, week of
May 13, 2013
1. Street-Level Sexism?
Only 12 of the 375 streets in the Kreuzberg district of the German city of Berlin have been named for women. So recently, the district council passed a measure that requires that streets and public places be named for women until parity is reached with men. Advocates of the change say the predominance of male names hampers recognition of women in all levels of society. Already, officials of the new Jewish Museum in the district have felt the impact of the measure. The museum wanted to name the cobblestone square outside its education center for 18th century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, who was once refused entry into Berlin through its main gate because he was Jewish. Because he was not female, however, the suggestion was rejected. This pitted against each other two groups that had faced discrimination — Jews and women — but a compromise has been reached. The square will be named the Fromet-and-Moses Mendelssohn Platz, because Fromet was “more than ‘just’ the wife of an important man,” a Jewish Museum official said. How important is such symbolism in modern communities? Discuss as a class and see how many streets you can name that are named for women in your community. Write a letter to the editor suggesting that a street be named for a prominent local woman. Give reasons for your choice.
Common Core/National Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task, purpose and audience; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.
2. Make a Scene
You can build many skills by reading the newspaper. As a class, split into small groups and have each group pick a story that interests you from the news. Read the newspaper article and create a short scene from the news as it might appear in a TV show, a play or a movie. Your scene should show what happened in the news but tell it through the words and actions of the characters. Present your scene to the class. Be prepared to answer questions about the events mentioned in the article.
Common Core/National Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events.
3. Fake Bomb Detectors
Everyone wants to be safe, and a businessman in the European country of Great Britain recently thought he could make a buck by selling devices he promised could detect explosives and drugs under water and from the air. The only problem is that they didn’t work, even though they cost up to $42,000 each! The man now has been sentenced to 10 years in jail, because the prosecutor proved the devices “lacked any grounding in science” and were no better at detecting explosives than random methods. Before his scheme came apart, the businessman is said to have made an estimated $78 million from the sales of his products to international agencies and to countries like Iraq in the Middle East. People are always inventing new things to do things people need or want done. Find a new product in the ads in the newspaper. Brainstorm a new invention that could improve the product. Draw a picture of your product and give it a name.
Common Core/National Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.
4. Pain in the Long Run
Some marathon runners have been taking over-the-counter painkillers before they race, but a German study indicates they may actually be making things worse for themselves. In a 2010 survey involving 4,000 runners, researchers found that runners who used painkillers to prevent pain or injury had a 13 percent risk of “adverse events, including muscle … and intestinal cramps.” More significantly, the drugs “do not prevent pain,” the researchers found. Scientists speculate that the painkillers — which included ibuprofen, aspirin and an anti-inflammatory called diclofenac — interfere with the way the body contracts and relaxes muscle tissue. Over-the-counter drugs are widely used in America, and drug companies spend a lot of money advertising their benefits. Find an ad for an over-the-counter drug in the newspaper or online. Write a summary of the claims made for it, and questions that a smart consumer should ask.
Common Core/National Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
5. Military Cemetery Almost Full
After almost two centuries, the 12-acre West Point cemetery is almost full, and the U.S. Military Academy is taking steps to expand the hallowed site on the Academy campus in New York State. A military cemetery since 1817, it includes the graves of major historical figures — Lt. Col. George Custer and Gen. William Westmoreland, for example — and 16 Medal of Honor recipients. Every year, between 150 and 200 people are laid to rest there. The Academy’s plans include new locations for cremated remains (funded by donations from graduates) and expansion of the burial grounds to allow for eventual burial of as many as 8,000 soldiers. Many institutions have a limited amount of land, but face expanding needs to use it. In the newspaper or online, find an institution like a college, a park or a non-profit organization that has a campus or outdoor space. Read about the group and brainstorm ways it might want to use the land in the future. Write an outline for a land-use plan for the organization to detail challenges and choices it may face. (Remember that keeping space open is also a choice.)
Common Core/National Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.