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for Grades 5-8

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For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 28, 2023

1. AI IN THE CLASSROOM

While many schools rushed to ban the use of AI in the classroom and “ChatGPT-proof” their curriculums, some are pivoting their stance as the school year begins. Caught up in the fear of academic dishonesty and the spread of misinformation, many districts blocked ChatGPT on school Wi-Fi and school-owned devices this year. However, this exposed inequity as wealthier students with access to their own computers and smartphones were still able to use ChatGPT at home, while students who relied on technology from the school district could not. Many have now reversed their stance, embracing the opportunity to teach students about the emerging technology in a way that exposes the flaws and promotes the benefits—learning how to properly create chatbot prompts, looking for misinformation and biases, and understanding how it can be used as one tool of many in a learning environment. Read your own school district, school, or class’ policy on the use of AI and talk to your teachers to see how, if at all, they plan to use AI in their classes this year. Then, write a summary of what you’ve learned and how it will affect your school work in comparison to previous years without AI.

2. ELECTION SEASON

Last week was the first Republican Party debate for the 2024 presidential election. While former president Donald Trump didn’t attend the debate, he still holds a substantial lead over the field of some dozen candidates. For many, they have no substantial hope of winning the nomination—so why run? Often it’s for the notoriety—becoming a household name by appearing in the nationally broadcasted debates can position them for other high-profile jobs, including in another president’s administration, as political commentators, on corporate boards, and more. Read more about the first Republican debate in your newspaper or online. Then, write a brief summary of the candidates’ backgrounds and the stances they took on various issues brought up during the debate.

3. PSL SEASON

The seasonal superstar of Starbucks fame turns 20 years old this year with its launch on August 24. The pumpkin spice latte, or PSL in barista shorthand, launched in 2003 and spurred a flavor phenomenon, with thousands of products launching “pumpkin spice” iterations each fall. From August 2022 to July 2023, pumpkin-flavored products earned $802.5 million in the US. Part of the reason Starbucks’ PSL took off was its novelty at the time—pumpkin spice may be a staple of fall now, but twenty years ago, it was a unique seasonal beverage. If you were the marketer in charge with coming up with a new campaign for the PSL this year, how would you spin the twenty year anniversary in a market now saturated with pumpkin spice products? Write a description or draw an illustration to describe your campaign.

4. A NECESSITY, PERIOD.

New Jersey became the latest in a group of ten states (plus the District of Columbia) to require schools to provide free menstrual products for grades six through 12. Under the new law, at least half of the girls’ and gender-neutral bathrooms at the state’s 1,400 schools will be stocked with period products. “Menstrual hygiene products are a necessity, not a luxury. When this becomes an obstacle and decisions are made to not attend school, the loss is greater than just the one day,” New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz said. How can a lack to access to period products affect students, and what groups are primarily affected? Write a paragraph describing how the issue could affect all schools and students.

5. DISASTER AVERTED?

During the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, several reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melted down; to avoid a nuclear disaster, workers flooded the reactors with water to cool them. The plant is no longer in use, but water still must be used to cool the existing reactors, creating a byproduct of contaminated wastewater that has continued to pile up, reaching 350 million gallons. Last week, workers began releasing the wastewater, which had been treated, into the Pacific Ocean. While a review by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said it will have a negligible impact to the environment and humans, other nations have expressed concern—China announced it will halt imports of seafood from Japan following the event. Write a short article summarizing the issue Japan is facing and how they’ve attempted to solve it, using additional research in your newspaper or online as needed.