For Grades 9-12 , week of Apr 06, 2020

1. Waiting for the Checks

With the economy shut down due to the coronavirus, families and individuals are hurting and worried. Bills and mortgages are coming due, and a key concern is when people will get the $1,200-per-person relief checks promised in the historic $2-trillion economic passage passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Americans will start to see the money being direct-deposited in their bank accounts within three weeks, but for some people payment could take longer. And some workers may not get relief checks at all. Families without direct deposit will have to apply online for their relief money and processing those applications will take longer than three weeks. Millions of undocumented workers, meanwhile, will not qualify for any kind of relief, even though they make up 5 percent of the U.S work force and are essential for many businesses. Immigrant advocates say leaving them out of relief efforts will slow the nation’s economic recovery. Opponents say illegal workers aren’t eligible for other government benefits and should not be eligible for these. The impact of coronavirus on the nation’s economy continues to be a major concern. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how the virus is affecting jobs and businesses — and proposals that are being discussed to help people. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing a step you think the nation should do next — and why.

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. ‘Something to Celebrate!!’

Becoming valedictorian of a class is a huge honor and a reward for having better grades than anyone else. The achievement usually is recognized amid the pomp and circumstance of graduation. But not this year for a senior at a Michigan high school. With her school closed due to the coronavirus, Kaitlyn Watson learned she was Number 1 in her class at the drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant where she was working. The high school principal of Grand Traverse Academy in Traverse City went through the drive-through lane to make the announcement. “Hi Kaitlyn,” she said. “I got you on camera because I want to announce something to you. You are GTA’s 2020 class valedictorian!” In the video released by the school, Watson jumps for joy and exclaims, “I am? Oh my gosh! Thank you so much!” She later posted that the unusual announcement was “Something to celebrate!!” With communities locked down, people are finding new ways to celebrate milestones. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such celebrations. Then think of a milestone or tradition coming up for your family or community. Brainstorm a new way to celebrate the milestone/tradition. Write down your ideas and discuss with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. Visual Distancing

With the spread of the coronavirus, “social distancing” has become the new normal. Social distancing means staying at least six feet away from other people in grocery stores or outdoors so that you stay beyond the range of water droplets that can be spread by sneezing or coughing. To encourage social distancing McDonald’s and other brands are re-making their logos in symbolic ways in new ads. McDonald’s has separated the famous golden arches of its logo to have them stand apart while Coca-Cola spaced out the letters of the words “Coca” and “Cola.” Cars companies Volkswagen and Audi also got into the act, with Volkswagen separating the V from the W in its logo and Audi separating the circles in its brand mark so that they stand alone. The redesign of familiar logos uses art to symbolically show the importance of social distancing. Editorial cartoons can do the same thing by showing familiar places, people, statues or objects practicing distancing or isolation. In the newspaper or online, find some of these. Draw editorial cartoons showing them practicing distancing or isolation. Share with family or friends in person or online.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Elder Divide

Much has been written about the “digital divide” between poor and well-off families when it comes to computers and access to the Internet. Now a different digital divide is getting attention as the nation battles the coronavirus emergency. With more and more activities going online, many older Americans are struggling to deal with activities ranging from online shopping to virtual doctor’s visits to group communication through apps like Zoom. Inability to use technology not only increases their isolation but adds “another level of stress,” as one senior told the New York Times newspaper. Eldercare experts encourage younger family members or neighbors to help seniors set up their computers so they can get online. “If you have an elderly neighbor or family member who might have trouble with their laptop or their phone for this purpose, make yourself available to help,” one expert noted. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about seniors struggling to adapt to online communication or shopping. Write a consumer column detailing the most important things someone not familiar with computers, apps or the Internet needs to know for online communication, shopping or learning.

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.

5. A Reef in Danger

Coral reefs are complex ocean habitats that are hugely important to the ocean environment. They are made up of living corals that support between a quarter and one-third of all marine species, and when they die off or are damaged by “bleaching” events they put those species in danger. Bleaching occurs when the ocean water gets too warm for the corals to live, and scientists say global warming is the main cause. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has just experienced its third major bleaching in the last five years, and perhaps the most widespread ever. That worries scientists because the health of coral reefs is a measure of the overall health of ocean habitats. “If we do not deal with climate change quickly ... we are going to continue to see more severe and more frequent bleaching, and we are going to see the loss of coral reefs in much of the world,” one marine expert told CNN News. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest, supporting more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species. Global warming is affecting habitats and the environment all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short documentary film detailing the impact of warming on the environment and how that affects plant and animal species that live in it. Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.