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for Grades 9-12

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For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 23, 2021

1. The End in Afghanistan

America’s longest war is over. And when the last American troops leave Afghanistan, the nation in south central Asia will be in virtually the same situation as when the United States launched the war 20 years ago. The extremist Muslim group the Taliban controls the country, the Taliban is imposing harsh Muslim sharia law and the rights of women and girls are likely to be severely curtailed, including the right to go to school and get an education. The Taliban takeover was sparked by President Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops this summer and the immediate collapse of the Afghan government and army. The speed with which the Taliban took control stunned U.S. officials who had spent two decades — and trillions of dollars — propping up the Afghan regime and armed forces. The war in Afghanistan was launched by President George W. Bush in October 2001 in an effort to find the terrorists who had attacked the United States on September 11 that year. There has been great debate about how Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and who should bear responsibility. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read commentaries, columns and editorials about the American exit from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover. Use what you read to write a commentary of your own, analyzing Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban and the U.S. role in it.

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. Record Food Stamp Increase

The nation’s food stamp program helps millions of families meet their food needs each month, and it was an especially important lifeline when people lost jobs or couldn’t work during the coronavirus epidemic. Now, due to the rising cost of groceries and other factors, participants in the program are about to receive the largest increase in benefits ever. As a result of a review of the program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food stamp benefits will jump more than 25 percent above levels in place before the coronavirus epidemic struck. Participants will see a permanent increase of $36 in average monthly benefits, from $121 to $157 per person. The increase is designed to enable participants to buy more nutritious food for children and families. All 42-million people enrolled in the program will receive the additional aid. Many government programs provide assistance or support for people who have lost jobs or live in poverty. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one assistance program. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor calling attention to the program, how it helps people in need and whether it could be improved.

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.

3. Required Vaccinations

As states and cities battle to control the coronavirus epidemic, one of the biggest questions is whether to require vaccinations for certain professions. In New York State and the District of Columbus, the answer is “Yes!” when it involves health care workers. Last week, New York and Washington joined a growing list of states, cities and private businesses making vaccines mandatory in the face of increased cases for Covid 19 and variants like the Delta virus. Similar moves were previously announced in California and Washington State. At the national level, President Biden announced that nursing homes must require that employees be vaccinated or lose federal funds for elderly Medicare and Medicaid patients. The new regulations would apply to more than 15,000 nursing home facilities, which employ roughly 1.3-million workers, the Washington Post newspaper reported. “If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk of contracting Covid from unvaccinated employees,” Biden said. Government leaders continue to debate whether to require vaccinations for health care workers or people in other occupations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different approaches leaders are taking. Write a political column analyzing the reaction to different approaches and what long-term political impact that could have for leaders making the decisions.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. Serious Water Shortage

Intense heat, lack of rain and climate change all have had a huge impact on states in the American West. Now they have led to a first for the Colorado River, which supplies much of the water for seven western states. For the first time ever, the federal government has declared a water shortage at the Lake Mead reservoir due to a lack of supply from the river. The declaration will lead to cuts in water for farmers and residents in Arizona and other states starting next year, the New York Times reported. The water shortage has been caused by increasingly dry conditions in the region due to lack of rain and low runoff from snow melting in the Rocky Mountains. Lake Mead, which is one of the Colorado’s main reservoirs, is at its lowest level since it was created by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s and at about one-third of its capacity. The Colorado River supplies water for 40-million people in the states of Colorado, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Intense heat, lack of rain and climate change are having great impact on the United states and nations in the rest of the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the impact of these natural conditions on another country. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation showcasing several examples and their long- and short-term impact.

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.

5. Fly, Fly, Fly

It’s often said that “the sky’s the limit” for people who have special skills and the drive to put them to use. In the European nation of Belgium that is literally the case for a teenager who has set an adventurous goal for herself. Nineteen-year-old Zara Rutherford has embarked on a trip to fly alone around the world and, if all goes well, to become the youngest woman ever to do it. Rutherford has been flying since she was 14 and both her parents are pilots, so she knows her way around a cockpit. Piloting a Shark ultralight aircraft, she took off from Belgium and will travel west through 52 countries and five continents, and cross the equator twice, CNN News reports. The two equator crossings are required to qualify for a Guinness World Record for an around-the-world flight. She will stop for just one or two nights in each place she lands on her 32,000-mile trip, and she plans to meet with schools and youth groups in different countries. She hopes those meetings will introduce aviation as a career option for young girls and show them “they can really reach for anything they want.” Teens like Zara Rutherford often make news by taking on ambitious challenges. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one teen doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend, outlining what challenge the teen is taking on, what skills and character traits are needed to complete it and how that could inspire teens or younger students.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.