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For Grades K-4 , week of Dec. 04, 2023

1. White House Holiday

The December holiday season is a time of Magic, Wonder and Joy for children and families across America. And that is the spirit First Lady Jill Biden wanted to create when she planned this year’s holiday decorations for the White House in Washington, DC. The White House is known as “the People’s House,” because it is both the home and the office of the President. It is also a place where the people of America can share celebrations of important events. The winter holidays are one of those events, and the White House has gone all out to make visitors feel the excitement of the season. People arriving through the East Colonnade are greeted by cheerful depictions of holiday sweets, twinkling lights and candy cane columns. The official White House gingerbread house honors the 200th anniversary of the “Night Before Christmas” children’s story and a nearly life-size version of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer soar across the ceiling in Cross Hall.“It is a time for our senses to awaken,” Jill Biden writes in the guide to the display — and her staff and volunteers did everything to make that happen. Families and communities across America put up decorations to celebrate the winter holidays. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos of holiday displays in your community or elsewhere. Make a list of adjectives and adverbs that describe the displays. Use your words to write a poem about “Christmas Decorations.” Read your poem aloud to the class.

2. What a Hot Shot!

Half-court shots in basketball make news when they come at the end of games and give a team a last-second win. In the town of Parker, Colorado, they made news in a different way this fall, when a 17-year-old high school senior made NINE of them in a row to set a new world record. And Maddison Neale did it on her lunch break between classes at her high school! Neale broke the record of eight half-court shots in a row set in 2020 by a male player in China. Neale started practicing to break the Guinness World Record last year, after undergoing surgery for an ankle injury that kept her from playing basketball for a few months, UPI News reported. She now wants to set more basketball records, including the most half-court shots in a minute, the most three pointers in 30 seconds and the most three pointers in one minute. Teen and pre-teen athletes often make news by doing unusual things in sports. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a young athlete who has done something special. Use what you read to write a short sports column telling what kinds of skills and personal qualities the athlete needed to achieve success.

3. New Planet System

Exoplanets are planets that orbit around stars outside the Earth’s solar system. There may be millions of them in outer space, and scientists have just discovered an interesting one relatively close to Earth. Using two different satellites designed to study far-away planets, astronomers have found a rare family of six planets orbiting a star about 100 light-years from Earth. (A light-year is the distance light would travel in 365 days at a speed of 186,000 miles per second.) Scientists discovered the family of planets using data collected by satellites operated by America’s NASA space agency and the European Space Agency, CNN News reports. The discovery could help scientists learn how planets form in space, according to a study published in the science journal Nature. Scientists discover exoplanets when they observe the brightness of far-away stars growing dim from time to time. The dimming indicates the existence of a planet crossing between the star and Earth. Compared to planets in our solar system, the new discoveries are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, the giant planet that is the eighth and most distant major planet orbiting our sun. The new planet family orbits its star faster than planets in our solar system, with the closest planet taking just over nine Earth days to complete its orbit. NASA and other space agencies are constantly making new discoveries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a recent space discovery. Use what you read to write a letter to another student, describing what has been discovered, how it was discovered and why it is important to scientists.

4. Name That Pet

For people who get a pet, one of the most popular things to do is choosing a name. And what names do Americans like best? For the last 11 years, an online pet organization called Rover has been keeping track of names Americans like most. The group’s 2023 list has just been released, and there are some surprising and not-so-surprising choices. For dogs, the top names were Charlie for males and Luna for females. Luna was also the top name for female cats, with Oliver taking the honor for male cats. The choice of Charlie for male dogs made history in the Rover survey. Charlie took over first place from Max, which had held the top spot for 10 straight years. Max finished second in this year’s list. In addition to listing the most popular pet names, Rover tracks unusual names that are trending up over the last year. The trending names for cats included Choco, Fuzz, Munch, Luffy and Maizey. The trending names for dogs included Minnow, Smokey, Estrella, Wednesday and Kelce. Kelce happens to be the last name of Travis Kelce, the football star who is dating super-singer Taylor Swift. What name would you choose if you got a new dog, cat or other pet? In the newspaper or online, find and study ads and photos of animals that would make good pets. Choose one you like and come up with a name for it, based on its looks and personality. Explain your choice to the class. Who chose the most unusual names?

5. Air Travel Record

Every year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is the busiest day for airplane travel, because people need to get back to school or jobs after spending a long weekend away. This year, a record number of people flew in airplanes on that day, according to the national Transportation Security Administration, which handles airport screenings for safety. The TSA announced that it screened more than 2.9-million passengers at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, the most in the history of the federal agency. That number was 10 percent more than the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year, when the TSA screened about 2.6-million people. Before this year’s Sunday after Thanksgiving, the busiest day in TSA history was June 30 this year, when nearly 2.9-million passengers were screened. Despite worries that fewer people might fly this year, eight of the 10 busiest screening days in TSA history have come in 2023, the Washington Post newspaper reported. During the holiday season, many families travel to see family or friends. Many fly in airplanes, but others choose other methods of transportation. Search the newspaper or Internet for examples of different methods of travel. Make a list of different kinds. For each, write one advantage and one disadvantage of that method.