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For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 03, 2020

1. Debate Is Moving

As with everything else in America, the 2020 race for president has been affected by the coronavirus epidemic. Just three debates have been scheduled between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden — and already one has had to move due to concerns about the virus. The first debate had been scheduled for September 29 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana — but the university has withdrawn as host due to concerns about hosting a large-scale event during a virus epidemic. Now the debate will be held at the shared health campus of Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. The new hosts said they believed their “innovative learning space” would make it possible to host the debate safely and effectively. The second and third debates between Trump and Biden are scheduled to be held October 15 in Miami, Florida and October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee. The coronavirus epidemic has forced political candidates and parties to change the way they campaign this year. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the changes that have occurred. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the impact of the changes and how they might affect campaigns in the future.

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. ‘Truth Telling’

In the history of efforts to protect the environment, no figure stands taller than John Muir. He has often been praised as a “wilderness prophet,” “patron saint of the American wilderness” and “father of the national parks” — and he founded the nation’s oldest conservation organization, the Sierra Club. He also was a racist who spoke disparagingly about African Americans and Native Americans and associated with people who held white supremacist views. Now, as America examines systemic racism in all its forms, the Sierra Club is doing some “truth telling” about its founder. In a message on the organization’s website, president Michael Brune said it was time for the group to acknowledge that Muir trafficked in “deeply harmful racist stereotypes” that continue to “hurt and alienate” African Americans, Native Americans and other people of color. By acknowledging Muir’s views — and acting on them — Brune said the Sierra Club would work to become an “anti-racist” organization that is more inclusive and respectful of minority communities as they fight “for their right to a healthy environment, while simultaneously fighting for freedom from discrimination.” Many organizations and communities are re-assessing leaders who played a significant role in their history. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about these re-assessments. Use what you read to write an editorial examining the value of re-assessing the attitudes and actions of historic figures. List the benefits and liabilities of such re-assessments for organizations and communities.

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.

3. Fish at Risk

Global warming is having steady and significant impact on the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers. And if it isn’t reversed, the world could lose hundreds of fish populations people depend on for food. Among the food fish that could be affected are Atlantic cod, Alaska pollock, swordfish, sockeye salmon and brown trout, scientists write in a new report published in the journal Science. The study examined how more than 700 species around the world tolerate increases in water temperature, CNN News reported. It found that 60 percent of the fish species examined could struggle to reproduce in their current habitat ranges by the year 2100 if global warming continues unchecked. It is “quite astonishing” that 60 percent of the species are at risk, one researcher said, “so we really emphasize that it's important to take action … to reduce climate change and protect marine habitats.” Global warming is affecting oceans and marine life all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the effects. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining how these effects could eventually affect humans, as well as marine life.

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. Power of a Handshake

One of the great measures of a person’s character is whether they keep their word — if they do what they said they would do. A man in the state of Wisconsin offered an incredible example of character this summer when he fulfilled a promise he made 28 years ago. Back in 1992, Thomas Cook and Joseph Feeney made a pact: If either of them ever won the lottery, they’d split the winnings. They shook hands on it. Cook hit it big last month, winning $22-million playing the Powerball game. And just as he had promised, he reached out to Feeney. He chose the cash option of $16.7-million up front and offered his friend half. “A handshake’s a handshake,” he said. After taxes they each took home about $5.7-million. And what will they do with their money? Hang out, go fishing and travel with their wives, just for starters. “I can’t think of a better way to retire,” Cook said. Keeping your word is one of the great measures of good character. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people who have kept their word and done what they said they would do. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short, animated video showing the importance of keeping your word and how people benefit by doing so.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusion; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. Teen Discovery

Never underestimate the potential for school projects. They can lead to new understanding of subjects and even to new discoveries. Two 10th grade girls in the Asian nation of India made a discovery not long ago through a project, and they’re now getting worldwide attention from space experts. In their project Radhika Lakhani and Vaidehi Vekariya discovered an asteroid circling the sun that was shifting its orbit toward Earth. The asteroid, which the girls got to name HLV2514, is currently orbiting close to the planet Mars next out from Earth in the solar system. Radhika and Vaidehi made the discovery while participating in a program coordinated by America’s NASA space agency and the Space India agency, CNN News reported. The program allows students to analyze images taken by a telescope positioned at the University of Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. “This was a dream” 15-year-old Vekariya told CNN. “ … There is no limit to search in space.” Student projects often can lead to breakthroughs or new understanding of issues in communities. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about student projects that have achieved such success. Then think of a project you could do alone or with friends that would have impact on your community. Write a proposal outlining the goals of your project and how it would benefit the community.

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.