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For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 17, 2020

1. How Does Kamala Help?

Political leaders across the nation are still buzzing about the historic choice of California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris to be the Democrats’ nominee for vice president. But how does she help former Vice President Joe Biden’s race for president? In the past, candidates for vice president were picked to bring geographic balance to a ticket or to help the presidential nominee in a key state. That is not the case this year, because California is a heavily Democratic state that Biden is expected to carry easily. Far more significant, in the age of Black Lives Matter and the women’s #metoo movement, is the fact Harris is the first African American woman to be nominated for vice president and just the fourth woman to be part of a presidential ticket in history. She is expected to energize black voters and women of all races who feel it is time the nation elected a woman to one of the country’s top two offices. At age 55, she also is 22 years younger than Biden and brings the perspective of a new generation to the ticket. Kamala Harris (pronounced KAH-muh-lah) was a candidate for president on her own earlier this year and differed with Biden on several key issues. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about issues she campaigned on and how her position on those issues could help the Biden campaign. Use what you read to write a political column outlining her positions on these issues and how she has — or could — influence Biden’s positions.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

2. A Boost From NBA

Without question the two biggest news events of 2020 are the Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus epidemic. Players in the National Basketball League have successfully connected those issues, and a groundbreaking program to help black communities will soon start up as a result. When the NBA wanted the players to come back to work during the virus epidemic, one of their conditions was that the league make a commitment to addressing social issues in the black community. Last week the NBA announced it will donate $300-million over the next 10 years to do that. Through a new NBA Foundation, the league will "increase access and support for high school, college-aged and career-ready Black men and women, and assist national and local organizations that provide skills training, mentorship and coaching.” The goal is to help young Black men and women get a first job, stay employed while in high school or college and advance their careers after graduation. One of the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement is to get communities, businesses and other organizations to make concrete efforts to improve the lives of African Americans and address systemic racism. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about ways that businesses and organizations are moving beyond verbal support to bring real and lasting change to communities. Use what you read to write an editorial assessing which efforts will have the most impact long term.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Honoring 19th Amendment

This week and next, the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. The Amendment was ratified on August 18 and certified on August 26 in 1920, ending years of struggle by women seeking equal status in government. To mark the historic occasion, New York City is doing something it has never done before. It is erecting a statue in the city’s Central Park of real women who brought change to the nation. The 14-foot bronze statue, called the “Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument,” honors three women who played crucial roles in winning voting rights for women: Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The statue will be unveiled August 26, the day the 19th Amendment was certified by the U.S. Secretary of State, officially giving women the right to vote. Public works of art can call attention to people who have had a positive impact on their communities. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos of public artworks in your community or state that honor such people. Research the life of one person and prepare an oral report for family or friends.

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.

4. More Penguins!

Emperor penguins are the largest penguins in the world, and a great attraction on the continent of Antarctica. There also are more of them than previously thought. A new survey of Antarctica using satellite imaging has revealed there are nearly 20 percent more penguin colonies on the continent near the Earth’s South Pole than scientists had known about. The survey, whose results were published last week, found 11 new colonies of emperors on the continent, raising the overall total to 60. The added colonies increased the overall population by 5-10 percent, scientists said, to just over 500,000 penguins. Emperor penguins, which can grow to be 45 inches tall and weigh nearly 90 pounds, are difficult to count because they breed in remote areas on sea ice. Finding new colonies is “an exciting discovery,” the leader of the new survey said. Counting the populations of wild animal species is an important step in determining whether they need help, and how to help them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about efforts to count a wild animal species. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend or family member detailing what the count of the species has found, why that is important, whether the species needs help and what kind of help would be effective.

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. Voting by Mail

With the coronavirus still spreading, there has been a great deal of discussion about voting by mail as a way to reduce the health risks posed by voting in person. Many states have expanded voting by mail and many more are considering it for November’s presidential election. A special report by the New York Times newspaper has found that a record 75 percent of Americans will be able to vote by mail this year, with up to 80-million people expected to send paper ballots to election offices around the country. That is more than double the number of the 2016 presidential election, and it is likely to delay and complicate the counting of votes. “I’m still expecting … to have very high turnout in November,” said election expert Michael P. McDonald of the University of Florida. “The outstanding question that we have is just: Will the election system be able to bear that?” Voting by mail has caused great debate among political leaders this summer. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories summarizing leading arguments on the issue. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor expressing your views on the importance of voting by mail during a health emergency.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

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