For Grades 9-12 , week of Apr 12, 2021

1. Variant Virus

As nations battle the spread of the coronavirus, health officials are increasingly worried about “variants” of the original Covid 19 virus that now pose risks to communities. Variants are mutations that have developed over the last year, and one first discovered in the European nation of Great Britain is of particular concern. The British variant — officially known as B.1.1.7 — is highly contagious and appears to be affecting younger people as well as adults who were at higher risk from the original virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that the British variant is now the most common source of new infections nationwide in the United States. Of particular concern are “clusters” of infection detected among athletes and adults involved in youth sports and at daycare centers. Vaccines now being delivered at a rate of 3 million shots a day should protect people from the British variant, health officials say, but they worry about the impact of future variants. The spread of variants of the Covid 19 coronavirus is causing increasing concern among health officials. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about these variants. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining things you think health officials and communities should do to reduce the risk of these variants.

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. Timely Graphic Novel

Graphic novels tell dramatic or action-packed stories in an easy-to-read style that appeals to both young and older readers. Like comic books, graphic novels present their content in illustrated panels that make the words come to life visually as well as verbally. They can deal with serious subjects as well as action-adventures, and this summer an eagerly awaited one takes on a subject important to every American. What’s more, it was written by one of the nation’s most respected leaders before he died. The author is the late John Lewis, a longtime congressman and civil rights leader who urged followers over and over to “make good trouble” to change the world. Titled “Run: Book One,” the novel focuses on the struggles of African Americans to vote after the passage of the national Voting Rights Act in the 1960s. But with efforts to restrict voting in Georgia and other states, its story could be written about today, according to Lewis’s co-author, Andrew Aydin. “When you consider what is happening today,” it is “urgent that we tell this next chapter,” Aydin told the Washington Post newspaper. Graphic novels use art as well as words to tell stories and address issues. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an issue important to you. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a graphic novel to address this issue. Draw the opening page of your novel in your own style.

Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Rich, Richer, Richest

The Forbes business magazine makes it its business to keep track of who are the richest people in the world. This month the magazine released its 35th annual list and the results are amazing. The number of billionaires worldwide jumped a whopping 660 from last year, to a record 2,755. There are a record 493 newcomers on the list and another 250 people back on who had fallen off in the past. Together this year’s billionaires are worth $13.1-trillion, up from $8-trillion in 2020, and “a staggering 86% of all billionaires are richer than a year ago,” Forbes reported. Individually, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person for the fourth year in a row, with a net worth of $177-billion (up $64-billion from a year ago). SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk rocketed into the Number 2 spot with a $151-billion fortune ($126-billion more than last year). French luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault holds the Number 3 spot, with a fortune that nearly doubled to $150-billion from a year ago. Number 4 is Microsoft founder Bill Gates at $124-billion, and Number 5 is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at $97-billion. The yearly net worth list was calculated on March 5. The wealthiest people in the world often use their money to support charitable causes. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a charitable cause you think deserves support. Then write a letter to one of the world’s richest people, outlining reasons he should support this cause.

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. CO2 on the Rise

Scientists working on the Mauna Loa volcano in the state of Hawaii have been monitoring the health of the Earth’s atmosphere since the 1950s. Of particular interest is how much of the gas carbon dioxide (CO2) is found in the air, since CO2 traps heat and contributes to global warming. This spring, scientists marked a significant milestone in the study of CO2, a “greenhouse gas” that is produced by people burning fossil fuels like oil, gasoline and coal. Scientists reported that the daily average of CO2 in the atmosphere had hit a record 421.21 parts per million. That may not sound like a lot, but it is an increase of more than one-third in the amount of CO2 since the 1950s, when it measured about 315 parts per million, the Washington Post newspaper reported. “We’re completely certain that the increase in CO2 is warming the planet,” one researcher said. Greenhouse gases and air pollution are two of the greatest causes of global warming. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about places that have high concentrations of both in the air. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor suggesting ways communities could reduce air pollution and decrease the risk of global warming.

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.

5. Everlasting Chocolate

Have you ever had a treat or piece of candy that was “too good to eat” so you hid it away or put it on a shelf to look at? A soldier in the European nation of England apparently felt that way about a chocolate bar he got from England’s Queen Victoria. He tucked it away in his helmet and stored both the helmet and the candy at his family’s home. Now that treat has come to light — in its original tin box 121 years later! The chocolate belonged to an English aristocrat, Sir Henry Edward Paston-Bedingfield, who fought in the Second Boer War between England and forces in South Africa from 1899 to 1902. The war was sparked by the discovery of diamonds and gold in Boer states that England wanted to control as part of the British Empire. Queen Victoria commissioned 100,000 half-pound chocolate bars to raise spirits among the troops. Paston-Bedingfield’s tin had a portrait of the Queen and a message in her handwriting that read “I wish you a happy New Year” and the inscription “South Africa 1900.” Soldiers from the United States and other nations still serve all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about U.S. or other soldiers serving somewhere in the world. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper explaining the mission of the soldiers, why it is important and what they have accomplished.

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