For Grades 9-12 , week of July 26, 2021

1. Money for Remembrance

Across the nation, great museums and monuments tell the story of African American history and culture in America. But the story of Black Americans also is told in less prominent places where African Americans worked and lived their daily lives. Thanks to a $3-million grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, those places are about to get greater attention and be preserved for years to come. The grant will be distributed among 40 Black cultural and heritage sites to give future generations a more complete picture of the struggles and successes Black Americans have experienced in the United States. Sites range from hotels where African Americans gathered and were allowed to stay, to places they worshipped, to homes where civil rights leaders lived, to the spot where Africans first set foot in America as slaves. The effort is “about telling overlooked stories embodied in those places — ones of African American resilience, activism and achievement — that are fundamental to the nation,” the leader of the Action Fund told CNN News. Black cultural and heritage sites do not have to be large to teach important lessons about African American history. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about smaller Black history sites and what they teach the public. Use what you read to write a short editorial about the importance of preserving these sites for future generations.

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.

2. Billionaires in Space

At first glance, “Billionaires in Space” sounds like an idea for a TV comedy, or a skit for “Saturday Night Live.” But this month, two real-life billionaires took trips from Earth to the edge of space in spacecraft made by companies they own — and by doing so called attention to the role of private businesses in future space travel. Last week, billionaire Jeff Bezos rocketed past the edge of space atop a New Shepard rocket built by his Blue Origin space company. His flight came nine days after 70-year-old Richard Branson flew to the edge of space in a rocket plane developed by his Virgin Galactic company. Both Bezos and Branson hope to develop commercial space travel businesses that would take individuals on space trips giving people the experience of weightlessness and a view the Earth from more than 60 miles high. Bezos also hopes to win a contract to shuttle astronauts to the moon. The companies of Bezos and Branson both trail the achievements of Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, which is already is shuttling astronauts and materials to the International Space Station. The role of private businesses is growing in space travel and exploration. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about efforts and plans of SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film about the achievements, plans and goals of these three companies. Write an outline for your documentary, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene. Which company would you focus on in the opening?

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Change in the Amazon

The Amazon rain forest in South America is often called the world’s largest carbon “sink” because trees and plants in its forests “drain” carbon dioxide from the air and reduce global warming. The forests don’t actually drain the gas as a real sink would, but absorb it in their tissues, storing the carbon and releasing the gas oxygen into the air. Controlling carbon dioxide is an important part of the battle against global warming, because the gas is produced by burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, gasoline and wood. Forests like the Amazon absorb a great deal of the carbon from the gas, but that may be changing, scientists fear. A new study in the Amazon has found that some areas now produce more carbon than they absorb due to wildfires and the cutting of trees to make way for farms and development. As a result, the Amazon may no longer be a buffer against global warming in South America and the rest of the world, scientists said. “The worst nightmare of climatologists seems to be already confirming itself,” one environmental group noted. Human actions play a significant role in global warming and climate change, many scientists say. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how humans are contributing to global warming. Use what you read to write a personal or political column detailing what people, governments or businesses could do to slow global warming. Share and discuss with family and friends.

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.

4. Flags of Honor

The United States is making progress fighting the coronavirus, but the death toll continues to rise. To honor those who have lost their lives, an artist will create an eye-opening memorial this fall on the National Mall in Washington, DC. In September, artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg will plant more than 600,000 white flags on the mall, one for each person who has died from the coronavirus in the nation. The flags will be spread along the Mall bordering the White House, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Placing the installation next to the African American history museum was intentional, Firstenberg told the Washington Post, because people of color have been disproportionately affected by the virus. The memorial, which will be on display from September 17 to October 3, is Firstenberg’s second in Washington. Last fall she placed more than 250,000 flags outside the DC Armory building to mark the nation’s death toll at that time. She hopes her display will encourage more people to get vaccinated against the virus. “The last thing I want to do is to have to buy any more flags,” she said. Artists often create works to call attention to issues. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about artists who have done this. Then read a story about an issue that you think should get more attention. Brainstorm an idea for a public artwork that would call attention to this issue. Draw a sketch of your work, and write a paragraph explaining how it would call attention to the issue.

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.

5. Hot Competition

At the Summer Olympic Games, athletes face some of the greatest sports challenges in the world. At the Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan this week, they also may face a challenge as difficult as any from other competitors. The weather at this year’s Summer Games may be hotter than any in years, CNN News reports. Like much of the world Japan has been experiencing challenging temperatures this summer. And the problem is made worse by humidity boosted by the yearly rainy season. The temperature combined with humidity has the potential to make the games feel even hotter than those in the U.S. city of Atlanta in 1996, Barcelona, Spain in 1992 and Athens, Greece in 2004. In the newspaper or online, follow news of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this week. Use what you read to write a sports column highlighting some of the top performances — and whether weather had an effect on the competition.

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.