For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF May 16, 2022

1. Grim Milestone

Last week, the United States passed a grim milestone that once seemed unimaginable. On May 12, the nation recorded the 1-millionth death in the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic that has touched and disrupted lives in every state. The death total is the greatest of any nation in the world and was achieved in just over two years. Deaths averaged more than 1,200 a day among more than 84-million cases since March 2020, and at one point the daily death report topped 4,400, health officials said. At the same time Covid-19 vaccines were developed in record time, more than 250-million Americans have received at least one dose and nearly 220-million are fully vaccinated with two or more. Millions of others refused to get vaccinated for personal or political reasons, however, contributing to the nation’s high death rate, health experts said. To honor the dead, President Biden ordered the flags at the White House lowered to half-staff. “One-million Covid deaths, one-million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each an irreplaceable loss,” the President said in marking the occasion. “… I know the pain of that black hole in your heart. It is unrelenting. But I also know the ones you love are never truly gone. They will always be with you.” The Covid 19 epidemic caused great disruption and debate on everything from social distancing to mask wearing to school closures to getting vaccinated. And it continues to do so. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about issues that continue to be debated. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining how communities should respond to these Covid issues at this point.

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. Low-Income Internet

Across America the “digital divide” holds back people in low-income families, because they cannot afford the costs of Internet services. That puts them at a disadvantage when matched against families with the resources to pay for Internet resources. Now President Biden and leading Internet companies have agreed to take a significant step toward closing the digital divide by increasing access and reducing the cost of high-speed Internet for 48-million households. The agreement follows provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill promoted by the President and passed by the U.S. Congress with the support of both Democrats and Republicans. The bill reduces Internet service costs for low-income families by up to $30 a month through the Affordable Connectivity Program, CNN News reports. At a White House ceremony announcing the agreement, Biden called Internet access "a necessity,” and Vice President Kamala Harris asserted that “in the 21st century, access to the Internet is essential” for success. “Every person in our nation, no matter how much they earn, should be able to afford high-speed Internet and a high-speed Internet plan,” Harris said. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the digital divide. Use what you read to write a consumer or political column assessing how the digital divide affects children and adults in low-income families and what steps could help them the most in both the short run and the long run.

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. Star Power … Ka-Ching!

Marilyn Monroe was once one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and nearly 60 years after her death she still has a devoted following. Andy Warhol was once one of the biggest stars in the art world, and more than 35 years after his death, HE still has a devoted following as well. Put Warhol and Monroe together, and you have a record-breaking combination. Just ask the people at the Christie’s art auction house in New York City. This month Christie’s put a famous Monroe portrait by Warhol up for auction, and it sold for more than $195-MILLION. That is a new record for an American artwork, and the second highest total for any artwork ever (the record is held by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold for more than $450-million in 2017). The Monroe painting, called “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” is a 1964 work created with the silk-screen technique that shows the blonde movie star against a blue background with matching blue eye shadow and bright red lipstick (click here to view). Andy Warhol sometimes used colors and unusual techniques to create artworks from photographs. In the newspaper or online, find an interesting photo of a person in the news. Clip or print out the photo. Use colored crayons, pencils, pens or markers to colorize the picture in a creative way. Give your new artwork a title and present it to the class. Explain orally how the colors reflect or change the personality of the person. Display photos on a bulletin board or social media page if you like and invite comments.

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.

4. Longshot Winner

In the world of horse racing, a longshot is a horse that is given little chance of winning. Longshots are not given much support by people who bet on a race, so they have “long” odds against finishing first. A typical longshot might have 30-1 odds, while a favored horse might have lower odds of 2-1 or 3-1. So what should people make of a longshot horse that faces 80-1 odds, and ends up winning one of the biggest races of the year? That’s what racing fans are considering after the horse Rich Strike and jockey Sonny Leon won the Kentucky Derby earlier this month. Rich Strike came from behind to win while favorites Epicenter and Zandon battled for the lead in the final stages of the race. Fans and betters hoped that Rich Strike’s win would lead to the possibility of having a Triple Crown champion this year, but the horse’s owners said he will not run in the Preakness Stakes this weekend — the second race for the Triple Crown. The third race is the Belmont Stakes next month, and Rich Strike’s team said he will compete in that contest. It’s pretty certain the odds won’t be 80-1 if he does. Upsets often occur in sports when underdogs defeat favored teams or individuals. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an underdog achieving an upset in sports. Pretend you are going to interview this underdog winner. Write out five questions you would ask about how the underdog prevailed. For each write why people would like to hear the answer.

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.

5. Happy Birthday, Nonuplets

Beyond twins and triplets, multiple births are rare around the world. Women occasionally have four babies at once (quadruplets), five (quintuplets), or even six (sextuplets), seven (septuplets) or eight (octuplets). The record holder for a multiple birth, however, is a woman from the African nation of Mali who had nine babies at once (nonuplets) — and they all survived! In fact the five girls and four boys delivered by Halima Cissé just celebrated their first birthday, and all are doing well at a health clinic in the African nation of Morocco. The babies were born prematurely and weighed in at the extremely low weights of just 1.1 to 2.4 pounds. They were delivered at the Moroccan clinic instead of a Mali hospital because they were extremely high risk and needed specialized care. Today, however, they are doing well. “They’re all crawling now,” father Kader Arby told the BBC News network. “Some are sitting up and can even walk if they hold on to something.” The American record for a multiple birth is held by Nadya Suleman of California, who gave birth to octuplets in January 2009. The six boys and two girls are now 13. The birth of the Mali nonuplets was described by health experts as a “medical miracle.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another “medical miracle.” Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper telling why the event was considered a “medical miracle,” how it occurred and what special treatment was needed for the person who experienced it.

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.