For Grades 9-12 , week of Apr 20, 2020

1. Governors Take Action

With the nation shut down due to the coronavirus, there has been much debate about when it will be safe to “reopen” businesses and the economy. President Trump has said he would like that to happen by May 1 and has set up a task force to determine how. Groups of governors on the East Coast, West Coast and Midwest aren’t waiting to see what the task force recommends, however. Seven East Coast states, three West Coast states and seven Midwest states have formed alliances to map a way to safely and gradually “reopen” their regions. “I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, one of the seven East Coast states vowing to work together. “I believe we can start on the path to normalcy.” Key to that is developing a system to test people to determine if they have the disease, have had it in the past or are immune to it. No test system has been developed in any state or nationwide, and it is not known when one could be up and running. Governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have vowed to work together on the East Coast, while those in California, Oregon and Washington have done so on the West Coast. The governors of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky have announced they will coordinate efforts in the Midwest. The efforts by these three groups of states are getting a lot attention on their own and in comparison to what the federal government is doing. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the collaborations of East Coast, West Coast and Midwest states. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing what each proposes to do and how effective it may be.

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. Stress Test

In the Asian nation of China, the “gaokao” exam (gow-KAY-o) is the most important test students will ever take. How they do on this two-day, nine-hour exam determines where they will go to college, and what career they will have after that. In China, students have no choice and their futures are determined solely by the exam results. To prepare for this important test, students study for months, and there is tremendous pressure to succeed. This year, the pressure is even greater with schools closed and families locked down in isolation due to the coronavirus. That gives students even more time to study for the exam, and CNN News reports some are studying 12 hours a day, or more. “I’m quite anxious,” one student said. Ten million students have signed up to take this year’s gaokao, which will be held July 7-8. In China, the gaokao tests put great pressure on students who want to go to college. Students in other nations also face different pressures when seeking college education. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the pressures students face regarding college. Use what you read to write an advice column offering suggestions on how to deal with different pressures or deal with the issues that cause them.

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.

3. Unplanned Ocean Crossing

A trip to the Caribbean for an educational experience aboard a tall ship has turned into much more for 25 high school students from the European nation of the Netherlands. The coronavirus emergency grounded their plans to fly home from the nation of Cuba, so they are traveling home the old-fashioned way. The students, ages 14-17, are sailing across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the 200-foot schooner Wylde Swan under the guidance of 12 experienced sailors and three teachers. The 4,350-mile trip will take five weeks, the Associated Press news service reported, and will provide the students much more than the “personal development” the original cruise would have offered. The goal now is for the students to gain enough skill to be able to sail the ship on their own, if necessary. “They have a joint mission — to get the ship and themselves safely home,” a spokesman for the Wylde Swan said. “That shared goal ensures solidarity.” High school students often must deal with unexpected challenges or problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about students doing this. Pick one and brainstorm an idea for a documentary film showing how the student responded. Draw a “story board” for the opening scene showing how you would start your movie. Use the Internet to see how a story board works.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. Found Money

With businesses closed all over the country, many people are looking for ways to help those who have lost their jobs. A bar owner in the state of Georgia found a solution that was hiding in plain sight. Jennifer Knox, owner of The Sand Bar on Tybee Island, realized after the state forced her to shut down that there was money all around her in her establishment. For the last 15 years, it has been a tradition for customers to sign dollar bills and staple them to the walls of the bar. Knox realized she could take down that money and give it to her employees who are now out of work. It took three days to remove the bills, but when she was finished she had a total of $3,714 that she could distribute to her laid off employees. Customers who heard about her effort sent additional contributions that brought the total to more than $4,100, CNN News reported. Four bartenders and two musicians received more than $600 each. Business owners are trying many things to help their employees while they are closed due to the coronavirus emergency. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one business doing something unusual or impactful. Use what you read to write a thank you letter to this owner, from the point of view of an employee who has been helped.

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. Clear Skies

With 1.3-billion people, the Asian nation of India has some of the worst air pollution in the world. But when the coronavirus epidemic forced India to close businesses and quarantine people at home, something unusual happened. The skies cleared up. In just a month’s time, the level of particle pollution considered harmful to human health has fallen by nearly 60 percent in New Delhi, India’s capital, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Similar drops have occurred in other major Indian cities. For the first time in years, Indians can see stars at night, the Himalayan mountains in the distance and, of course, blue sky. “I feel like complimenting the sky for its beauty,” one resident said. Reduced human activity has improved pollution conditions in many parts of the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this. Think outside the box and write a paragraph or short essay, examining how people could learn from the coronavirus experience and reduce air or water pollution long term after people and businesses resume activities. Share with family and friends and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.