For Grades 9-12 , week of May 04, 2020

1. Meat Plants to Stay Open

For Americans, meat processing plants play a key role in the food supply chain for the country. When more than 20 were forced to close after workers contracted the coronavirus, experts predicted Americans could experience food shortages in grocery stores for chicken, beef and pork. In a move designed to prevent shortages, President Trump last week signed an executive order to compel meat plants to remain open during the coronavirus emergency. In the order the President invokes the powers of the Defense Production Act to declare the plants “essential” to the nation’s wellbeing. In the order the President said the government will provide additional protective gear for employees as well as guidance on how to make sure that plants and the meats being processed are not contaminated by the virus. President Trump’s executive order to keep meat plants open has caused some debate over the safety of workers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the debate, or commentary on the issue. Use what you read to write an editorial or commentary of your own, giving your views on keeping meat plants open and keeping workers safe.

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. N.Y. Primary ‘Canceled’

The coronavirus has hit New York State harder than any other, and last week it claimed a new victim. The state’s Board of Elections used a new state law to effectively cancel New York’s presidential primary election scheduled for June 23. The law gives the elections board the power to remove from the ballot all candidates who have ended or suspended their campaigns. That left front runner and former Vice President Joe Biden as the only candidate on the ballot, effectively canceling the primary. Supporters of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders criticized the move, arguing he still wished to compete for delegates even though he has conceded the race to Biden. The Sanders campaign said adding more delegates would give the senator greater influence over what issues are addressed in the party “platform” drafted at the Democratic nominating convention in late August. The national lockdown caused by the coronavirus has had a great effect on the way the 2020 presidential race is being conducted. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how the virus has changed how campaigns can operate. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing how President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden should operate going forward as candidates.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Family Reunion

The coronavirus emergency has brought people together in many positive and unusual ways. But none may be more unusual than experience of two families in a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. They discovered that they not only came from the same small island in the European nation of Norway — they were also related! Kjetil Njoten and his wife, Zoe Leigh-Njoten moved to the La Crescenta neighborhood about a year ago for Kjetil’s job with a TV network. They had met some of their neighbors but didn’t connect with Erik and Jen Strom until a neighborhood “social distancing happy hour” sparked by California’s lockdown order. Because both families had Norwegian roots, they started a conversation about their shared heritage, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Jen said she had looked into Erik’s background but had been unable to locate Newton Island where his family was supposedly from. Kjetil joked that it could have been Njoten Island, which is pronounced “Newton” in English and is the source of his family name. He then contacted his mother to check family records and discovered that not only were Kjetil and Erik’s families from the same island but they shared a great-great grandfather! The coronavirus is keeping people apart but also bringing them together in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people being brought closer together by the virus. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing how closeness and being connected are important to people at this time.

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. An Ivy Sweep!

The eight colleges in the Ivy League are among the hardest to get into in America. But not for a graduating senior in Jacksonville, Florida. Craig McFarland got into all eight of the prestigious schools located on America’s East Coast, plus other top colleges including Stanford, Duke, Emory, the University of Florida and the Georgia Institute of Technology. McFarland, 18, finished first in his class with a weighted grade-point average of 4.98 at Stanton College Preparatory School, a public school of about 1,500 students in Jacksonville. His course load his senior year included classes in French, Spanish and Arabic. He wants to study biochemistry and linguistics in college but is not sure whether he wants to go into law or medicine. When students get into college it prompts a lot of discussion about what careers they might pursue. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about which career fields have the best job opportunities for college graduates. Use what you read to write an open letter to high school seniors advising them on careers to pursue. Discuss with family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

5. Virtual Nature

Everyone knows that getting outdoors provides benefits for people, including fresh air, sunshine and physical activity. But what if people can’t get outdoors, in times like now when people are self-quarantining indoors? Viewing virtual or digital scenes of nature through video games or the Internet may provide similar emotional or physical benefits, studies around the world have shown. According to the Washington Post newspaper, viewing virtual nature can reduce fatigue, anger, hostility, tension and depression, and even lower blood pressure, reduce stress and speed healing. Virtual reality technology “can serve as an alternative way to access nature environments for restoration,” researchers from the Asian region of Taiwan wrote. Watching nature in videos, video games or even photographs can affect your mood and emotions. In the newspaper or online find photos or videos of nature scenes. Watch or study them and concentrate on how the scenes make you feel. As you watch, write down adjectives that describe your feelings as quickly as you can. Discuss your experience with family or friends. Turn your adjectives into a poem if you like.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.