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For Grades 9-12 , week of May 25, 2020

1. Less Air Pollution

The coronavirus epidemic has caused a lot of harm to people and businesses around the world. But in one way the virus has had a positive effect. Air pollution has dropped dramatically. With businesses shut down and people driving less while isolating at home, emissions of greenhouse gases have dropped an unprecedented 17 percent compared to emissions one year ago, according to a new report published in the science journal Nature Climate Change. Most dramatic was the drop in carbon dioxide emissions caused by burning fossil fuels like gasoline, coal and oil. Carbon dioxide is a leading greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. Overall, scientists expect emissions to drop between 4 and 7 percent this year compared to 2019. They do not expect the decline to be permanent, with emissions rising again when businesses and economies reopen around the world. The world has seen a huge drop in air pollution during the coronavirus epidemic. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways this has affected cities and other communities. Use what you read to write a short letter to the editor offering ideas on how this experience could help shape policies to reduce air pollution in the future.

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.

2. Baby Powder Ban

For every family with children, baby powder is one of the most familiar products. And Johnson & Johnson is one of the most familiar companies making it. Now, in response to lawsuits and consumer criticism, Johnson & Johnson has announced it will stop selling one of its brands of baby powder in North America. The brand is one that contains talc, a mineral known for its softness. Talc can also be contaminated by asbestos, which has been documented to cause cancer. Lawsuits by nearly 20,000 users claimed that Johnson & Johnson knew its talc powder was contaminated and marketed it anyway. The company has defended the product in case after case, and said it “will continue to vigorously defend the product.” Many of the lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson have been filed by women with ovarian cancer. Asbestos has been linked to ovarian cancer since 1958. Johnson & Johnson will continue to sell baby powder made with cornstarch in the United States. Talc based powder will continue to be sold elsewhere in the world. Businesses often change the way they operate in response to health concerns or public pressure. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a business doing this. Use what you read to create a one-minute television newscast explaining the change. Write a script for your newscast and choose images to go with it. Read it aloud to make sure it does not run longer than one minute.

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. Robot Graduation

All over the country the coronavirus epidemic has disrupted high school graduations. Rules to isolate at home or practice social distancing have made face to face graduations with large crowds out of the question in many communities. A high school in the state of Hawaii found a way around those rules for its graduating class, however. Assets High School in the city of Honolulu held a graduation ceremony in which students not only stayed far apart but never touched another person when getting their diplomas. A robot designed by the school’s robotics team did the honors, rolling across the stage to deliver diplomas to each student in a special basket. The robot was operated by remote control and school officials were able to keep a safe distance from each student. Robots are being used in many different ways to help people in business, industry and life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one example. Use what you read to write a consumer column explaining what the robot has been programmed to do and how that is an improvement over the way that task was done previously.

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

4. Foxy Attraction

Like other cities around the world, the Canadian city of Toronto has required people to isolate at home and practice social distancing in public due to the coronavirus. Toronto residents largely complied with the regulations — until the baby foxes arrived. A family of foxes took up residence under a boardwalk in the city’s Beach neighborhood, and immediately became a popular attraction. Crowds gathered to see the parents and at least four young “kits,” and not everyone stayed six feet apart. People even tried to feed the foxes or pick them up, the New York Times newspaper reported. To control the crowds, city officials set up fences around the foxes’ den and then even bigger fences. They even fenced off an area on the beach next to the boardwalk to give the foxes room to roam. “We want to protect these foxes,” a city spokesperson said. In many communities wild animals have been behaving differently during the coronavirus emergency. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about animals behaving in different ways. Discuss stories with family or friends and how animals and people may have to adjust their behavior again when communities reopen.

Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

5. Traveling Band Concert

The coronavirus has forced high schools to cancel many traditions and events in the interest of health and public safety. In Plano, Texas, the annual senior concert for band members was one of the events that officials decided could not be safely held. The 85 seniors in the Plano Senior High School band still got a memorable sendoff, however, thanks to the school’s three band directors. The directors traveled to each senior’s home and played a personal musical tribute including the school’s fight song “We Are Plano, We Are Legend.” All told, the directors traveled 168 miles to see the seniors, and even performed in rainy weather. “We knew something needed to be done for our seniors who have been in the band program since they were in sixth grade and are now missing out on their grand finale concert," band director Jason Lewis told CNN News. “Since the concert couldn’t happen, we decided to bring the concert to them.” Teachers and school officials are reaching out in many ways to stay connected to students who have been isolating at home. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about teachers or officials doing this. Use what you read to write a short editorial telling how staying connected in this way is important for students, families and the community.

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.