For Grades 9-12 , week of Nov. 01, 2021

1. ‘Shoot to Incapacitate’

In police training, officers faced with a deadly threat have long been taught to shoot for the chest, because it is the largest area on the body. It is also the area that a gunshot wound will most likely kill the person shot. To reduce shooting deaths, a police chief in the state of Georgia is trying a different approach. Chief Louis Dekmar of the LaGrange Police Department wants officers to “shoot to incapacitate” instead of kill by aiming for the legs, pelvis or abdomen in situations where they think it could stop a deadly threat without killing the target. He believes doing so could reduce the number of fatal police shootings that involve individuals armed with something other than a gun, the Washington Post newspaper reported. According to national statistics, more than 200 fatal police shootings a year involve people who are armed with something other than a gun. While other police departments oppose Dekmar’s approach, he remains committed to it. “Every time we avoid taking a life, we maintain trust,” he says. Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, there have been calls across the nation to “reform” the way police operate. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different “reforms” police departments are trying. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining two or three reforms that could benefit any police department.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

2. ‘March to Freedom’

In communities across America, residents and local leaders are re-examining statues, buildings and places that have connections to slavery, discrimination or racism from the past. That is particularly true in southern states where monuments to Confederate soldiers were erected in public spaces after America’s Civil War. In some communities the statues have been removed at the urging of Black leaders and residents. But not in the city of Franklin, Tennessee. Rather than remove a statue of a Confederate soldier from a public square, Franklin has erected a companion piece celebrating Black soldiers who fought for freedom as members of the Union Army, the New York Times newspaper reports. The U.S. Colored Troops Statue features a Black soldier standing with his foot planted on a tree stump with a rifle across his knee. Broken shackles lie under him. The statue is named “March to Freedom,” which not only refers to the military marches Black soldiers made, but to later Civil Rights marches for voting rights, housing rights and equal opportunity. Many communities are grappling with how to deal with statues, buildings or practices that reflect attitudes about race that are not as widely held today as in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one community’s experience. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering suggestions on how the community might deal with its situation.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Nature in New York

When it comes to population, New York City is the largest and densest city in the United States. More than 8.2-million people live there on just 300 square miles, which gives the city a population density of more than 27,000 people per square mile. Surprisingly, even with all that density, New York also has a huge amount of green space — nearly 78,000 acres in parks, forests, wetlands and cemeteries, according to the Natural Areas Conservancy, a non-profit group founded in 2012. All that green space has been built up through city efforts to clean up and expand natural areas over the last 40 years, the New York Times reports. And the effort is paying off: New York is seeing an eye-opening return of native wildlife. Hawks, falcons and even eagles are regularly spotted. Coyotes, beavers, foxes and mink. Salamanders and leopard frogs, ospreys and egrets, endangered sea turtles and baby seals. “You are seeing miraculous occurrences of wildlife right in the middle of the city,” noted one parks leader. In many communities, it is often big news when wildlife make a comeback. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such a wildlife comeback. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation showcasing what wildlife species are coming back, why experts think that is happening and the impact on other species and people. Give your presentation to family, friends or classmates.

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.

4. What a Career!

If you love the outdoors, a career as a landscape architect could be a dream job. Landscape architects plan, design, manage and enhance manmade and natural environments by creating parks, campuses, trails, plazas, residences, and other projects that strengthen communities. Sometimes landscape architects build from scratch, while on other occasions they seek to restore or repurpose damaged or degraded locations. One of the best at reclaiming damaged sites is Julie Bargmann who has spent more than 30 years transforming industrial or even toxic places into inviting spaces. Now Bargmann has been honored for her life’s work by winning the first Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, given by the Cultural Landscape Foundation. The prize, which comes with an award of $100,000, was established to call attention to landscape architect careers by honoring a living practitioner who is creative, courageous and visionary, according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Landscape architects work to improve outdoor spaces in cities and communities. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and photos of outdoor spaces in your community or state. Think like a landscape architect and write a proposal for improving one outdoor space by changing features or adding new ones. Share with classmates and discuss how your proposal would benefit people and wildlife in 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.

5. Half-Foot Hail

Severe weather has been on the rise around the world, and some of it is pretty freaky. In the South Pacific nation of Australia this month, a hailstone fell during a violent thunderstorm that measured 6.3 inches across! Hailstones that measure more than 6 inches across are called “gargantuan” by scientists, and this one more than matched the adjective. It set a new record for continental Australia and topped the old record for a hailstone by nearly an inch. It is not a new world record, however. That honor goes to an 8-inch whopper weighing nearly two-pounds that was recovered and measured in Vivian, South Dakota in 2010. Hail forms when updrafts of thunderstorms or “super cell” storms carry moisture high into the atmosphere, where it freezes. The stronger the updrafts, the larger the hail can be. Hailstorms are one form of severe weather. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another severe weather event. Use what you read to write a human interest story on how the event affected people in the community, things they lost that were irreplaceable and what challenges they face to recover.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.