Keep the Learning Going
Looking for a creative activity for those last weeks of the school year? We've got just the thing! After reading our fascinating short text about a famous bat colony in Texas, guide students along their own learning journey.
For all students
- Have students complete the descriptive writing activity from the May 2017 issue of Scope about the biggest bat colony in the world. (It's home to over 15 million bats!)
- For descriptive writing tips, watch a video in which author Lauren Tarshis shares her techniques for creating rich and evocative writing.
- For support, students can read our model text and complete the lower-level version of the activity.
For students who want to know more about bats
- Watch this stunning video which shows the millions of bats flying out of their cave.
- Read this fascinating post listing the many misconceptions about bats. (Hint: They aren't mice with wings.)
- Read this incredible novel by Kenneth Oppel about a bat colony fighting for survival during prehistoric times.
For students who want to do more descriptive writing
Here's another mesmerizing video that students can watch and then use to write their own descriptive paragraph about the scene. Challenge them to drop their readers in the scene with vivid, sensory details and to use similes, metaphors, personification, and onomatopoeia.
Last February, I received a heartfelt note from one of Scope's advisors expressing concern about media literacy in this era of rampant fake news. Could I, he asked, address media literacy in an article in Scope? He wasn't the only one to ask. Many of you have reached out to me recently about your need for media literacy materials. "How do we equip students with the tools they need to be savvy, skeptical consumers of digital content?" is a question I hear again and again. That question is the reason I wrote this issue's paired text feature, "Are These Stories Real? (Nope.)"
Use the support materials below to help your students get the most of the article and keep the learning going.
1. Review important media literacy terms.
This handy list of terms will aid in comprehension as students read the article, watch the video, and complete the fact-checking activity. You'll want to keep this glossary for years to come.
2. Watch the video.
Students get tips on how to be smart and savvy media consumers—from how to spot the difference between an advertisement and a news article to how to evaluate the credibility of a source. We recommend students watch the video after reading the article.
3. Complete the synthesizing graphic organizer.
This exquisitely simple activity will help students synthesize information from two texts: "Are These Stories Real? (Nope.)" and the folktale it's paired with in the magazine. (The activity is available on two levels.)
We were moved and inspired by Nick Ventura's story of grit and triumph after suffering a traumatic brain injury (Scope's May 2017 narrative nonfiction), and we think that your students will be as well. After reading the article, use the essential questions below to kick off a class discussion. Then break students into groups to create their own PSAs about helmet safety.
- Why is it important to wear a helmet?
- How do people recover from serious injuries?
- What is grit?
Create a PSA about Traumatic Brain Injuries
1. As a class, explore the CDC’s HEADS UP campaign website to learn more about traumatic brain injuries and sports safety. You’ll find fact sheets, infographics, personal stories, and videos. Here are some resources from the site that we think students will find especially useful:
2. Divide students into groups and have them create PSAs about the importance of wearing a helmet while participating in sports. Students can draw on information from the article, the resources above, and their own research. The PSAs can be in the form of a poster, video, or PowerPoint presentation, and should include information about what traumatic brain injuries are, why it’s important to wear a helmet, and how to ensure you are wearing the right helmet for your sport.
We have put together a fantastic teaching kit for you and your students to use this Earth Day (April 22). The kit includes guiding questions, additional resources, and an extension activity to use after students read two texts in the April issue of Scope: a short informational article called “When Mosquitoes Were Killers in America,” about the fight against malaria, and a play called The Poison Sky, about Rachel Carson's crusade against the mass spraying of the pesticide DDT.
Post these questions in your classroom for students to refer to as they explore the resources below.
- What did Rachel Carson help the American public understand about nature?
- How did Carson's work impact our relationship with the environment?
- How can we protect nature?
- Why was DDT used widely?
- How much control should the government have over private property?
6 Fantastic Resources to Explore
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
1. Silent Spring excerpt
Have students read the first chapter of Silent Spring, titled "A Fable of Tomorrow." Ask: What is a fable? Why might Carson have chosen to begin her book this way?
2. Silent Spring review
As a class, read this New York Times book review of Silent Spring. Ask students what the article reveals about how the public reacted to the ideas presented in Silent Spring.
3. Rachel Carson interview (video)
As a class, watch this clip of an interview with Rachel Carson. Ask students what point Carson is making about human impact on the environment.
lfred Eisenstaedt/Getty Images
4. American Experience documentary about Rachel Carson
Watch the film as a class. As students watch, they should write down three new and significant things that they learn about Rachel Carson. When the film ends, have students share what they learned with the class and explain why these facts are important to know.
5. “Earth Day” poem by Jane Yolen
Read the poem as a class. Discuss the themes presented in the poem and how they relate to the themes of the play The Poison Sky and to the first chapter of Silent Spring.
6. Rachel Carson's 1953 letter to the editor of the Washington Post
As a class, read this excerpt from Carson's letter. Ask: What was Carson's purpose in writing this letter? Why might she have decided to write it to the editor of the Washington Post? What does she mean by "The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth . . . "? What does she mean when she refers to a return to "the dark ages of unrestrained exploitation and destruction"?
“As much as any book can, Silent Spring changed the world by describing it.” -Elizabeth Kolbert, journalist and author
Write or post this quote on a whiteboard. Have students sit in small groups to discuss what Kolbert means. As a class, discuss whether Kolbert was right. Students should draw on evidence from both “When Mosquitoes Were Killers in America” and The Poison Sky.
In the April 2017 narrative nonfiction article "Betrayed By America," Scope editor and author Kristin Lewis tells the story of Bill Hiroshi Shishima—an 11-year-old American boy of Japanese heritage who, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, was forced to live in an internment camp during World War II.
To go deeper into this topic, we've put together a list of incredible resources and essential questions for you and your students. As a culminating activity, we recommend you break students into groups to create a multimedia exhibition.
Have students work in groups to put together an exhibition about the internment of Japanese Americans, using information from the Scope article "Betrayed By America" and the resources below. Encourage students to get creative with the way they present the information. The exhibition can be multimedia and can include audio, video, posters, poetry, presentations, speeches, and even a play.
Here are a few ideas:
- Imagine you are living in 1941. Create your own news coverage in the form of a newspaper article, broadcast, or series of live tweets.
- After reading the poem "Children of Camp" which accompanies the article "Betrayed By America," complete the Poetry Analysis Activity at Scope Online, and then write your own poem about life in an internment camp.
- Create a play about another Japanese American who lived through internment using one of the many video interviews on the Densho organization's archives website. (TIP: Use any of Scope's historical plays as a model text.)
- Put together an exhibit about the internment of Japanese Americans, including photographs, posters, and video. Appoint one group member to be the museum tour guide.
- What is the connection between fear and prejudice?
- What is the cost of racism?
- Why is it important to be mindful of history?
- How can we learn from the mistakes of the past?
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
1. The New York Times' photo slideshow featuring rarely seen photos from the time of the internment of Japanese Americans
2. Densho's timeline of events related to the internment of Japanese Americans
3. Video interview of Bill Hiroshi Shishima. NOTE: To view this content on the Densho organization's website, you must log in as 'firstname.lastname@example.org' and use the password 'guest'. All 26 segments of the interview can be viewed here. Below are the segments in which Bill discusses life at Heart Mountain:
4. Website of "A More Perfect Union," a Smithsonian exhibition about the internment of Japanese Americas
7. Scope's Behind the Scenes video in which author Kristin Lewis discusses how she researched and wrote the article "Betrayed By America"
We can’t wait for your students to read our thrilling play War of the Worlds in the March issue of Scope. It's based on the classic alien-invasion novel by H.G. Wells.
Your students may not be familiar with the story of the famous 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” by Orson Welles. Some listeners at the time thought that real aliens were actually invading Earth. To help your students connect the play to this important moment in American history, we've put together this fantastic list of resources and discussion questions.
Orson Welles (left back) directing a rehearsal of his radio adaptation of 'The War of the Worlds,' on October 1938. (Getty)
Have students read and listen to at least one of these resources before the class discussion:
- Smithsonian.com article: "The Infamous 'War of the Worlds' Radio Broadcast Was a Magnificent Fluke"
- NPR blog post: "75 Years Ago, 'War Of The Worlds' Started A Panic. Or Did It?"
- Radiolab podcast: "War of the Worlds: The Annotated Guide"
Discuss the "War of the Worlds" broadcast
1. As a class, listen to the 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds.” Have students take notes while they listen, especially on any parts of the broadcast that sound real or convincing.
2. Divide students into groups and have them discuss the broadcast. What were their favorite parts? Which parts of the broadcast, if any, did they find most believable?
3. Bring the students back together and hold a class discussion. Ask students why they think people in the 1930s may have thought the broadcast was real, and whether or not they think that something like this could happen again today. Have students consider how people used to get their news in the 1930s—from newspapers and the radio—and how people get news today.
We've put together some wonderful resources and extension activities for you and your students to delve into after they read and discuss "Black Sunday," Lauren Tarshis's riveting article in the March 2017 issue of Scope about the dust storms that ravaged the American Southern Plains during the 1930s. Enjoy!
Here are five fascinating resources to keep your students’ learning going:
To Read: a timeline of the Dust Bowl, which includes information about how the government responded to the dust storms and what was done to repair the land after Black Sunday
To Do: Using text evidence from the timeline and from the Scope article "Black Sunday," have students write a problem-solution essay about the causes of Black Sunday and the solutions that were implemented.
To Watch: a video of Catherine Hattrup remembering life during the Dust Bowl years
To Do: Have students create an original play with Catherine Hattrup as the main character. The play should have a full plot, characters, narrators, and stage directions, and should draw on information from the video, the Scope article "Black Sunday," and one additional source of students' choosing. TIP: Use any Scope drama as a model text.
To Do: Hold a class discussion about the relationship between humans and the environment. What responsibility do humans have towards the environment? How can humans balance economic goals while being mindful of the environment?
To Do: Woody Guthrie, the American folk singer, wrote several songs about the Dust Bowl—in fact, his nickname was "Dust Bowl Troubadour." Hold a class discussion about the two songs students just heard, having students consider the themes of devastation and fear in Guthrie's songs as well as the descriptive details that he weaves into his lyrics. Then have students write their own song lyrics or poem about Black Sunday using details from the Scope article and one additional source, such as the photo gallery or the video of Catherine Hattrup.
Environmental disaster research project
Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a different human-caused environmental disaster to research. After each group has completed its research, have students present their findings to the class. As a class, discuss what these environmental disasters can teach us and why it is important to study them.
Topics that students might explore include:
The article "Can She Be Saved?" in your December/January issue is one of our all-time favorites. It's about Ishanga, an orphaned baby elephant who nearly died after poachers killed her mother. Though Ishanga's story has a happy ending, the global problem of poaching continues to decimate wildlife, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. We hope your students will be inspired to learn more about poaching, including why it's a problem and what can be done to solve it. We have compiled five powerful resources just for you and your students.
Here are five powerful resources to guide your students’ learning journey:
To Do: As a class, watch the two videos and go to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s website to learn more about the incredible organization that saved Ishanga's life. You’ll find images, videos, and information about all of the Trust’s orphans. (We particularly recommend the footage of the Trust's keepers interacting with the elephants.) Hold a class discussion about what new information and insights students gain from these resources—that is, about the information contained in these resources that is not included in the article.
Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroy confiscated ivory trinkets in New York City. (Getty Images)
To Do: After studying the map and infographic as a class, divide students into groups and have them create PSAs about the poaching crisis. Students can draw on information from the paired texts, the resources above, and their own research. The PSAs can be in the form of a poster, video, or PowerPoint presentation and should include information about why poaching is a concern and what can be done to help solve the problem.
A park ranger in Kenya trains to catch poachers. (Getty Images)
To Watch: a video about a former poacher
To Do: Hold a class discussion about some of the reasons a person might become a poacher, using information from the paired texts and the video. What can be done to prevent a person from becoming a poacher in the first place?
A park ranger guards a burning pile of ivory in Nairobi, Kenya after the government called for 15 tons of elephant tusks to be set on fire in an effort to deter illegal poaching. (Getty Images)
To Read: a website outlining the causes and impacts of elephant poaching
To Do: Using information from the paired texts and from the website above, have students create a poster or chart showing the causes and effects of poaching.
To Research: other threatened species and conservation efforts
To Do: Divide students into groups and have each group research a species other than elephants or rhinos that are being threatened by humans, whether because of poaching, habitat loss, or pollution. What effects are these threats having on the animals? What efforts are being made to save the animals? What else can be done? Each group can present their findings to the rest of the class. Students should use reliable sources such as the World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic, the Africa Wildlife Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
We can't wait for your students to read our riveting narrative nonfiction article, "Disaster in Space" by Lauren Tarshis. It's the fascinating story of the Apollo 13 mission and its near disastrous fate. After you've read and discussed the text with your class, send your students on their own mission to learn more with these fantastic resources.
Here are five fascinating resources to keep your students’ learning going:
To Read: an article from Space.com about how the Apollo 13 astronauts were feeling throughout the mission
To Do: Based on information in the Scope article and the Space.com article, have students write an account of the Apollo 13 mission as though they were a fourth astronaut on board. What would it have felt like, physically and emotionally? Students should weave in the main events of the mission along with descriptions of the smells, sounds, tastes, and sights of space travel.
To Read: a New York Times article from April 14, 1970, about the Apollo 13 disaster
To Do: Have students imagine that this event happened today and create their own news coverage of the event in the form of a newspaper article, broadcast, or series of live tweets.
(The Everett Collection)
To Do: Using information from the clip and the article, have students write an essay or create a chart explaining the problems the Apollo 13 mission faced and how the astronauts and the ground crew solved those problems.
The Apollo 13 crew after their successful landing back on Earth (NASA)
To Watch: a video about why the Apollo 13 mission is often called NASA's most successful failure
To Do: Hold a class discussion about why the Apollo mission is sometimes called a successful failure. What is the definition of success? How can a failure also be a success? What was successful about the Apollo 13 mission?
To Watch: a video presentation about why it's important for humans to go to outer space
To Do: Hold a class debate about whether or not humans should explore outer space—whether to the moon, Mars, or beyond. Have students work in groups and then present their argument to the class using evidence from the video, Scope article, and two other reliable sources of their choosing.
"The main thing is to not just sit there and sulk over something that bothers you. Go out and talk to people about it!" —Gabrielle Posard
One of our missions in Scope is to bring your students content that will not only inspire and engage them but that will also help them understand that they have agency in their lives and communities. That's why we hope you'll share with your students an interview that we did with a remarkable young person who saw a problem and did something about it.
At the age of 12, Gabriel Posard started a program called Donate Don't Dump, which brings unsold food from supermarkets—food that would otherwise go to waste—to people in need in her community.
We learned about Gabrielle while researching our nonfiction story about food waste, "This Apple Could Have Been Saved," which you can find in the October issue of Scope.
After reading the article and the interview below, discuss the following as a class:
- Why does food get wasted?
- What problems does food waste create?
- How are those problems being solved? How are they not being solved?
- How can we as a society be less wasteful?
Gabrielle Posard, age 19, student at Stanford University
Hometown: San Diego, California
Claim to fame: She founded the food rescue organization Donate Don't Dump.
Gabrielle at a food distribution event in San Diego
Scope: How did you get the idea to start Donate Don’t Dump?
Gabrielle: It all started when I was 12. My older sister was working on a documentary film for school about hunger in America and she told me two statistics that really stood out: 96 billion pounds of food are wasted very year, yet one in seven people are food insecure. (I’m pretty sure those numbers have gone up since then.) I learned that grocery stores throw out a lot of food because shoppers think that once food reaches its sell-by date, it isn’t safe to eat. But in fact, food is perfectly edible for about a week after the sell-by date, if properly refrigerated. That got me thinking: All that food is going into a landfill when it could be given to people who need it. I talked to my parents about all this. I was getting riled up, as I usually do when I’m dissatisfied with something in the world. My mom told me that I could take action. She made me feel like my idea wasn’t just some silly kid idea. She made me feel like I could actually change things.
Gabrielle during the early years of Donate Don't Dump
Scope: What was the first thing you did to put your idea into action?
Gabrielle: I came up with the name Donate Don’t Dump, and I created a Facebook page to inform people about the issue of food waste. I started talking to my friends about my idea to rescue food from supermarkets and bring it to hungry people. Then my aunt, who is a lawyer, helped make Donate Don’t Dump an official nonprofit organization. At first it was just me, my sister, and some friends. I started going to local events at the North County Food Bank and city council meetings, which are open to the public. I remember after one city council meeting, I gave my elevator pitch for Donate Don’t Dump to the head of a supermarket chain, and he patted me on the head and told me it was a cute idea. I faced a lot of that in the beginning. But within a year, I started talking to the right people, and then I was able to approach grocery stores with not just an idea but a plan.
All the food here has been "rescued" from supermarkets and offered for free to those in need.
Scope: How does Donate Don’t Dump work?
Gabrielle: One of our partner food banks picks up the extra food from one of our partner grocery stores. The bank brings the food to one of our distribution events, where the food it is available for free to anyone who wants it. We try to get stores to donate healthy food. Most people who are food insecure can probably afford the dollar menu at McDonald’s, but find it really hard to buy quality food. So we encourage stores to donate fruits, vegetables, and breads. I remember early on, there was a woman who would come to each food distribution event. She told me that she would freeze the food she took home and it would last her until the next distribution event, two weeks later. That was the first time I realized how big of an impact you can make in people’s lives.
We also have Donate Don’t Dump clubs, mostly in schools, where you can get a group of people together and start an official chapter to raise awareness about food waste, help raise money for the organization, or volunteer at a food distribution event.
Gabrielle with a few Donate Don't Dump volunteers
Scope: It’s been seven years since you started Donate Don’t Dump. What are you doing these days?
Gabrielle: Sadly, I’m not as involved in Donate Don’t Dump as I used to be, because I’m in college now and I don’t have the time. So these days, Donate Don’t Dump is run mostly by a great organization called Feeding America. I’m really proud of the fact that when Donate Don’t Dump got started, food rescue wasn’t really part of the conversation and now it is.
Being a part of Donate Don’t Dump has made me realize that there are important issues out there that people aren’t necessarily talking about and that aren’t being covered in the news. It might be a really small issue, but it can have a big effect. I think the main thing is to not just sit there and sulk over something that bothers you. Go out and talk to people about it! You’ll meet other people who are equally bothered by the same issue and together, you can go out and make a difference. That can be more doable than people might think.