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For Grades 9-12 , week of Sep. 14, 2020

1. ‘Unprecedented’

America’s West Coast is burning … and burning … and burning ... and burning. This year’s wildfire season is one of the worst in history with a record 2.9-million acres burned in the state of California and whole communities destroyed in the states of Washington and Oregon. Officials have used words like “unprecedented” and “relentless” to describe the blazes, which stretch from the Canadian border in the north to the Mexican border in the south. Thousands of people have been left homeless and damage is estimated to be in the billions of dollars. The fires have been caused by a combination of extreme heat and high winds, turning the three affected states into a giant convection oven. The heat from the fires was so intense that trees exploded from the moisture inside their trunks and playground equipment simply melted. It will take months or even years for the states of California, Oregon and Washington to recover from this summer’s deadly wildfires. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about recovery efforts that will be needed. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining the top priorities for communities affected by the wildfires.

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.

2. ‘It’s a Bird!’

Cases of racial profiling and white privilege have gotten wide attention nationally thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement. No case got more than that of Christian Cooper, who confronted a white woman while he was bird watching in New York’s Central park and asked her to follow park rules and leash her dog. The woman responded by calling the police and falsely telling a 911 operator that “an African-American man is threatening my life.” Cooper’s case cost the woman her job because he filmed the confrontation on his phone. Now Cooper has turned it into a comic book/graphic novel based on the experience. “It’s a Bird!” involves a teen birdwatcher named Jules and a confrontation with a white woman. But it offers much more in its 10 illustrated pages. Through a pair of magic binoculars, Jules doesn’t just see birds when he looks at the trees — he sees the faces of African Americans who have died at the hands of police, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Amadou Diallo. “It’s a Bird” has been published online by DC Comics as the first offering in a series called “Represent!” Comic books and graphic novels can be an effective way to call attention to issues. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an issue important to you or your family. Use what you read to draw a chapter of a comic book or graphic novel to examine the issue. Give your comic/graphic novel an eye-catching title.

Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. College Hotspots

America continues to battle the spread of the Covid coronavirus, and health officials are worried about a new set of hotspots: College towns. As colleges and universities re-open for the fall, thousands of students are coming back to campus. And even with many classes moved online, they are partying and gathering in large groups. That has prompted a spike in coronavirus cases in at least 100 college communities, the New York Times newspaper reports. And more may be on the way. The outbreaks have affected colleges all over the country, but especially large universities in the Midwest and South, officials said. And they have heightened tensions between colleges and local communities, as students gather in bars and restaurants, often without masks or social distancing. “Covid has a way of coming in, even when you’re doing all the right things.” said the mayor of Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. Health officials fear cases brought to campus from other areas could infect non-students who live in college communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about what different colleges are doing to control the spread of cases. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining the most important steps college towns can take.

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.

4. Cheaper Gas

Labor Day weekend is the last big travel weekend of the summer, and this year there was good news for people who chose to travel by car. Gas prices were the cheapest they have been in years in the United States. Even better, those low prices are expected to continue into the fall. A survey of gas stations by the AAA auto group found that the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.22, CNN News reported, and in many places gas was selling for less than $2 a gallon. A year ago, drivers were paying an average of $2.57 a gallon for regular gas. The lower prices have been caused by a surplus in gas supplies due to more people working from home and traveling less due to the coronavirus epidemic. Cheaper gas prices affect the economy in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about businesses that could be affected. Use what you read to write a business column detailing effects that cheaper gas could have on business activity and the economy. Are all effects positive?

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.

5. New Black Studies Program

As the United States and other nations grapple with issues of racial justice and heritage, the influential College Board has launched a new Advanced Placement program exploring slavery and the movement of Black people from their African homelands. A focus on the movements of this “African diaspora” has the potential to make Black studies a more important part of the college application process due to the importance of Advanced Placement studies in college admissions. The program is not a single course, but a wide-ranging curriculum that can engage students with independent study projects or visual presentations as well as more traditional history approaches. The program has been pilot tested in 11 public schools that have a majority of minority students as well as schools with a majority of white students. Its goal is to improve Black students’ participation and success in Advanced Placement programs. Independent study will be an important part of the new College Board program exploring slavery and the African diaspora. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about issues or history that might merit further study under this program. Pick one issue and write a proposal for independent study that would examine it in depth.

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

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