For Grades 9-12 , week of May 23, 2016

1. First Daughter to Harvard

The nation’s First Daughter will attend world famous Harvard University, the White House has announced. But first Malia Obama will take a year off as a “gap year” before starting college classes in 2017. The 17-year-old Malia is graduating next month from Washington, D.C.’s Sidwell Friends School, where her younger sister, Sasha, is a freshman. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard is part of the Ivy League, which contains eight of the nation’s top universities. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama also are Ivy League graduates, with the President earning his undergraduate degree at Columbia and the First Lady at Princeton. Both also graduated from Harvard Law School. There is no word yet on what Malia will do during her gap year. Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions high school students make. And many factors need to be considered. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories offering advice for making college choices. Use what you read to write an advice column summarizing three important pieces of advice. Discuss columns and ideas as a class.

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; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. ‘Ideal Cheerleader’ List Scratched

What does it take to be a college cheerleader? At the University of Washington a checklist posted by the cheerleading team before tryouts seemed more concerned with looks than talent — and it was withdrawn in the face of charges it was sexist. The checklist called “Cheer and Dance Tryout Look” was posted on the university’s Facebook page, but taken down by school officials who said it did not embody the university’s values. The list encouraged false eyelashes, having a tan and wearing flattering makeup, among other things. A group called the Associated Students of the U of W said the list was an example of the objectification of women. Judging people by their looks has long been criticized by both women and men because it overlooks talents and abilities people have. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person whose talents and abilities you admire. Write the word ABILITIES down the side of a sheet of paper. Use information from the story to write sentences describing why you admire this person’s talents and abilities. Start each sentence with a letter of the word ABILITIES. Share ideas as a class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

3. Graffiti Scar Park Arch

Large graffiti have been carved into a famous red rock arch at Utah’s Arches National Park — so deeply that the damage might be impossible to erase. The damage is part of a “tidal wave” of recent vandalism in national parks, the Arches’ superintendent reports, and was etched so deeply it must have taken hours to carve. The Frame Arch formation is off a popular hiking trail in a spot where visitors can look through it and view the park’s stand-alone Delicate Arch. The carvings are about four feet across and three feet high. Vandalism at national parks is a growing problem across the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about incidents of vandalism and how they affect the park experience. Then use what you read to write a short editorial, offering your views on what should be done to reduce vandalism — and what penalties should be imposed on people who vandalize park features.

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.

4. Kenya Burns Tons of Ivory

On the continent of Africa recently, the president of Kenya set fire to 105 tons of elephant tusks and more than a ton of rhino horns in a dramatic statement against the trade in ivory and other products from endangered species. The burning of the material on 11 fire pyres may be the largest stockpile ivory and rhino horns ever destroyed. The demonstration was staged to encourage other African countries to support a ban on the ivory trade. Kenya is taking its battle against the poaching and killing of elephants and rhinos to this year’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which will be held in South Africa later this year. “To us,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants.” Ivory poaching has been increasing, because there is a demand for it in Asia and other areas, according to Kenya’s Wildife Service. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about poaching and the ivory trade. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film about the issues involved. Write an outline for your movie, including what images you would use. Then write the first scene and share with the class.

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. Therapists to Deny Treatment?

In the state of Tennessee, mental health counselors are permitted by a new law to refuse to treat patients based on the therapist’s personal beliefs. The bill, however, does not permit a therapist to turn away people in imminent danger of harming themselves or others; in such cases, the therapist must refer the patient to other therapists. Critics of the law say it could result in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Tennessee is the only state to pass such a law, which the American Counseling Association calls an “unprecedented attack” on that profession. Supporters say the bill protects therapists, but opponents say it legalizes discrimination. Laws allowing individuals or businesses to refuse service based on personal or religious beliefs have been introduced in many states. While supporters say they protect religious beliefs, critics say they allow people to discriminate. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about such legislation. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering your views on such laws.

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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