For Grades 9-12 , week of Jan. 20, 2020

1. Impeachment

The historic impeachment trial of President Trump is under way in the U.S. Senate. For just the third time in U.S. history, members of the Senate will determine whether the President should be removed from office on the grounds outlined in articles of impeachment passed by the U.S. House. The House approved two articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and last week passed them on to the Senate for consideration. There is much debate in Washington and around the nation about how the impeachment trial should be conducted. A key question is whether to call witnesses and seek testimony in the Senate proceeding. Democrats support calling witnesses; many Republicans feel that is unnecessary because the makeup of the Senate makes it unlikely that Trump will be voted out of office. Under the impeachment rules of the U.S. Constitution, two-thirds of the 100-member Senate would have to vote for removal for it to happen. The way the impeachment trial is conducted will have lasting effects on the opinions of voters from all political parties. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about reactions to the way the Senate trial is being conducted. Use what you find to write a political column analyzing the long-term effects of the trial on voters, legislators and leaders across the country.

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. Dark Drama

For more than 90 years the Academy Awards program has been giving out its famous Oscar awards to honor excellence in the world of movies. Last year “Black Panther” achieved a major breakthrough as the first superhero movie to be nominated for the Best Picture award. This year, the superhero world is getting more attention, but in a decidedly darker way. “Joker,” a drama about the mentally ill Batman villain, has earned more award nominations than any other movie. The movie, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and eight other awards to lead this year’s field. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “The Irishman” and “1917” were second in nominations with 10 each. This year’s Oscars will be given out February 9 in Los Angeles. The Oscar nominations always spark great debate among fans over which movies were chosen and which were not. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the debate over this year’s choices. Then discuss this year’s nominations with classmates. What nominations did you agree with? Which did you not agree with? Was there a movie that you think should have been nominated but was not? Think like a movie critic and write a column analyzing this year’s Oscar nominations.

Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

3. Some Internship!

Summer internships are a great way for teenagers to learn about careers, but they often involve low-level tasks helping full time employees. Not for a teen from Scarsdale, New York, however. In his internship with America’s NASA space agency, Wolf Cukier discovered a new planet — on just his third day. The 17-year-old Cukier found the planet while studying the brightness of stars using data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TESS for short. And it was not just any planet. It was a planet that orbits two stars, one more massive than the Earth’s sun and one that was smaller. Capping off his internship, Cukier co-wrote a paper about his discovery with scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center that has been submitted for review by experts in the field. Internships give students a chance to see jobs and career choices first hand. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about internship programs and what fields they involve. Or find stories about jobs or careers you would like to know more about. Use what you read to write a letter to a company or internship program, telling why you would like an internship in the field.

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.

4. School Scare

When planes have to make emergency landings, one of the first things they often do is dump fuel to lighten the weight of the aircraft. In Los Angeles, California, a jet had to do that this month — and put hundreds of school students at risk. The fuel hit six schools that were in session and injured 60 students and adults. Hardest hit was Park Avenue Elementary School, where 20 students and 11 adults reported minor injuries when they were struck by jet fuel raining from the sky. The jet that dumped the fuel was a Delta airliner that had experienced engine trouble shortly after taking off from Los Angeles International Airport. It was able to safely return to the airport after dumping the fuel. When emergencies occur in communities, officials often conduct investigations to see how things were handled and whether they could have been handled in a better way. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an emergency that affected a community. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing how the emergency was handled. Or write an editorial outlining how it SHOULD have been handled.

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

5. Tree Power

It’s often said that if you want to invest in the future you should plant a tree. If that is true, a 96-year-old woman in the Asian nation of China has accumulated an enormous investment in her long life. Jin Yueying has led four generations of her family and many neighbors to plant more than 200,000 trees on 18 hills surrounding her home. Their efforts have turned hills that were barren and brown into green ecosystems. Jin started planting trees when she retired 36 years ago in 1984, the Global Times reports. At first she carried seedlings up steep local hills by herself, and brought water for them from a reservoir. Neighbors and family members soon followed her lead, and now her great-great-grandchildren help her. All over the world people do things to help the environment or restore natural areas. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person or group doing this. Use what you read to write a proposal for helping the environment in your community. In your proposal outline what you would do, why it is needed and what groups or individuals would be needed to make it happen. Discuss ideas as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.