For Grades 9-12 , week of Jan. 24, 2022

1. New Virus Tools

In President Biden’s first year in office, one of his greatest frustrations has been getting the coronavirus epidemic under control. “We’re not there yet, but we will get there,” the President said at a news conference with reporters last week. To meet the remaining challenges, Biden is employing one of the most powerful words in the English language — FREE. The President announced last week that millions of high-quality masks and home testing kits would be distributed to Americans at no cost to users to reduce the number of people becoming exposed and infected by the Covid 19 virus and its variants. The virus-fighting materials, which will be paid for by the federal government or insurance companies, represent the “largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history,” Biden said. The President said 400-million nonsurgical N95 masks have been distributed to community health centers and retail pharmacies and will be available free of charge across the United States. In addition, 500-million at home virus tests can be ordered through a new, easy-to-use government website The U.S. government is hoping free masks and virus tests will help the nation reduce deaths and infections and bring the coronavirus epidemic under control. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the latest statistics on infections and deaths. Use what you read to write a political or health column detailing what areas appear to be “turning the corner” on infections, which still face challenges, and how long it might take to control the spread in the challenged areas.

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. Around the World

Zara Rutherford’s adventure took twice as long as the famous book “Around the World in 80 Days.” But when the 19-year-old pilot landed her small, ultralight plane in the European nation of Belgium last week she had set a new record as the youngest woman to ever fly alone around the world. Delayed by weather and other issues, her journey took 155 days — just over five months — but was still remarkable on every level. She battled fog, smog, wildfire smoke and even a cyclone while traveling to 41 countries on five continents. By the time she was done, she had traveled more than 32,300 miles start to finish. She took on the trip as a “gap year” challenge before going off to college and flew to encourage more girls and women to get involved in aviation. “It’s an easy thing to say, but just go for it,” Rutherford she said during her trip. “If you don’t try and see how high you can fly, then you'll never know.” Rutherford plans to study electrical engineering or computer science in college and wants to be an astronaut. Teens or young adults often take on great challenges that test their skills and character. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a teen or young adult doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend telling what skills and character traits were most important for this young person to succeed.

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

3. Warmer Than Ever

Global warming is having a huge impact in countries all over the world. And for those who need convincing, three new climate studies have the numbers to prove it. In 2021, average global temperatures were 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial average, according to new data from America’s NASA space agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Berkeley Earth, an environmental group. Last year was the sixth-hottest year ever observed, the scientists noted, and all seven of the hottest years on record have happened in the last seven years, the Washington Post newspaper reported. More than two dozen countries experienced their warmest years ever last year, and July was the hottest month ever recorded. All three reports targeted the burning of fossil fuels like oil and gasoline as a major cause of the Earth’s warming. “There is no going back,” said NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt. “We are reaping what we’ve sown.” Global warming is having wide-ranging effects on the lives of people, wildlife and sea life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these effects. Use what you read to design a poster highlighting the effects on people and wildlife in different parts of the world. Write text blocks for each person or species affected and create an eye-catching headline that will get people’s attention.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. ‘Snow Lifting’

Snow days sometimes give students an opportunity to do something different. In the state of Pennsylvania, a high school football team got a chance to trade weightlifting for “snow lifting” — and to do some good in the community. When more than 6 inches of snow were predicted for the western Pennsylvania region near the city of Pittsburgh, Bethel Park High School football coach Brian DeLallo reached out to his players through social media. Weight training for the next day would be canceled due to the weather, he wrote, but he still wanted his players to get a good workout, CNN News reported. “Find an elderly or disabled neighbor and shovel their driveway,” he told his team. And don’t accept any money, he added, and he would count the driveway shoveling as the next day’s workout. People often find unusual ways to get exercise and get fit. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such unusual fitness efforts. Then brainstorm a way you and your friends could get fit with an unusual activity in your neighborhood. Write an open letter to your school, asking people to join you in this fitness effort, telling why it would be healthy and fun.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Kickin’ It!

People often make news by doing unusual things. Here’s an example you’ll get a kick out of. Two martial artists in the Canadian province of Ontario have set a new Guinness World Record for the number of martial arts kicks performed by two women in 60 seconds. Fifteen-year-old Hannah Wright and her instructor Silvania Shamuon, 28, performed 178 kicks in a minute, topping the old record of 144 by a whopping 34 kicks, UPI News reported. The pair set the new mark by alternating kicks one after the other. “Words cannot express the amount of pride that I felt for Hannah,” Shamluon said. “For a teenager, she was amazing the entire way.” Teenagers often collaborate with adults to achieve goals or success. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a teen (or teens) doing this. Write a letter to the editor, detailing how teens benefit from working with adults, and how adults benefit from working with teens.

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.