For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Oct. 26, 2020

1. Things Are Getting Hot

Election Day is just a week away, and the candidates are turning up the heat to win over the voters they will need to win the White House. Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden have had two nationally televised debates, and now will make their final pitch to gain the support of any undecided voters still out there and to galvanize their base supporters. The last week of a presidential campaign is always a frenzied mix of public appearances and TV ads, as candidates promote themselves and put down their opponent. This year is a little different. Due to the coronavirus nearly 50-million Americans have already voted by mail or in person at early voting sites in many states. Their ballots will be counted with the votes cast on Tuesday, November 3, but won’t be affected by any issues that come up in the campaign’s last seven days. Use the newspaper and Internet to track the appearances, ads and statements of the presidential candidates this week. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing what their actions reveal about their goals for the last week and the confidence level of each campaign.

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.

2. Black Media Support

In the history of America, Black-owned newspapers have played an important role giving voice to African American concerns and showcasing the culture and heritage of Black communities. Like all newspapers and media organizations, however, Black-owned news outlets have suffered losses in income and influence due to a decline in advertising and changes in the economy. A group of 10 Black-owned media organizations wants to change that and give a renewed voice to the Black community in cities across the nation. The media organizations have joined forces with a group called the Local Media Association to launch a Fund for Black Journalism to reimagine and support the Black press. Its goal is to raise $25-million over the next three years to provide shared services and technology and to promote Black news entrepreneurship. “If people want to know what’s going on in Black communities across the country [and] want to hear the voices and stories of Black folks, these are the folks who have the connection,” project manager Nick Charles said. African Americans make news in many ways. In the newspaper or online find and list stories about African American achievements in politics, government, education, sports, entertainment and the arts. Then find the website of a Black-owned or Black-oriented newspaper or media organization. Make a list of topics covered by the Black-owned news outlet — and how. Discuss differences in your two lists with family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. Steph’s Book Club

Steph Curry has had incredible success as a point guard in the National Basketball Association. The Golden State Warriors star has been the Most Valuable Player twice, won three NBA championships and been an All-Star six times. Now the 32-year-old Curry is branching out in a direction he hopes will help fans, students and adults. He has formed a book club called Underrated to encourage people to read “underrated authors and stories.” For $20 a month, members get an exclusive edition of a hardcover book and access to online discussion groups moderated by Curry or other celebrities. Many of the books Curry chooses will show “protagonists that have overcome adversity” so that club members will become inspired to overcome obstacles of their own as readers or in life. He and his wife Ayesha are already working “to instill that joy of reading in our kids.” They frequently read together and “with Riley, our 8-year-old daughter, a lot of our reading time is listening to her read to us and to her [two younger] siblings.” Book clubs give people a way to learn about new, unusual or “underrated” books, and discuss them with others after reading them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about book clubs, how they work and people who lead them. Then team up with classmates or friends to form your own book club. Pick five books you would like to read in your club and write a paragraph for each explaining the choice. Share your club ideas with others.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

4. Plastic Bag Store

Plastic pollution is a problem all over the world, because plastic bags and containers take more than a thousand years to break down and decompose. In New York City, a new art installation is calling attention to how much plastic people use by creating a grocery store whose items are all made of plastic bags. At the Plastic Bag Store, tomatoes are made from red plastic bags, lemons from yellow bags, purple onions from purple bags. There is even a salad bar in which lettuce is made of green and purple bags cut into strips. The installation is the brainchild of artist Robin Frohardt, who has been collecting the brightly colored plastic bags for years from her apartment building, stores and other locations. “Most of this single-use plastic is designed for its convenience,” Frohardt says. “… You use it for only seconds, and then you throw it away. So it's out of sight out of mind. But because it doesn't decompose, it doesn't really go anywhere. It's still here, it's still somewhere.” The opening of the Plastic Bag Store exhibit coincided with New York State's ban on single-use plastic bags. Seven other states across the nation have already banned single-use plastic bags. The Plastic Bag Store uses art and creativity to call attention to plastic pollution and the overuse of plastic packaging. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a problem or issue important to you. Use what you read to create an artwork to call attention to this problem. Write a paragraph explaining how you hope your artwork will get people talking about the problem, or take action.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

5. Eye on Sarcophagi

The northern African nation of Egypt is famous around the world for its ancient treasures like the Pyramids and the Sphinx. And it keeps discovering new treasures that shed light on life in ancient times. This month archaeologists are celebrating the discovery of a “huge number” of ancient burial coffins that date back more than 2,500 years. Some of the coffins — known as sarcophagi (sar-COFF-uh-guy) — were found in late September and the remainder in the last several weeks. They were discovered in three burial shafts that had been sealed “since ancient times,” officials said. The colorfully painted wooden coffins are believed to contain the mummies of senior statesmen and priests from a dynasty that ruled Egypt from 664 BCE to 525 BCE. Colored and gold-plated statues were also found in the tombs, officials said. Archaeologists love making new discoveries because they provide new insights into how people lived in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a recent discovery by archaeologists. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing what new insights or information the discovery is giving scientists. Finish by picturing a room in your home or school. Write a paragraph summarizing what insights its contents might provide future archaeologists about the way we live.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.