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for Grades 9-12

Aug. 08, 2022
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For Grades 9-12 , week of July 25, 2022

1. More Horror & Anger

The mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas angered and horrified millions of Americans. Now people are feeling those emotions all over again after a report by the Texas House of Representatives found that there was “an overall lackadaisical approach” by nearly 400 officers who responded, “systemic failures, and egregious poor decision-making” that led to a 77-minute delay before a decision was made to confront the shooter barricaded in a classroom. In the meantime, students were calling 911 on cell phones pleading for help and the gunman continued his deadly rampage. “Several officers in the hallway or in that building knew or should have known there was dying in that classroom, and they should have done more, acted with urgency,” State Representative Dustin Burrows said at a news conference. The report asserted that responders “lost critical momentum” by failing “to immediately breach the classroom by any possible means, to subdue the attacker, and to deliver immediate aid.” The response of law enforcement to the Uvalde mass shooting continues to get scrutiny across the nation. And local, state and national leaders are debating what can be done to make sure the mistakes made in Uvalde aren’t made in another mass shooting situation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the debate over Uvalde and steps that could be taken to ensure a better response in the future. Use what you read to write an editorial for the newspaper or Internet, outlining key steps that should be taken to ensure a better response to a future shooter.

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. Trailblazing President

Dartmouth College is one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in the United States. Founded in 1769 in the state of New Hampshire, Dartmouth has turned out a wide range of leaders ranging from statesman Daniel Webster to Supreme Court Justice Salmon P. Chase to Dr. Seuss to Mister Rogers. For more than 200 years, Dartmouth only educated men. Fifty years ago, however, the first women were admitted as undergraduates, and this year, the first woman has been named president. Sian Beilock, 46, president of Barnard College in New York, will assume the presidency in July 2023. Beilock holds a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science from the University of California at San Diego and doctorates from Michigan State University. Her research has focused on the brain science behind the phenomenon of people “choking under pressure” in sports, public speaking and taking tests. Sian Beilock will be taking over an institution that has been run by men for more than 250 years. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other women who have taken over institutions that have been run by men in the past. Use what you read to write a business or education column offering advice to Sian Beilock about her new assignment and the challenges she might face.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Quidditch Name Change

In the Harry Potter books and movies, the game of quidditch is a fast-moving sport in which young wizards zip around on broomsticks, seek to score goals on the fly and attempt to capture the grand prize, the Golden Snitch. The game was so popular with fans of the J.K. Rowling stories that a real life quidditch game was invented for human players, complete with broomsticks and a snitch. The game has grown rapidly in popularity since its founding on college campuses in 2005, but now it is making a major change. To distance itself from J.K. Rowling and to open up sales and marketing opportunities, human quidditch will now be known as quadball. The youth and professional wings of the sport will switch over to the new name this summer and the International Quidditch Association will follow suit later. The quidditch leagues are distancing themselves from Rowling because of her controversial views on gender identity and transgender people that have been called “anti-trans” and “transphobic.” In addition, the Warner Bros. company, which distributed the Harry Potter movies, trademarked the word “quidditch” and refused to let the sport to use the word to sell merchandise. The name “quadball” refers to both the number of balls and the number of positions in the sport. Teams and athletes in sports often take positions on controversial issues and express their opinions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a team or athlete doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor analyzing whether you think the team or athlete’s position will influence public opinion, and why.

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.

4. Gold War

It’s not unusual for protesters to speak out against business plans that they think will harm the environment. It IS unusual when the business was started more than 150 years ago and has been closed for more than 65. Yet that is what is happening in the town of Grass Valley, California, where a mining company is proposing to re-open a gold mine started just after America’s Civil War. The Idaho-Maryland Mine once was the second-highest-producing gold mine in the nation, but was shut down in 1956 after controls on gold prices were put in place by international treaties signed after World War II. Now, with the price of gold skyrocketing, a Canadian mining company wants to re-open the mine for operation seven days a week, the Washington Post newspaper reports. That would be a major disruption to life in Grass Valley, which has re-invented itself as a residential and tourist community based on its mining history. Residents have organized to oppose the plan to re-open the mine, which would cover 175 acres on the surface and more than 2,500 acres underground. The Rise Gold Corporation says the project would bring jobs and tax revenue to the area, but residents say it would change the character of the community for the worse. Businesses often face opposition to plans people think will harm the environment. And government leaders have to balance the interests of both businesses and environmentalists when making decisions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a community facing such a decision and controversy. Use what you read to write a letter to government leaders offering your opinion on how the project should be handled.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

5. Running Cross-Country

Endurance distance runners are a special breed of athlete. They are always on the lookout for new challenges — the more challenging the better. An endurance runner from the state of Virginia just completed an amazing cross-country challenge, running from the city of San Francisco in California to the Atlantic Ocean in the state of Delaware. Michael Wardian completed his epic run in 61 days, covering 3,200 miles and raising more than $100,000 for charity, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Wardian, who is 48, averaged more than 50 miles per day while running primarily along U.S. Route 50, which cuts across the middle of the United States in an almost straight line. He said he has wanted to make the run for years, after seeing the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump,” in which the title character takes off to run across the nation. While the cross-country trip is Wardian’s longest run, he has had some other impressive running feats. He twice has completed the World Marathon Challenge, which requires participants to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. During the coronavirus shutdown in 2020, he won the Quarantine Backyard Ultra Marathon by running the equivalent of 10 marathons in a little more than 2½ days just by circling the block in his Northern Virginia neighborhood. Athletes often challenge themselves to do amazing feats. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an athlete doing this. Use what you read to write a song celebrating this feat. Change the words to a song you like to create your new song. Perform it for family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.