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For Grades 9-12 , week of Mar. 22, 2021

1. Historic Leader

When Deb Haaland was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, she made history as one of the first two female Native Americans elected to Congress. This month she made history again. Haaland has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the first Native American to be a member of a president’s Cabinet of advisers. In the Cabinet Haaland will lead the Department of the Interior, which oversees natural resources, public lands and Indian affairs across the nation. The confirmation of the New Mexico Democrat was celebrated by Native American tribes and leaders. She is a member of the Laguna Pueblo Nation in New Mexico and comes from a family whose history in this country can be traced back 35 generations, the New York Times reported. As the first Native American to lead the Interior Department Haaland feels she has a special role to play for native peoples. “It’s difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land,” she said during her confirmation hearings. “I feel that every Indigenous person in this country understands that.” President Biden has vowed to create a Cabinet and government that “looks like America,” with people of many races, ethnic groups and backgrounds. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the President’s appointments. Use what you read to write a political column assessing the significance of the President’s appointments so far.

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. #IAmMySong

In many countries, girls and women have far fewer rights than they do in the United States. In the Asian nation of Afghanistan, for example, education officials in the city of Kabul recently banned schoolgirls older than 12 from singing in public ceremonies. The ban sparked an outcry that the nation’s education officials were attempting to incorporate fundamentalist Islamic values in the education system and limit the rights of girls. The ban was reversed after an online protest called #IAmMySong spread on social media, with girls and women singing their favorite songs. “We won’t let anyone silence our voices,” one activist posted on Twitter. “We should stand up for the future of our daughters.” Islam is the official religion of Afghanistan and 99 percent of Afghanis are Muslim. The nation once was the base of the ultra-conservative Taliban Islamic group. In many countries, girls and women are still working to gain rights that Americans take for granted. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these efforts. Use what you read to write an editorial detailing how the United States or other nations could help these women gain more rights.

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.

3. Store of Knowledge

All over the country, department stores have been closing down due to tough economic times. And all over the country, school districts have been looking for ways to safely re-open schools. So why not solve two problems at once? In the city of Burlington, Vermont, school officials have done that by turning a closed-down Macy’s department store into a new high school. The city’s regular high school had been shut down in the fall of 2020 after chemical contamination was found inside, Fox News reports. The Macy’s in the city’s downtown had closed due to the economy. Now the old Macy’s has re-opened for in-person learning, giving students an unusual and interesting learning space. Many of the old store features still exist, including signage and shelves that used to hold things like dishes and other products for sale. Now they have been re-purposed to house books and serve meals, and students are looking for ways to make the space even more their own by putting up original art and murals. School districts in many communities are trying different approaches to provide safe, in-person learning for students. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these efforts. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor highlighting ideas that might be tried in your community.

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. Celebrity ‘Guests’

As restaurants start to reopen across the country, one of the ongoing challenges is how to keep customers at safe social distances from each other. A restaurant in New York City came up with an unusual approach — and turned a few heads doing it. The Peter Luger Steak House teamed up with Madame Tussauds Wax Museum to place life-size wax figures of celebrities throughout the restaurant to keep people apart. The figures were seated at tables and bars and just standing around in areas where people might congregate. The celebrity “guests” included TV host Michael Strahan, late-night star Jimmy Fallon, weatherman Al Roker, old time actress Audrey Hepburn and actor Jon Hamm of the “Mad Men” TV series. Restaurants are trying new things to re-open after being shut down or restricted by the coronavirus. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different efforts. Then pick a restaurant from your community or state from ads and stories. Brainstorm safe, creative ideas to reopen that would make people want to come to this restaurant. Write out your ideas as a list of bullet points and share with family, friends or classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.

5. The Gift of Blood

In the world of medicine, giving blood is one of the most important things people can do. Donated blood is used to save lives in surgeries, after accidents and for some long-term diseases and conditions. Blood donation agencies are always urging people to donate blood as often as they can. But almost no one has done it as frequently as Marcos Perez in the state of Texas. Perez has just been honored for donating 120 GALLONS of blood in his lifetime. Perez started donating regularly 37 years ago and ever since he has tried to donate once or twice every month. He knows first-hand how important blood donations are — his life was saved by one when he was a baby. He says he will continue donating until “they say you can’t,” he told CNN News. “We need to all work together, he added. “If we all work together and everybody goes to donate, those shelves will be fully stocked.” People often make news by doing things to help the community over a long period of time. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who has done this. Use what you read to write a public proclamation thanking this person for their service. Use the Internet to look up proclamations if you need to see how they are written. They often use the word “Whereas” to introduce reasons that the person is to be honored.

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.

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