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For Grades 9-12 , week of June 22, 2020

1. Team Takes a Knee

The state of Iowa is the first in the nation to resume high school sports. It is also the first to have an entire team kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter protests. Before their opening game, all the members of the Roosevelt High School varsity baseball team in the city of Des Moines team kneeled in protest during the National Anthem in support of social justice and racial equality. Athletes kneeling during the anthem have caused controversy around the United States, but in this month’s national protests, people have frequently kneeled to oppose violence and discrimination by police against people of color. In Des Moines, the players’ protest meant “No disrespect to the flag,” senior Alex Pendergast told local TV station WHO13. “It’s simply to bring attention to the issues at hand, and I think we did the right thing.” More and more athletes are speaking out about racial injustice and police violence against people of color. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about athletes doing this. Pretend you are a news reporter about to interview an athlete who is doing this. Write out five questions you would like to ask the athlete, and explain why.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

2. Confederate Flag Out

NASCAR auto racing got its start in the Southern states of the United States and remains hugely popular there. So it was not surprising that the flag of the Confederate states in America’s Civil War was often flown or displayed by fans. Now, in response to nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, NASCAR has taken the historic step of banning the southern Confederate flag at all of its stock-car races and events. The move came just days after African American driver Bubba Wallace called on NASCAR to ban the flag. In announcing the move, NASCAR said “The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.” Within hours of the announcement, Wallace unveiled a car that prominently declared “#BlackLivesMatter.” He is the only black driver in NASCAR’s elite Cup Series of races. Removal of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events is an example of an organization changing its traditions or practices. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other organizations making changes in response to the Black Lives Matter movement or other issues. Use what you read to write an editorial assessing the changes being made, whether you think they go far enough, or whether you think they shouldn’t be made. Discuss with family and friends.

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. Swimming for Charity

People do amazing and challenging things when they want to raise money for causes or charity organizations. In the state of Arizona, three teenagers swam 25 miles in 24 hours to raise money for water safety and senior care facilities during the coronavirus emergency. By the time they had finished, they had raised more than $34,000, the Washington Post newspaper reported, and expected to reach their goal of $40,000 within days. They swam an extra mile on the last leg of their journey in honor of first responders who have been assisting communities hard hit by the coronavirus. Keaton Jones, Devin Esser and Tal Spector all are competitive swimmers, but this was the greatest swimming challenge they had ever faced. “Everything was 20 times harder than I could have imagined,” Esser said. The three teen swimmers did something challenging and unusual to raise money for causes they believe in. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another person or group doing something unusual to support a cause. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor calling attention to the effort and why it sets a memorable example for the community.

Common Core State Standards: Citing textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. A Great Man of Words

Debating is an activity that requires skill, strategy and intelligence, and at some schools it is as competitive as sports. One of those schools is Texas Southern University and a major reason for TCU’s success over the years was the coaching and support of Thomas Freeman. Freeman, who died this month at the age of 100, founded the debate program at the historically black university, and led it to championship after championship for more than 60 years. Freeman was a father figure to his students, many of whom were the first in their families to attend college, the New York Times newspaper reported. He influenced students as wide ranging as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the late U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan, actor Denzel Washington and the gospel singer Yolanda Adams. He demanded excellence of students as shown in the team’s unofficial motto: “What we do, we do well; what we don’t do well, we don’t do at all.” Debaters research issues, proposals or political actions and then devise strategies to argue for or against them. The best debaters can make strong arguments supporting positions they personally oppose. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an issue, proposal or political action in the news. Think like a debater and write an argument supporting the issue or action. Then write a second argument opposing the issue or action. For added fun, team up with a friend and debate an issue.

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.

5. Stopping Food Waste

The United States is one of the world’s leading agricultural nations, but during the coronavirus epidemic, many farmers have had trouble getting their food to people who need it the most. With restaurants not buying produce, milk and other products, crops like potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and carrots have rotted in the fields while millions of people go hungry due to layoffs, unemployment and illness. In a land of plenty, it’s a huge disconnect: Farmers have too much food, while food banks and poor neighborhoods have record shortages. An organization called FarmLink is attempting to close this nationwide gap by raising funds to pay farmers for their surplus food and transport it from the farms where it is grown to the neighborhoods it is needed. FarmLink was formed by college students from Stanford and Brown Universities who felt it was wrong for food to go to waste when so many people need it, the Washington Post reported. Their operation started small in California but quickly expanded to 22 states due to demand. “I feel so inspired” by the success, FarmLink founder James Kanoff said. “ …This project has given me a ton of hope.” With poverty and unemployment affecting millions of people, many organizations are trying to supply food support to families in need. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about organizations and food banks that are addressing this problem. Use what you read to design a series of public service TV ads urging people to support these organizations. Create a theme for your ad campaign and write the text for three to five ads. List images you would use for your ads to make them more effective. Pick a celebrity spokesperson for your campaign, if you like.

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