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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 07, 2022

1. One Is the Number

In politics or in government, a single vote can sometimes make all the difference. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are evenly divided at 50 votes each with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaker for the Democrats as president of the Senate. With significant legislation to be voted on this spring, that narrow advantage has been thrown into jeopardy by the unexpected medical emergency of a senator little known outside his state. Senator Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico suffered a stroke in the cerebellum section of the brain and underwent surgery to reduce brain swelling. Luján, who at 49 is one of the youngest Democratic senators, was stricken last week with dizziness and fatigue while in New Mexico, and was taken to the hospital. Much has been written about the difficulty passing legislation in the evenly divided U.S. Senate. To advance legislation or appointments, Vice President Kamala Harris had to cast 15 tie-breaking votes last year, most notably votes to pass the American Rescue Plan for Covid 19 coronavirus relief. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about issues coming up for action by the Senate. Use what you read to write a commentary or essay assessing the prospects for action with Senator Luján possibly sidelined.

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.

2. Return of the Redwoods

In the eyes of Native Americans, one of the great injustices of U.S. history was the way Native tribes were forced off their lands by White settlers by force or unjust treaties. In the state of California, a conservation group has teamed with a group of Native tribes to right one of those wrongs. Under the partnership, a redwood forest in northern California will be returned to a group of Native American tribes whose ancestors were forced out generations ago, CNN News reports. The 523-acre forest formerly known as Andersonia West was purchased by a conservation group known as the Save the Redwoods League for $3.55-million and donated to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council. The council consists of 10 federally recognized tribal nations including the Cahto Tribe of Laytonville Rancheria, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes. The tribes immediately renamed the forest Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ (tsih-ih-LEY-duhn), which means “Fish Run Place” in the Sinkyone language. “Renaming the property Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ lets people know that it’s a sacred place,” one Sinkyone Council board member said. “It’s a place for our Native people.” Many natural areas in the United States hold special significance for Native Americans, who lived in them before White settlers arrived. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these areas, which tribes lived in them and why they were important to tribal lives. Use images from the newspaper or Internet to create a slide show showing five or six of these areas. Write a copy block for each image explaining its significance.

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.

3. A Covid ‘Human Right’

As leader of the world’s Catholics, Pope Francis has not been afraid to speak out on controversial issues. Last month he endorsed government campaigns to get people vaccinated against the coronavirus, and now he has denounced the spread of misinformation that is keeping people from getting vaccination shots. Speaking before a Catholic group that monitors information about the Covid 19 virus and its variants, the Pope said “To be properly informed, to be helped to understand situations based on scientific data and not fake news, is a human right. Correct information must be ensured above all.” For emphasis, the Pope declared “We can hardly fail to see that these days, in addition to the pandemic, an ‘infodemic’ is spreading: A distortion of reality based on fear.” Pope Francis, who is 85, is fully vaccinated. Leaders like the Pope have spoken out in efforts to get more people vaccinated against the coronavirus, but many still resist vaccines. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts by prominent leaders to promote vaccines. Then brainstorm an idea for a public information campaign that you think might be more effective than messages from leaders or celebrities. Write a message that you think could reach people who have resisted vaccines up to now. Give your message an eye-catching headline.

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.

4. Super Bowl

Next Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday, and football fans all over the nation are gearing up to see whether the Cincinnati Bengals or Los Angeles Rams will win the National Football League championship. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It also is a huge event in the world of television advertising. Ads for this year’s game will cost up to $6.5-million for 30 seconds of screen time — nearly $1-million more than the average of $5.6-million in 2021. For that kind of money, advertisers will roll out their most creative and memorable ads to make an impression on viewers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ads that companies are planning for this year’s Super Bowl. Think like a TV critic and write an assessment of which ads you think will cause the most buzz or conversation. For fun, brainstorm an idea for a Super Bowl ad that you think would be effective for a product you use.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

5. Pizza ‘Tips’

Businesses have been hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic, and none moreso than restaurants. Not only have customers chosen to stay home, but establishments have been hard pressed to find workers to serve food in-house or deliver takeout. To remedy the takeout problem, the Domino’s pizza chain has come up with an unusual solution. If people order takeout online and pick up their orders instead of asking for delivery, Domino’s will “tip” them $3 for each order. The tip is actually a credit for each customer’s next order over $5, but Domino’s hopes it will reduce demand for delivery drivers. The offer, which will remain in effect through May 22, was announced just as the nation began gearing up for Sunday’s Super Bowl game. “Domino’s carryout tips come just in time for the biggest football game of the year, which is also one of the busiest days of the year for pizza,” noted Domino’s chief marketing officer. “Domino’s typically sells about 2-million pizzas on football’s favorite Sunday.” Businesses have had to try new approaches to survive and succeed during the coronavirus epidemic. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the things businesses have tried. Use what you read to write a business column analyzing which approaches you think will have the biggest effect long term.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.