1. Missing After Slavery
February is Black History Month, and throughout the month communities have been hosting events marking the achievements and struggles of African Americans. One of the most unusual occurred at Villanova University outside the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. An original onstage production examined the lives of freed slaves through newspaper ads they placed seeking to find missing relatives they had lost touch with before and during the Civil War. Some of the ads featured in “Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery” appeared 50 years after the war had ended. The ads were researched and catalogued by Villanova and Philadelphia’s historic Mother Bethel AME Church and performed by community members. The ads were written by mothers searching for their children, husbands for their wives, daughters and sons for their parents, siblings for each other, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. To Villanova’s Valerie Joyce, the ads demonstrate “the open wounds that were left long after slavery ended.” Black History Month observances take many forms. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one observance. Use what you read to write a short editorial telling how the observance increased understanding of the experience of African Americans, or made people think about it in new ways.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
2. Emoji Plates? LOL!
On the Internet and elsewhere, emojis are everywhere these days. In the southern Pacific nation of Australia, they’ll soon be on the roads, as well. Starting March 1, drivers in the state of Queensland will be able to personalize their license plates with such familiar emojis as LOLs, smiles, winks and sunglasses. It won’t be cheap: about $350 for each emoji selection. But officials say it is a “natural extension” of options to have plates calling attention to favorite sports teams or towns. Emojis continue to grow in popularity. CNN news reports that there are now more than 2,800 emoji characters, and more than 700 million emojis are used every day in posts on Facebook. The popularity of emojis is a trend being felt all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other trends that are growing in popularity. Use what you read to write a personal opinion column analyzing one trend, why it is gaining popularity and how it connects with your life — or not.
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.
3. Good Crime Skills
It’s often said that crime doesn’t pay. In the state of Florida, however, crime skills paid off in a big way earlier this month. Prisoners doing road work in Pasco County near the city of Tampa helped rescue a baby locked in an SUV by using skills they had known for years. They broke into the car using a coat-hanger. Police said the baby girl had been accidentally locked in the SUV by her dad after he had strapped her into her safety seat. The prisoners were working on the road nearby when they noticed the panic of the girl’s parents over the situation. Fortunately, the inmates knew just what to do to get into the locked car and had the door open in just five minutes. While crime skills are often used for illegal activities, the girl’s mother told the prisoners “I respect y’all” for using them for good. Odd or unusual news events often inspire movies or TV shows. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an unusual event. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a movie or TV show based on the event. Your movie can focus on what happened leading up to the event or what happened afterwards. Write an outline for your film. Then write the opening scene in the form of a screenplay. Share ideas with the class.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
4. An Airline Hotel
What do you do with an old airline terminal after it is no longer needed? You could tear it down to make way for other facilities, as many airports have. Or you could do what New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport has done with the terminal that once was home to Trans World Airlines (TWA). The terminal has been closed since 2001, when TWA went out of business. Soon it will re-open as a luxury hotel. The project gives the airport a way to preserve the distinctive modern architecture of the building designed in 1962. Both public and private spaces in the TWA Hotel have a futuristic feel, with lots of sweeping arches and open areas. It also features a museum offering a look at what airline travel was like more than 50 years ago. The hotel is due to open in May. Many communities encourage developers to re-use older buildings for new purposes. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a project like this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling why re-use of old buildings provides positive benefits for a community. List some of those benefits in your letter.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
5. Lobster Armor
In the restaurant world, lobsters are considered a great delicacy to eat. In the world of science, they may hold the key to a more flexible kind of body armor for people. As crustaceans, lobsters wear their skeletons on the outside of their bodies as shells. Scientists at the world famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are studying the structure of those skeletons in an effort to create better body armor for police or military personnel. Of particular interest to the scientists are the layered membranes that cover the lobster’s joints. The material is softer than the rest of the lobsters’ shell but incredibly strong. In a just released report, the scientists noted that “the soft membrane of natural lobsters sheds light on designing synthetic soft, yet strong and tough materials for … full-body protection without sacrificing limb mobility,” according to the New York Times newspaper. Scientists are constantly studying wildlife species for ways to develop drugs, materials or other things that can help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about research of this kind. Use what you read to create a short oral report for the class, telling what is being studied and how that could help people in the future.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.