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For Grades 9-12 , week of Nov. 14, 2022

1. Mega-Money

The 2022 midterm elections have been among the most heated and divisive in American history. They also have been the most expensive. Total spending by candidates for state and national offices is projected to exceed $16.7-billion — and millions more will be spent on the Georgia runoff election that could determine the final makeup of the U.S. Senate. The Georgia race is already the second most expensive contest in the midterms, according to the OpenSecrets watchdog group. In fact, with the U.S. Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans all five of the most expensive races this year were for Senate seats. Pennsylvania led the way with nearly $375-million in spending. Georgia was second at more than $270-million, followed by Arizona at nearly $235-million, Wisconsin at more than $205-million and Ohio at more than $202-million. All of the most expensive Senate races were rated by political experts as “toss-up” competitions that either the Republicans or Democrats could win. The cost of political campaigns continues to go up and up, with wealthy individuals, corporations and independent groups now allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of candidates. A great deal of that money goes into TV advertising, much of it portraying one candidate or another in a negative way. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about rising campaign spending, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded opportunities to spend. Use what you read to write a political column discussing the effect of unlimited spending and whether there should be limits, or not.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Changing America

America is constantly changing, and the U.S. Census tracks those changes on everything from employment to income to the racial makeup of communities. The 2020 Census, for example, revealed a significant change in the nation’s cities, towns and suburbs, the Washington Post newspaper reports. For the first time in modern history, most White people now live in mixed-race neighborhoods. That is a huge change from a generation ago. In 1990, 78 percent of White people lived in predominantly White Neighborhoods, where at least 4 of every 5 people were also White. In the 2020 Census, that figure plunged to 44 percent. Most of the change has come in suburbs around large cities, where Hispanics, Asians and African Americans have moved in large numbers. The changes in suburbs have affected everything from the makeup of schools to the way communities vote. The newest Census statistics show that the United States is growing increasingly diverse. Diversity brings both benefits and challenges to communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these benefits and challenges. Use what you read to prepare a PowerPoint or multi-media presentation explaining these effects. Choose images from the newspaper or Internet for your presentation and write text to explain the images.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

3. Friend of Sharks

It’s often said that you’re never too young to help wildlife or the environment. In the South Pacific nation of Australia, a teenager has been doing it since she was 11 years old, and she keeps taking on bigger challenges. Shalise Leesfield, who is now 16, started out at age 11 with a program to collect plastic fishing lines to reduce ocean pollution and wound up earning a $48,000 grant for the project. She followed up by founding a program called “Shalise’s Ocean Support” to inspire people to take care of the environment, and then started a “Plastic Free Schools” website that advises teachers and students on reducing school waste. Now she is taking on her biggest challenge yet, CNN News reports. She is leading an effort to protect critically endangered gray nurse sharks and the habitat where they live in the Fish Rock Cave area off Australia’s southeastern coast. The slow-moving sharks, which like to dwell near the sea floor, have pointy noses and a mouth full of spiky teeth, but are generally harmless to humans. Human activities, however, have led to loss of habitat and a decline in numbers for the sharks. Leesfield wants to change that, and is working to have Fish Rock Cave designated as a protected area for nurse sharks. “I love to call Fish Rock a beacon of hope for these sharks, because it’s their home,” she says. Teens and younger students often are in the news for doing things to help wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about teens who are doing this. Use what you read to write a proposal for a way teens could help wildlife in your neighborhood, community or state. Be sure to detail why help is needed and what teens could do to help.

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. New Way to Build

In his career in the National Basketball Association, Rick Fox was a solid player for 13 years and was part of Los Angeles Lakers teams that won three NBA championships. Now, at the age of 53, he is hoping to do something far more significant than anything he did on a basketball court. He has formed a company that makes a building material that fights global warming by removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air, CNN News reports. The material, called Partanna, is made from natural and recycled ingredients, including a by-product of steel manufacturing and salty brine from the ocean. It contains no plastics and avoids the pollution associated with cement. Almost all buildings naturally absorb carbon dioxide through a process called carbonation, but Fox says structures built with Partanna do so more quickly because of the density of the material. “Technology can turn the tide,” Fox says. “ … We have developed a solution that can change how the world builds.” Construction companies and communities are always looking for ways to build that will be better for the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such effort. Use what you read to write a business column or story telling how this effort could be a model for other companies.

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.

5. Lost SATs

Taking the SAT tests for college is one of the most stressful things students can do while in high school. In the state of Texas, 55 students are going to have to re-live that stress due to a fluke accident involving a truck carrying completed exams. According to officials for the El Paso Independent School District, tests being transported by a UPS truck flew out of the truck while it was on a busy local street and were lost or destroyed. School officials could not say how exactly the tests went flying after being securely delivered to the UPS driver for pickup. After investigating, UPS acknowledged it was at fault and said “the driver’s actions in this case are not representative of UPS protocols and methods, and we are addressing this with him.” More than 300 students had taken the tests, and UPS and school officials were able to recover all but 55. For some of those students, having to re-take the test means they will not be able to apply for early admission at some colleges. “It really does affect people,” one student said. The SATs are a standardized entrance exam used across the nation for college admissions. More than 1.7 million students in the class of 2022 have taken them at least once this year. Students whose SAT tests were lost said they could not picture how such an accident could occur. Editorial cartoons offer commentary on events by using pictures. Use the newspaper or Internet to see how editorial cartoons are drawn and how they comment on issues or events. Then draw an editorial cartoon of your own on an event in the news, or the SAT accident in Texas. Share with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

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