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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 06, 2023

1. Super Bowl History

Next Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday, and football fans all over the nation are eager to see whether the Kansas City Chiefs or the Philadelphia Eagles will win the National Football League championship. Every year history is made in the Super Bowl, but this year it will be a special kind of history. For the first time, both teams in the game will be led by African American quarterbacks. Black quarterbacks have played in the Super Bowl before, but when Jalen Hurts of the Eagles and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs take the field, it will mark a milestone in a sport that for many years didn’t allow African Americans to play quarterback. Mahomes and Hurts are now two of the biggest stars in the NFL, and each is a finalist for the Most Valuable Player award. Mahomes passed for a league-leading 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns in the regular season, and also scored four touchdowns running. Despite missing two games to injury, Hurts passed for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns in the regular season, while running for an additional 760 yards and 13 touchdowns. Mahomes won the Super Bowl in 2020 and is looking to be the first Black quarterback to win more than one. Hurts is seeking to become the fourth Black quarterback in history to win. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes this week. Use what you read to write a sports column detailing how their accomplishments could inspire students, adults and teammates to achieve great things. Share columns as a class.

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. Happy Reunion

In the United States and other nations, people who experience homelessness face many challenges and choices — some of which are heartbreaking. In the state of Tennessee, a homeless woman with two children loved her pet dog, but could no longer afford to feed her. She let her dog go in the city of Chattanooga in the hope her pet would find another home, but a note she attached to the dog’s collar brought her back. “Please keep my name,” the note read. “My name is Lilo. Please love me. My mom can’t keep me and is homeless with 2 kids. She tried her best but can’t get help. I cost too much for her. … I’m a great dog and love to be loved on. Please don’t abuse me.” Lilo, a 4-year-old German Shepherd-Great Pyrenees mix, was found by a local resident and taken to an animal shelter, the Washington Post newspaper reported. When the staff read the note, they decided to find Lilo’s owner and offer help. A post on social media connected the staff to the owner, who was staying with her children in a homeless shelter that did not allow pets. The animal shelter then connected with government agencies to find a situation that would let Lilo live with her family. They even arranged a reunion for the pet and her owners. “I swear, if a dog could cry like a human could, she was crying,” a spokesperson said. Animal shelters do many things to call attention to animals that need homes or help. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the things shelters have done. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film telling about successful efforts. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Write text for the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Murmuration

Murmuration is one of the great wonders of the natural world. It occurs when birds known as starlings gather in huge flocks that quickly shift shape and appear to be flowing like water in the sky. Starlings, which are about the size of robins, are the only birds that murmurate, usually before they roost for the night. On the continent of Europe, thousands of starlings descend on the city of Rome, Italy at this time of year as they migrate from colder climates in the north. It is quite a sight as the black, speckled birds, whirl, twirl, dip and soar in the sky (to see an example, click here). When they stop whirling, however, they create huge problems. They roost by the thousands in trees, chatter and carry on, and cover the ground with poop, the Washington Post reports. Rome officials have tried to get them to move elsewhere by blasting recordings of starling distress cries, but so far have been unsuccessful. Even if the birds move, they create a problem in another spot. “It’s impossible to move that many animals,” one bird expert said. Wildlife can do beautiful things but also can cause problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about wildlife that have caused problems. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering ideas on how to address the problems.

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. Gold-Covered Mummy

The northern African nation of Egypt is famous around the world for its ancient treasures like the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza. And it keeps discovering new treasures that shed light on life in ancient times. This month archaeologists are celebrating the discovery of a mummy that not only may be “the most complete mummy” ever found, but one that also is covered in gold! Gold-covered mummies are rare, and this one is the oldest yet discovered, experts said. It was entombed 4,300 years ago in a vast burial necropolis at Saqqara 20 miles south of Egypt’s capital city of Cairo. The mummy was found in a 25-tonne stone coffin more than 60 feet underground in a burial complex next to the Step Pyramid of Djoser, said archaeologist Zahi Hawass, Egypt's former antiquities minister. “It is the oldest mummy, complete and covered in gold, ever found in Egypt,” he told CNN News. The seal of the coffin had never been broken, and when the team opened the lid, they found the “oldest, most beautiful mummy covered in layers of gold, with a band on the head and a bracelet on the chest, which indicates this was a rich man.” An inscription in hieroglyphic picture-writing identified the remains as those of a 35-year-old man named Hekashepes. Archaeologists love making new discoveries because they provide new insights into how people lived in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a recent discovery by archaeologists. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing what new insights or information the discovery is giving scientists. Finish by picturing a room in your home or school. Write a paragraph summarizing what insights its contents might provide future archaeologists about the way we live.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Camping Out

For many kids across America, camping out in the back yard is a fun activity to do with friends on warm summer nights. For a teen in the state of Minnesota, it has become a way of life. Fourteen-year-old Isaac Ortman has slept out in the back yard for more than 1,000 nights, even on nights when the temperature has plunged way below zero. Isaac’s sleep-a-thon started as a self-challenge to sleep outdoors for a week at a cabin his family owns outside the city of Duluth. When he completed that, he “decided to keep it going when I got home,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post. That was nearly three years ago when he was in sixth grade. Now, as a freshman in high school, he has no plans to stop. “I don’t see it ending anytime soon — I might even keep going through college,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.” Many teens and pre-teens like to have fun outdoors. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and photos of an outdoor activity you would like to try. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend inviting him or her to join you in this activity. Be sure to detail why it would be unusual or fun.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.