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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 20, 2017

1. Climate Change & Evolution

Climate change may be influencing evolution, scientists have found. Across Europe, as temperatures warm, butterflies and dragonflies are becoming lighter in color to reflect more light and heat. Darker-colored insects absorb more light and heat, the researchers note. This research indicates “that nature and its ecosystems are changing as we speak,” one of the scientists reported in the journal Nature Communications. Heat has a significant effect on flight and regulating insects’ body temperature. Global warming and climate change have both short-term and long-term effects. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about three effects of global warming that have been observed by scientists. For each, write a paragraph outlining the short-term and long-term effects.

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.

2. Coffee to Stay Awake? Not Really

Many people rely on coffee to stay awake, but a new study concludes that it may not help you stay awake at all over long periods of time. Researchers from the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that after three nights of poor sleep, the caffeine in coffee has “little to no benefit” helping people keep awake. Scientists are always studying the different ways foods and beverages affect people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about the effects of a food or beverage. Write a letter to the editor, outlining the most important points people should know, and why they are important to health or fitness.

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

3. Bail & the Crime Cycle

Criminal defendants who can’t make cash bail are far more likely to be convicted than those who pay bail and receive pretrial release, researchers have concluded. The research suggests that inability to pay bail traps many in a cycle of criminal conduct. (Those who can’t afford bail also are less likely to be able to afford a private attorney and are represented by public defenders.) The University of Pennsylvania study covered hundreds of thousands of cases in the areas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Houston, Texas. Some offenders plead guilty simply as a tactic, the researchers note, since some sentences are just “time served,” and the quickest way out of jail is to plead guilty. Those who choose that tactic are more likely to be charged in future crimes, the researchers note. Many efforts have been made to reduce the number of “repeat offenders” in the criminal justice system. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about programs to reduce the number of repeat offenders (or the “recidivism rate,” as it is sometimes called). Use what you read to prepare a multi-media or oral presentation to the class explaining one program that has been effective or shown promise.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Exercise May Cut Cancer Risk

Exercise can cut the risk for cancer, an international research study indicates. Researchers report in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal that they have discovered a connection between high levels of physical activity and lower risk of developing 13 types of cancer. The project involving 1.4 million people found that a higher overall level of activity is tied to a lower risk of developing any type of cancer — most dramatically cancer of the esophagus, liver and lung and leukemia. The study focused on leisure-time activities done for fitness, including walking, running and swimming. Getting regular exercise contributes to good health and fitness. There are many ways to get exercise that do not involve sports or organized programs. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about unusual or fun ways to get exercise. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video, showcasing one unusual kind of exercise and its appeal. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Early-Childhood Pay

Early-childhood educators earn significantly less than teachers of older children, the U.S. Department of Education has reported. In fact, some make so little they qualify for public benefits. The gap is wide, even though there has been consistent research that shows pre-school early education has great impact on children’s success in later schooling and careers. Former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said the report was “a call to action,” and another top official said, “Wage parity across settings is critical to attracting a high-quality workforce.” Pre-school education has been shown to improve children’s success in school by making sure they are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the benefits of pre-school and early-childhood education. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving key reasons that communities should support early-childhood education and pre-schools.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.


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