses on human aspects of life like birth, death, faith, insecurity, and anxiety. He’s written forty plays along with novels, children’s books, and more, and he writes in Nynorsk, one of the official written versions of Norwegian that’s used by just 10 percent of the country. However, his books have been translated into dozens of languages around the world. Thinking about languages like you learned about in lesson #3, how does Jon Fosse’s work being in a less-used language in Norway help preserve it? Write down your thoughts and share them with your classmates.