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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 27, 2012

1. Financing Your Future

President Barack Obama has put his foot down when it comes to college educations. In his State of the Union address, Obama told universities that if they didn’t stop tuition rises, funding from taxpayers would go down. This hard-line stance is the result of college dropout rates of about 40 percent. In addition, about one-fifth of students enrolling at community colleges don’t return for a second year. Obama said higher education cannot be a “luxury” but an “economic imperative” that every family in America should be able to afford, according to an Associated Press article. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said college graduates will make $1 million more than students without a college degree over the course of a lifetime. Find a newspaper article on the cost of a college education. Use the Internet and other resources to research grants and scholarships available to help pay tuition. Write a short news story summarizing one grant or scholarship, and how students can apply for it.

Core/National Standard: Conducting short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question or solve a problem; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to the task.

2. History Past and Present

March is Women's History Month. On your own, research a female historical figure you find interesting. Then look through this week's newspapers for a present-day newsmaker who is different or dissimilar in some way to the historical figure you learned about. Write a creative dialogue or a short story about what these specific two people might talk about if they ever met.

Core/National Standard: Reading and writing fluently, speaking confidently, listening and interacting appropriately, viewing critically and representing creatively.

3. I’m Majoring in Puppets

The closer you come to graduation, two dreaded questions rear their heads more and more. You are certain to hear “What do you want to do with your life?” and if you choose to continue your education you’ll get “What’s your major going to be?” There are many standard answers for college majors after high school, including business, marketing, psychology, pre-med, computer science and communications. Then there are the not-so-standard answers: bowling industry management, puppetry, comedy studies or auctioneering. These are just some of a host of unusual majors now being offered at colleges and universities. Vincennes University in Indiana prepares its students to enter the bowling industry with classes in such things as pro shop, pinsetter mechanics and lane care. At the University of Hawaii or Evergreen State College in Washington you can study puppetry, and you can even get a master’s degree in the art of puppetry from the University of Connecticut. Find a newspaper story about an unusual career and then research universities that can prepare people for it. Then write a paragraph or short essay detailing what such a career would offer a person, why it could be a good career choice, and why it might not be a good career choice.

Core/National Standard: Gathering relevant information from multiple sources using advanced searches effectively; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to the task.

4. Technology Impacting Lives

Scientists have spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars trying to predict whether people will get certain diseases or disorders. Recently, a group of researchers at University College London announced they have developed a computer program that may be able to identify teenagers most at risk for mental disorders such as depression or anxiety, according to a Yahoo! News LiveScience article. Researcher Mary Phillips said the impact of such a predictor would be enormous. “If we are able to identify those individuals at greatest risk early on, we can offer early and appropriate interventions to delay or even prevent onset of these terrible conditions,” she said. According to the article, the program can distinguish between brain scans of healthy, at-risk adolescents and healthy adolescents without such risk of mental disorders. With the newspaper or Internet, find an article about technology and its impact on health care. Discuss it as a class, including whom it will help the most and how soon.

Core/National Standards: Effectively engaging in a range of collaborative discussions; describing the worldwide implications in the revolution in nuclear, electronic and computer technology.

5. The Future of Space Travel

John Glenn will never forget that day 50 years ago when he blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral in the Atlas rocket to make three orbits around the Earth. Last week, Glenn celebrated the 50th anniversary of that historic flight in 1962 that gave America a foothold in the space race with Russia. Glenn, who is now 90 years old, said he is sad to see the cuts that have been made to funding for America’s NASA space agency, according to an Agence France-Presse article. Find a newspaper article about the space program. Or find one at the website, Use what you find to write an opinion piece on whether space exploration should still be federally funded or be privately funded.

Core/National Standard: Writing arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

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