For Grades 9-12 , week of Apr 04, 2022

1. Russian Media Crackdown

In the European nation of Russia, journalists and the news media do not have the freedoms they have in the United States. In the U.S. freedom of the press is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In Russia, journalists do not have that guarantee. That was evident last week when government leaders ordered Russian media not to publish a rare interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky had granted the interview to four Russian journalists, but a short time later the Russian government ordered them not to publish it. The move was the most recent example of steps being taken to censor any news that diverges from the “official” government version of events in the Ukraine war. In the interview, Zelensky called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him in a neutral country for negotiations to end the war, denounced the destruction of his country and called on Russians to “support the truth.” In the United States, freedom of the press allows the news media to question or criticize the actions of government agencies or leaders. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story that does this in connection to a leader or agency. Use what you read to write a short editorial telling how the nation would have a poorer quality of life if the press did not have the freedom to challenge leaders and events in this way.

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. Ice Shelf Break-Up

Global warming is having a huge impact on natural environments around the world. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Arctic and Antarctic areas near the Earth’s North and South Poles. In eastern Antarctica last month scientists and the world got to see how dramatic the effects of global warming can be. An ice shelf larger than New York City broke off and plunged into the sea — the first major shelf in eastern Antarctica to collapse in more than four decades of satellite observations, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The disintegration of the 460-square-mile Conger Ice Shelf alarmed scientists because eastern Antarctica is considered more stable than ice areas in western Antarctica. Ice shelves, which are floating sheets of ice connected to land, are important to the environment in Antarctica because they protect ice sheets and glaciers on the continent from falling into the sea. One scientist called the Conger break-up a wake-up call to scientists studying the effects of warming in Antarctica. “We expect the ice shelves in the west to be doing this but not the eastern ones,” he said. Global warming is affecting natural environments in many different ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing what damage has been done, whether it is reversible and what could remedy the problem.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Pilgrim Ship Identified

Students of American history all learn that the Mayflower sailing ship brought the first Pilgrims to the state of Massachusetts in 1620. Some who dig a little deeper learn about ships that followed in the 1620s, such as the Fortune, the Anne, the Little James, the Charity and the White Angel. But what of ships that failed to make it successfully to what Europeans called the New World? Researchers in Massachusetts believe they have just identified the wreckage of one of those ships, 400 years after it ran aground on the Massachusetts coast in 1626. Using modern technology, the researchers have dated wood beams from the wreck to the period the Pilgrims sailed and say construction methods indicate they may be from a lost Pilgrim ship historians have called the Sparrow-Hawk. The 109 timbers of the wreckage were first recovered in 1863 and have been owned by the Pilgrim Hall Museum since 1889. This year they were analyzed for the first time using modern technology. Analysis of the tree rings in the wood and the type of trees the beams came from led researchers to conclude the wood was harvested in Great Britain around the time the Sparrow-Hawk would have been built. That would make this wreck the only surviving vessel that crossed the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Great Pilgrim Migration, the Washington Post newspaper reported. “I am just over the top about this news,” a spokesman for the museum said. From shipwrecks to ancient cities, modern technology is giving scientists new ways to learn about the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about scientists using new technology to learn more about a discovery. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation on how technology helped scientists learn more. Pick photos from the Internet to illustrate your report and present to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. ‘Green Screen’ Photos

“Green screens” are commonly used in TV and movies because they allow producers to project images behind people who are on camera. The images on the green-colored screens can range from mountains or lakes to maps behind people reporting the weather. Using green screens allows TV and moviemakers to cheaply create different settings in a studio rather than going outdoors on location. In a city in the state of Indiana, green screens had quite a different effect when they were used for school picture day at Sugar Grove Elementary School. The screens were supposed to provide different backgrounds for the children’s photos. But because the school had scheduled picture day on St. Patrick’s Day, many of the students chose to wear green. As a result, the images that were supposed to show up on the green-screen background showed up on the kids’ green clothing as well. The photos created some pretty funny special effects, as you can see here. But rather than being upset, many parents liked the unusual photos as much as traditional shots and bought them as well. Green screens allow people who produce photos, movies and TV shows to project different backgrounds behind people who are on camera. Pretend you are a photographer assigned to take a picture of someone in the news. Search the newspaper and Internet for photos showing different backgrounds you could use on a green screen behind the person. Write a paragraph to explain each option. For added fun, find backgrounds you could use for yourself or classmates and explain why they would be fun or appropriate.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

5. Invasive Spiders

For people who don’t like spiders, the joro spider would be quite a handful to deal with if encountered in the wild. That’s because the joro is the size of a human hand! Joros, which are native to the Asian nation of Japan, are an invasive species that has turned up in the southeastern United States in shipments from abroad — and they soon could be expanding their territory, scientists say. While they pose no threat to humans or pets, they are a sight to see. They grow up to 3 inches long, with a bulbous yellow, black and red body and long legs that are colored blue, black and yellow. They travel by spinning “balloons” of web silk that can be carried by the wind, which makes it possible for them to cover great distances quickly. In addition, “The potential for these spiders to be spread through people’s movements is very high,” one scientist said. New research indicates that their metabolism would make it possible for the spiders to survive in cool climates if carried north, NPR news reports. Joro spiders get their name from the word “Jor?gumo,” which in Japanese folklore is a spider that can turn itself into a beautiful woman to prey on unsuspecting men. Joro spiders are an invasive species that may soon be expanding their territory in the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another invasive species. Use what you read to write a nature column detailing the impact of the invasive species, how it got to its new location and what can be done to control it.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.