, week of
July 21, 2014
1. School Lunch & the First Lady
The First Lady’s role is not openly political, but Michelle Obama challenged the Republican-dominated Congress when it proposed to let schools opt out of federal standards for healthier school lunches. The First Lady pushed for the standards as part of her campaign to combat childhood obesity, and they were approved by Congress in 2010. The standards require that fruits, vegetables and whole grains be served in school lunches and set limits on fats, calories and sodium (salt). This year, with a push from big food companies, language was attached to a spending bill that would waive the requirements for school districts short of cash. The measure caused nationwide debate about leaving the healthier standards in place and complicated efforts to pass a spending bill for the U.S. Agriculture Department. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is healthier than eating processed foods and snacks like chips, which often contribute to weight gain. In the newspaper or online, find stories about the benefits of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Write a short editorial or letter to the editor, explaining the benefits in your own words.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
2. Good News for Pups
Science sometimes works in mysterious ways. Consider the antibody treatment developed to cure dying geese that turned out to be the answer to a disease plaguing puppies. The puppy disease is canine parvovirus, and it killed many puppies and led to others being put to sleep because the medicine was too expensive or took too long to work. But early tests performed on puppies for the Avianax company in North Dakota have resulted in a 90 percent cure rate for pups stricken with “parvo,” which spreads through animal waste and direct contact between dogs. Harvested from the yolks of goose eggs, the antibody was developed after a mysterious disease (later found to be West Nile virus) spread among flocks at a South Dakota goose farm. Discoveries in science are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find a story about a scientific breakthrough. Read the story closely and write a paragraph or short essay summarizing the discovery and detailing whom it will help most.
Common Core State 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.
3. An Older Harry Potter
Harry Potter lives! Author J.K. Rowling has just released a story, “Dumbledore’s Army Reunites,” which takes place after the events of the series-ending novel “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” It’s available only to subscribers of Rowling’s website www.pottermore.com but it has created a buzz among Potter fans. The story is written from the perspective of gossip columnist Rita Skeeter and focuses on Harry, at age 34, attending the Quidditch World Cup final with his wife and young sons, among others. In the process, it updates the lives of Harry pals Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Fans of books and movies often wonder what might happen if the story continued. With family or friends, talk about a book or movie you would like to see continue. Brainstorm an idea for a plot extension. Then design an ad for the newspaper showcasing the next “chapter” of the book or movie. Give it a title and write a short description that would make people want to see or read the sequel.
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; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
4. World’s Largest Marine Sanctuary
The United States is creating the world’s largest marine sanctuary — an area of the central Pacific Ocean that will be off limits to fishing, energy exploration and other activities. The plan doubles the area of the world’s oceans that is fully protected, and President Obama announced it at the Our Ocean conference hosted by the U.S. State Department. The new sanctuary covers nearly 782,000 square miles of ocean — all of it adjacent to seven islands and atolls that the United States controls. Protecting natural areas is an issue important to many people. In the newspaper or online, find a photo of a natural area in your state or another part of the world. Study the photo and write out challenges or threats faced by the area. For each, write a step that people or nations could take to address the challenge.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information
5. Trebek Sets TV Record
If Alex Trebek asked “Jeopardy” contestants “who has hosted the most TV game shows,’ the answer would be, “You, Alex.” He’s been entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for “most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter” — 6,829 over 30 seasons. Trebek, 73, has hosted “Jeopardy” since its return to TV as a syndicated program in 1984, and his contract runs until 2016. Trebek’s record is only for game shows, not for the most hours hosting on TV. That record belongs to Regis Philbin, whose 17,000 hours on American TV included a few years with the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Some TV shows are popular year after year. In the TV listings of the newspaper, find a show you have watched for a long while. Think like a TV critic and write a review of the program that sums up its appeal to you.
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.
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