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For Grades 9-12 , week of Dec. 12, 2016

1. Nuclear Site Unfreezing?

Global warming is slowly thawing out a once-top-secret U.S. nuclear base buried under the ice in northern Greenland, a new study discloses. The melting could potentially expose the environment to radioactive coolant, PC chemicals and raw sewage that had been expected to stay frozen and entombed for millennia. The base known as Camp Century was built in 1959 on the Greenland ice sheet as a site for testing nuclear missiles during the Cold War. It was decommissioned in 1967 and its waste abandoned, with the expectation it would be buried and entombed by the snowfall that falls each winter. It was buried, but a report in a journal of the American Geophysical Union now notes that the ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate, creating a potential environmental crisis. The situation also may create a political dispute over who will clean up the mess. Greenland is now a self-governing territory of the European nation of Denmark, which had permitted the base originally. Global warming and climate change are having effects all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to design a poster or artwork illustrating the situation and how it is affecting people, wildlife, the habitat or all three. Give your work a title and discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Mayor Quits Over Racist Comments

The mayor of Clay, West Virginia, has resigned with three years left in her term, after having commented approvingly on Facebook comments considered racist. “You made my day,” Mayor Beverly Whaling had posted after the director of the Clay County Development Corporation had Facebooked, “I’m tired of seeing an ape on heels” in reference to First Lady Michelle Obama. Both women’s comments were later deleted, but the exchange became part of a national social media controversy. The development director, Pamela Ramsey Taylor, was placed on leave at the agency, which uses state and federal funds to provide services to elderly and low-income residents. Both she and the former mayor have apologized. Since the voting on Election Day, many communities have reported an upswing in public comments many consider racist, insensitive or biased in nature. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such comments and the reactions they have gotten. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining your views on how communities or individuals should respond to such comments.

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.

3. David Bowie’s Art

Pop star David Bowie’s vast private art collection has sold for $41.4 million, far exceeding predictions. All of the 47 items being offered were sold by the British auction house Sotheby’s. The auction was attended by 1,700 people in the city of London and followed online by 26,000. Family members of the singer, who died in January, kept works “of particular significance,” and sold the rest. One offering — design objects by Italian designer Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group, brought $1.6 million — 10 times what the auction house had expected. The possessions of celebrities often are valued highly by fans or people who follow famous people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a celebrity in whom you are interested. Use what you read to write a paragraph describing items owned by the celebrity that people would like to own some day. Give reasons for each of your choices.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Polarization a ‘Virus’

All over the world, people are more and more divided over politics, race, economics and ethnic issues. And such polarization is a “virus,” Pope Francis has declared. In a homily at a ceremony appointing 17 new cardinals from six continents, Pope Francis warned against hostilely targeting people with different nationalities, races or beliefs, and noted that church officials “are not immune from this.” Addressing “our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn,” the Pope cautioned against leaders and others who “raise walls, build barriers and label people.” In the newspaper or online, read more about Pope Francis’s remarks at the cardinals ceremony. Then use what you read to write a poem talking about the effects of polarization. Title your poem “When We …” Then use the words from the Pope’s quotes above to start each line: “When we judge,” “When we divide,” “When we oppose,” “When we condemn,” “When we raise walls,” “When we build barriers,” “When we label people.” Complete each line and share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Suicide vs. Car Crashes

More American children ages 10 to 14 have died from suicide than from automobile crashes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported. CDC statistics show a steady rise in suicides for all ages while the motor vehicle mortality rate has been declining. Among middle-school-age children, the suicide rate has risen in seven years from 0.9 per 1,000 a year to 2.1, while the car crash death rate declined 60 percent. The CDC offered no explanation for the rise in the suicide rate, but predicts “in time, we might uncover some reasons.” Overall, the leading cause of death in the 10-14 age group remains accidents of all kinds, including car crashes. Suicide among teens, younger children and young adults is a growing concern in many communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the rise of suicide among young people and what communities are doing to address it. Use what you read to write a proposal for a program or effort that you think could be effective in reducing the rate of suicide among young people.

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.