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For Grades 9-12 , week of July 11, 2016

1. Europe Travel Alert

Just ahead of the summer vacation season, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert warning Americans visiting Europe about the risk of terrorist attacks. The warning is not based on a specific threat, but on large crowds expected at major events on the European continent this summer. The travel alert, which expires August 31, notes that “large scale sporting events and public gathering places throughout Europe … represent potential targets for terrorists,” and renews advice to U.S. citizens to be vigilant in crowded settings abroad. Terrorism is a worldwide concern, and many nations are taking steps to combat or prevent it. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about steps the United States and other nations are taking to increase security and prevent terrorism. Use what you read to write an editorial giving your opinion about what you think will be the most effective measures — and any you think go too far.

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.

2. Meryl Plays The Donald

Movie star Meryl Streep surprised audiences at the Public Theater’s gala celebration in New York City recently by appearing as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. She appeared onstage in orange makeup and a pompadour hairstyle and sang a comic song that included the lines “We could do a deal — you’ll let me know — why is it all the women say no?” Later, she strolled the stage, gesticulating in Trump’s style. Everyone at the Central Park event was surprised by Streep’s Trump send-up. “None of us had seen her in costume or makeup ’til she walked out tonight,” the Public Theater’s artistic director said later. Comedians and comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live” are having a lot of fun making jokes about the candidates for president. Often they use satire, which exaggerates qualities and attitudes of the candidates in a humorous way. With a friend or family member, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about ways comedians are poking fun at candidates. Then view videos of “Saturday Night Live” or other shows to see how satire is being used. Follow Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton in the news and brainstorm a short skit using satire to make fun of the candidate in a humorous way. Read or perform your skit for family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

3. Banned From Tennis

Maria Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam tennis champion, has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Foundation for violating drug rules for athletes. One of the world’s highest-paid female athletes, she had been taking meldonium to treat a variety of health problems, and says she was unaware the World Anti-Doping Agency had added it to its list of prohibited substances in January this year. Although a Tennis Foundation panel acknowledged the violation was unintentional, it ruled that she “bears sole responsibility” for “failing to check whether the continued use of this medicine was permissible. …” The 29-year-old Sharapova appealed the ruling with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, saying it was “unfairly harsh” since she took the drug to protect her health, not to enhance her performance. Professional sports organizations have established policies about performance enhancing drugs in an effort to ensure that competition is fair and some athletes do not have advantages over others. Still, athletes get suspended or punished for taking them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an athlete suspended for using a performance enhancing drug. Research the drug, what it was supposed to do, and whether it improved the performance or statistics of the athlete. Use your research to create a multi media presentation on the case to present to family, friends or a group at a recreation center or library. Discuss the value of rules against performance enhancing drugs.

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. Toads for Survival!

A disease called the chytrid fungus is threatening to destroy the Wyoming toad and other amphibian species, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hoping it has found a solution. The service is releasing hundreds of fully grown toads bred in captivity in the hope they will breed in the wild and develop an immunity to the fungus over several generations. A Fish and Wildlife scientist said the goal is to help the toad species evolve and develop a more resilient immune system “than their younger counterparts.” Some wildlife experts say chytrid fungus is “the worst known infectious disease because it imperils so many species.” When wildlife species face problems, people often take steps to protect or help them. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about people or government taking steps to assist a wildlife species. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short video or film to educate people about the issue. Write a script for your film, including visuals you would use. Then write the first scene.

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. Beer Relabeled ‘America’

Can drinking a can of beer be a patriotic experience? The Budweiser beer company hopes people think so. Just in time for the Fourth of July, the Belgium-owned company announced it would label its cans, bottles and packaging “America” through the general election in November. The “America” label will replace the beer’s “Budweiser” logo on cans and bottles, and the company’s “King of Beers” slogan will be replaced with the Latin words “E Pluribus Unum” — the motto for the nation that means “From Many, One.” On top of all that, the words to “The Star Spangled Banner” will appear at the top of the can and words from the song “This Land Is Your Land” at the bottom. The relabeling of Budweiser beer is an example of a company trying a new idea to generate new interest in a product. In the marketing and advertising world, this is called “rebranding.” In the newspaper or online, find and study ads for products you use or like. Then think like a marketing company and brainstorm an idea to rebrand one product, or advertise it in a new way. Use your research to create a series of newspaper ads, introducing the new idea or brand in a way that would make people want to buy the product. Explain the reasons behind your idea in writing or in conversation with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.