For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Apr 26, 2021

1. A Teen Hero

The conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd is being hailed as a watershed event in holding police accountable for violence against Black Americans and people of color. Yet it might not have happened if not for a courageous teenager. Darnella Frazier, who was 17 at the time of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota, used her cell phone to shoot the video that showed the world that Floyd died after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Without that video, charges might never have been brought against Chauvin, because the first police account said only that Floyd died after experiencing a “medical incident” and “medical distress” in an “encounter” with police. The account, issued in a press release, made no mention of Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Floyd, who was handcuffed. Frazier posted her video to Facebook on the night Floyd died and it went viral worldwide. The Minneapolis police chief saw it almost immediately and went on to testify against Chauvin. Frazier has been hailed as a hero and said she recorded the scene because she could not do anything else. “The world needed to see what I was seeing,” she said in an interview. Darnella Frazier showed great courage when she filmed the death of George Floyd in the presence of police and shared it with the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another teen or adult showing courage by getting involved in an event or situation. Use what you read to write an editorial praising this person’s courage and detailing the impact that it had.

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. Space Flight History

For the first time in history, America’s NASA space agency has successfully flown an aircraft on another planet. The craft was a four-pound helicopter named Ingenuity that had piggy-backed to the planet Mars with the Perseverance land rover, which will explore for previous signs of life. Ingenuity’s flight was brief, rising just 10 feet above the surface of the so-called Red Planet next out from Earth in the solar system. Still, NASA officials called it “a Wright Brothers moment,” comparing it to the first powered and controlled flight on Earth by the Wright Brothers 117 years ago. To commemorate that connection Ingenuity carried a tiny piece of fabric from the wing of the airplane the Wright Brothers used when making their historic flight. The fabric, which came from the bottom left wing of the Wright Brothers’ plane, is taped to a cable beneath the helicopter’s solar panel. The helicopter could make as many as five flights in the weeks ahead, each one more challenging than the last. The flight of the helicopter Ingenuity is the latest achievement in U.S. efforts to explore the planet Mars. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Ingenuity, Perseverance and other NASA missions to Mars. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media or PowerPoint presentation detailing one or more of the successes the United States has had exploring Mars.

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.

3. Canada’s Gun Approach

Mass shootings have grown in both number and deadliness in the United States this year, and leaders are struggling to find a way to stop them. In the neighboring nation of Canada to the north of the U.S., the government acted swiftly after the nation’s worst-ever mass shooting occurred in the province of Nova Scotia last year. Less than two weeks after 22 people were killed in the massacre, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau banned more than 1,500 models and variants of assault-style weapons, making their use, sale or import illegal. Now Trudeau is pushing new legislation to beef up other regulation of guns and their owners, CNN News reports. Polls show that most Canadians support stricter gun laws, especially for assault-style weapons. “These weapons were designed for one purpose, and one purpose only, to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time," Trudeau said when the ban was implemented. Now the prime minister is facing criticism from both those who think the new gun proposals go too far and those who think they don’t go far enough to ban handguns. Even with more and more mass shootings, the U.S. Congress has been unable to agree on what steps should be taken to stop them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about various plans and the views of U.S. representatives and senators on different approaches. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, outlining what you think should be done, if anything.

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.

4. Ooooh Baby … a Medal!

When women are about to have a baby, they usually take it easy in the last month of their nine-month pregnancy. In the African nation of Nigeria, however, a Tai Kwon Do athlete defied tradition this month when she won a gold medal in her sport — at eight months pregnant! Aminat Idrees, who is 26, won her medal in a non-combat category of the martial arts sport at Nigeria’s National Sports Festival. In the category, known as Poomsae, competitors demonstrate combat moves against an imaginary opponent, rather than a real one. Idrees was cleared by doctors and festival officials before taking part in the competition, CNN News reported. “I felt there wasn’t much risk attached to it, so I decided to give it a try,” she said. Women are breaking with tradition in many ways around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one woman who is doing this. Use what you read to write an open letter to girls and young women, detailing how they can be inspired by this woman breaking with tradition.

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.

5. A Big Woof for Dog Brew

It’s a doggone good deal for somebody’s pet pooch. The makers of Busch beer are seeking a dog to serve as “chief tasting officer” for a “beer” made for dogs called Dog Brew. Dog Brew is not actually a beer but an alcohol-free drink made from bone broth to appeal to the taste of dogs. It sold out in less than 24 hours when it was introduced last year, and now Busch is looking to expand the line, according to Busch parent company Anheuser-Busch. That’s where the doggy taste tester comes in, helping build the brand on social media and serving “as an ambassador for the product,” UPI News reports. The reward is not just fame for the lucky pooch that is chosen — Busch will pay the owner of the dog $20,000 for his or her services! Owners interested in getting their pets considered for the position may post photos of their dogs on social media along with a description of their qualifications and the hashtag #BuschCTOcontest. In the business world, marketing efforts seek to draw attention and promote products or their companies. They include advertising, use of social media and offbeat ideas like using a dog to be an “ambassador” to a product. In the newspaper or online, find and study ads for products that use unusual marketing approaches, Then find a product you or your family uses. Come up with a marketing idea that would call attention to the product in an unusual way. Write a “pitch letter” to the company proposing your idea and why you think it would work.

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.