For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Aug. 01, 2022

1. Gun Control, with a Twist

In an effort to curb mass shootings and gun violence, the state of California is tightening up its gun laws. And one of the most unusual moves takes a page from the anti-abortion movement. A law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom allows individual Californians to sue anyone who distributes banned assault weapons or so-called “ghost guns” — a measure modeled after a Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who aids or abets an abortion, the New York Times reported. “If they are going to use this framework to put women’s lives at risk, we are going to use it to save people’s lives here in the state of California,” Newsom said at a news conference. “That’s the spirit, the principle, behind this law.” As with the Texas abortion law, the California gun measure has been criticized for turning private citizens into vigilantes and for setting a dangerous precedent. In the last month, Governor Newsom has signed into law more than 10 new firearm restrictions, including increased inspections of dealers and new limits on gun advertising to minors. The California gun law that allows individuals to sue over assault weapons has sparked debate and controversy. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories, editorials and commentaries about the law. Use what you read to write a political column of your own analyzing the arguments for and against the law, whether you think it will be effective and whether other states should consider a similar approach.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Space Station Pullout

For nearly 25 years, the International Space Station has been a symbol of peaceful cooperation between the United States, Russia and other nations. Now, amid tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia has announced it will pull out of the space station project after 2024 and build its own orbiting facility. “We will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made,” the head of Russia’s space agency said last week. The decision by Russia to withdraw from the long-running project may not mean it will shut down when the Russians leave. But it clouds the future of the facility orbiting 250 miles above the Earth. The station is the size of a football field and consists of two sections run separately by Russia and America’s NASA space agency. Russia is responsible for the control systems that keep the station in proper orbit and NASA runs the solar panels that provide power. Astronauts from the U.S., Russia and other nations have been living and working on the space station since 2002. For 25 years, the International Space Station has been a working laboratory for experiments about life in space. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the experiments performed on the station and the information they provided scientists. Use what you read to write a letter to a younger student summarizing some of the more important or interesting experiments. Remember to use language a younger student will understand when writing your letter.

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

3. One Expensive Sandwich

Subway restaurants have built a worldwide following by offering cheap, healthy foods for people on the go. A woman flying home to the South Pacific nation of Australia, however, found that a Subway sandwich can be not-so-cheap if you don’t eat it all. Jessica Lee couldn’t finish her chicken footlong sandwich when she bought it during a layover at the airport in the Asian city of Singapore. So she tucked it in her purse in case she got hungry on the rest of her trip, the Washington Post newspaper reported. That proved to be a big no-no when she failed to declare that she had it when she landed in Australia. The nation “down under” has strict rules about bringing foods into the country that could endanger Australian farms or crops. It was an expensive mistake: a fine of about $1,844 in American dollars. When she told her story on the TikTok website, word got back to Subway about her experience. The restaurant chain didn’t pay her fine, but offset the pain by giving her gift certificates for future sandwiches totaling $1,844 — the same amount as her fine. Nations often have rules about foods, plants and animals you can and can’t bring into the countries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these restrictions. Use what you read to write a travel column offering advice and information about different rules and why they exist.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

4. Meat-Eater

The South American nation of Argentina is one of the best places in the world to find dinosaur fossils. In recent years, scientists there have discovered some of the largest meat-eaters and plant-eaters that ever lived on Earth. Now they have added another amazing dinosaur discovery to the list of Argentina wonders. Researchers have announced they have found the fossil of a previously unknown meat-eater that had a huge head, long teeth and tiny little arms like Tyrannosaurus rex. The species, which lived about 90-million years ago, was just under 40 feet long, weighed about 9,000 pounds and walked on its two hind legs like T-rex, according to Reuters News. It had a huge head covered with bumps and crests that made it look like an ancient dragon or gargoyle. For that reason scientists named it Meraxes gigas, after a dragon from the “Ice and Fire” books that inspired the TV show “Game of Thrones.” The four-foot-long skull of the fossil was one of the most complete ever found of a large meat-eating dinosaur. Dinosaur fossil hunters are constantly making new discoveries that add to our knowledge of these ancient creatures. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a recent dinosaur discovery. Use what you read to draw an illustration of the discovery, labeling key parts and why they are significant. In your illustration, you can compare the dinosaur discovery to another if you like.

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.

5. Honor for Vets

All across the nation, communities honor military veterans in special ways. In a small city in the state of Minnesota, a memorial has been created for veterans — and it is extra special. It was planned, built and paid for by a 17-year-old Eagle Scout who was bothered that his town didn’t have a veterans memorial. Dominique Claseman spent a year-and-a-half raising funds for the memorial in the city of Olivia, and finally got to dedicate it this spring, the Washington Post reported. Claseman’s design features a long walkway marked by 21 footprints made by Army boots, pavers with veterans’ names, flags, and a memorial stone showing the branches of the U.S. military. The memorial also contains Army helmet sculptures in honor of two local men who died in the U.S. war in Iraq. All told, Claseman raised almost $77,000 for the memorial — about six times his original goal. Most of the money came from families that donated $250 for each stone paver they wanted to have inscribed with a veteran’s name. “I wanted them all to be honored,” Claseman said. Teens often do things to help their communities in special ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a teen doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, calling attention to this teen’s contribution and how it could be a model for other teen efforts to help the community.

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