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For Grades 9-12 , week of May 15, 2023

1. No More Backpacks

In communities across the nation, the threat of school shootings and violence is a growing concern. In the first three months of 2023, there were more shootings — and more victims — than during the same time period last year. And if trends continue, the number of school shootings will set a new record for a single year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. The Database predicts there will be about 400 school shootings, well over last year’s record high of 273. To increase school safety, education leaders are trying a variety of tactics — from installation of metal detectors, to hiring armed guards to training students how to shelter in place and stay safe in emergencies. In the city of Flint, Michigan, the school district has taken a bold step after a threat of violence closed a local high school for several days. The district has declared that no backpacks will be allowed in schools through the end of the school year. The ban covers all schools from elementary grades through high school and prohibits anything larger than a bag the size of a small purse, the New York Times newspaper reported. In a letter announcing the new policy, Flint’s school superintendent wrote that “backpacks make it easier for students to hide weapons,” and “by banning backpacks altogether and adding an increased security presence … we can better control what is being brought into our buildings.” School safety is a top concern for students, parents, teachers and communities. In the newspaper and online, find and closely read stories about safety measures that are being tried. Use what you read to write an editorial highlighting approaches that would make you feel safer at school.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Book-Ban Pushback

Efforts to ban books in schools or libraries are increasing in communities around the nation. Parents upset with books involving race, gender, sexuality and politics have pressured library and school officials to remove books on those topics, or restrict access. In many cases they have succeeded. In the state of Illinois, opponents of book bans are pushing back. The state legislature has passed and sent to Governor J.B. Pritzker a bill that would require libraries to adopt policies prohibiting book bans if they want to remain eligible for state grants. Pritzker, who is a Democrat, has said he will sign it. Under the measure, libraries would be required to either adopt the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights or develop their own written statement that prohibits banning books or other materials, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The ALA’s Library Bill of Rights states that libraries should not exclude items “because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation” and should not remove books “because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” In Illinois, libraries could lose significant funding if they don’t adopt a policy in opposition to book-banning. During the last fiscal year, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office awarded more than $62-million through 1,631 grants — 97 percent of which went to public and school libraries. If it is signed, the law would take effect on January 1. There has been great debate around the nation about efforts to ban books in schools or libraries — and much of it breaks down on political lines. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one or more efforts. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the arguments for and against bans, and whether there is room for compromise by political and community leaders.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. A 3D Mosque

The process known as “3D printing” got its start (and name) from the use of inkjet printers to make three-dimensional items layer by layer. It is widely used in medicine and technology fields, and now it is being used more and more in construction. In recent years, 3D printing has been used to build everything from homes to businesses and even bridges. Now, in the Middle East city of Dubai, it is about to be used to construct an Islamic mosque, CNN News reports. The mosque would be the first in the world to be built with the 3D printing process and would hold 600 worshippers in 21,500 square feet of space over two floors. It will be made from a concrete mix, with construction planned to begin by the end of year. 3D construction of buildings requires large printing machines that are computer programmed with the design information. They squeeze out the construction material from a nozzle, building up the structure in layers. Dubai, which is located in the United Arab Emirates, has set a goal of having 25 percent of all new construction built with 3D printing by the year 2030. The use of 3D printing techniques is re-inventing the way things are manufactured. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a new way 3D printing is being used. Use what you read to write a short consumer column analyzing the advantages of 3D printing.

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

4. Free Breakfasts

For many businesses, panhandlers and homeless people asking for money are considered a nuisance, or worse, on outside sidewalks. Not the Homemade Café restaurant in Berkeley, California. The Café feeds the homeless through an innovative “Everybody Eats” program in which other customers make $5 donations to cover breakfast meals for the hungry. Owner Collin Doran bought the restaurant 12 years ago and started feeding the homeless almost immediately. “Instead of ushering people away, I told them, ‘If you’re hungry, let us know and we’ll feed you,’” Doran told the Washington Post newspaper. “Right away, people started taking me up on it.” Doran continued the effort through the coronavirus epidemic, and then came up with a way for customers to help maintain the tradition. Since January, for every $5 donated by a customer, Doran has posted a “free meal” ticket on a bulletin board in his diner to be used by anyone who is hungry. The free meal consists of a “two eggs any way” breakfast, served with potatoes, toast and coffee. “But on days when we run out of tickets, we keep serving free meals anyway,” Doran noted. “Nobody should go hungry. … To me, food is love.” Businesses, individuals and private organizations often make special efforts to help people in need. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an example of this happening. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor calling attention to the effort and how it could inspire others to help the needy in their communities or neighborhoods.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

5. Help for Air Travelers

For people who travel, flight delays and cancellations are disruptive, costly and hugely annoying. Now, for the first time ever, the federal government will seek to force airlines to compensate travelers for extensive delays and cancellations. Under rules being proposed by President Biden and the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines would be required to provide cash payments rather than merely refunds for significant travel disruptions that were within the airline’s control, the New York Times reports. “When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This rule would, for the first time in U.S. history … require airlines to compensate passengers and cover expenses such as meals, hotels and rebooking in cases where the airline has caused a cancellation or significant delay.” The airline industry has come under intense criticism in the last year after a string of problems with cancellations and delays, and an operational meltdown of service by Southwest Airlines that stranded passengers during the holiday travel season. The new rules will be written by the Transportation Department. In travel and other areas, government agencies often take steps to address problems that affect people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one effort by an agency. Use what you read to prepare a one-minute TV news report summarizing the effort and its prospects for correcting the problem. Read your report aloud and time it to make sure it does not run longer than one minute. Present reports to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific visual or textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.