For Grades 9-12 , week of Sep. 26, 2022

1. Pandemic Over?

For more than 2 ½ years, the United States and other nations have been battling to control the coronavirus pandemic. More than 1-million Americans have died, and the death toll worldwide now exceeds 6.5-million. Yet with the development of vaccines and the success of mask-wearing and social distancing policies, President Biden has now declared that the pandemic is “over” for most Americans. “We still have a problem with Covid [coronavirus]. We're still doing a lot of work on it,” Biden said in an interview with the “60 Minutes” television program. “But the pandemic is over.” Aides said the President recognized that people are still being hospitalized and dying from the disease — there are more than 400 deaths a day in the U.S. But “I think the president was reflecting what so many Americans are feeling and thinking,” said Xavier Becerra, Biden’s national health secretary. “… That with these effective vaccines, with masking, with the efforts to protect our children [and] seniors, we are learning how to cope with this virus.” The U.S. government still designates the coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency and the World Health Organization says it remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Is the coronavirus pandemic “over”? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how schools and communities are dealing with the virus in day-to-day life. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor or commentary offering your view on the best approach for communities going forward.

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.

2. Parent Crackdown

It’s often said that parents who watch their children play youth sports display far less sportsmanship than the athletes themselves. They yell at referees, taunt opposing players, use foul language and sometimes even get into fights. Sports leagues have tried to crack down on bad sportsmanship, and now a District Attorney’s Office in the state of California is going even further. In Orange County south of Los Angeles, a woman who urged her daughter to hit an opponent during a girls basketball game has been charged and convicted on misdemeanor counts of battery and for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Now a judge has ordered 44-year-old Latira Shonty Hunt to pay $9,000 in restitution, apologize to the victim and her family, and complete anger-management courses if she wants to attend youth basketball games again. “Parents have a fundamental responsibility to raise our children to be good human beings who treat everyone with dignity and respect,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, “Youth sports [should] play a crucial role in developing discipline, teamwork and fair play.” Parents sometimes get out of control when watching their kids play sports. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about situations when this has happened. Use what you read to write a sports column titled “Dear Parents” outlining guidelines for parent behavior — and why such guidelines would benefit young athletes. Share with the class and discuss.

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.

3. ‘Saving This Planet’

The Patagonia clothing company was named after the wild and beautiful Patagonia region at the southern tip of South America. Now it is changing hands in an unusual way that will benefit wild areas around the world, and battle climate change. Yvon Chouinard, a free-spirited rock climber who founded the $3-billion-a-year company, has given it away in an effort to protect the Earth’s environment. The 83-year-old Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia to a trust and a non-profit organization created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land, the New York Times newspaper reported. Patagonia profits from selling outdoor gear average about $100-million a year. “Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” Chouinard said in an exclusive interview with the Times. “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.” Billionaires and other wealthy people often pledge large sums of money to help the environment and other causes. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one wealthy person doing this. Use what you read to write an editorial detailing how this person’s donation or investment could be a role model for other wealthy people.

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.

4. A Rough Summer

With kids out of school and families on vacation, summer is the busiest season for air travel in the United States. It’s also the season with some of the worst travel headaches. Prices are usually high, and weather is unpredictable — and this year there was a shortage of airline pilots as well. Taken all together, these problems led to a tremendous number of delayed or canceled flights at America’s airports. So which were affected most? According to the flight tracking website FlightAware, Chicago Midway International Airport in the state of Illinois had the most delays at 37.7%, followed by Baltimore/Washington International Airport in Maryland (32.5%) and Orlando International Airport in Florida, home to DisneyWorld (32.2%). For cancellations, the leader was Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey (6.7%), followed by LaGuardia Airport in New York City (6.6%) and Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC (4.8%). Flight experts expect performances to improve this fall, as airlines hire more pilots and increase staffing to levels that existed before the coronavirus epidemic. Stories that contain statistics often use graphs or charts to help convey or summarize the information visually. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories that do this. Then find and closely read a story that contains lots of statistics. Create a graph or chart to show these statistics in an easy to read way. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using lists, concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Slime Crime

As illegal activities go, a crime in the European nation of Germany was pretty slimy. But it wasn’t as slick as the criminals thought. The story began when smugglers tried to bring bags full of giant, live snails into the country at the Duesseldorf Airport this month, the Associated Press news service reported. One snail escaped into a baggage truck and was discovered by customs officials. The officials followed the slimy trail left by the 8-inch-long snail, and were led to a bag with a hole in it and another snail angling to get out. All told, the authorities found 93 of the giant snails, along with 62 pounds of fish and smoked meat. The illegal snails had been imported from the African nation of Nigeria and were headed for an African goods store in western Germany. The snails were handed to an animal rescue service in Duesseldorf and the meat was destroyed, customs officials said. “Never in the history of the Duesseldorf customs office has a trail of slime led us to smuggled goods,” said a spokesman. Giant African land snails are the largest in the world, growing up to 10 inches long and weighing more than 1.5 pounds. They are raised for food on farms in Nigeria and other nations. Crazy crime stories often can inspire entertaining movies. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a wacky or odd crime story. Use what you read to write an outline for a movie based on the crime. Give your movie a title that would make people your age want to see it. Share ideas with the class and vote on which would make the best, funniest or most entertaining movies.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.