For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 30, 2021

1. Enlisting Private Planes

Since Afghanistan fell to the extremist group the Taliban, the United States has been working around the clock to evacuate Americans and Afghan refugees to other nations. To do that, the U.S. used a nearly 70-year old program set up after World War II to enlist nearly 20 commercial airliners in the evacuation effort. The program, called the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, allows the president to put the commercial airliners to work in a military operation under emergency circumstances. Through “contractual agreements” with the U.S. government, commercial airlines are required to “volunteer” their planes in return for preference carrying commercial cargo and passengers for the U.S. Defense Department, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The 18 planes enlisted will not fly into the airport in the city of Kabul, which is at the center of conflict and tensions between the U.S. and the Taliban. Instead, they will transport passengers out of transit centers and U.S. military bases in Mideast nations such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where Afghan refugees are being processed for resettlement in other countries. The evacuation of Americans and Afghan refugees is scheduled to end this week, but thousands of people still remain in the country. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the ongoing evacuation effort and the challenges the U.S. and other nations still face. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining the most important next steps for the United States and others.

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. New Pi Record

As anyone who has taken geometry knows, Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It also is the world’s most famous irrational number, meaning it can’t be expressed as a common fraction, and as a decimal it has an infinite number of decimal points and numerals that never repeat in a pattern. The first 10 digits of Pi are 3.141592653, but for years mathematicians have challenged themselves to calculate the ratio as far as they can. Now a group of mathematicians in the European nation of Switzerland have set a new world record calculating Pi. Using a supercomputer, they have calculated the famous number to its first 62.8-TRILLION decimal places. The new calculation by researchers from the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons tops the old record by nearly 13-trillion decimal places and took more than 108 days to complete. The previous record verified by the Guinness World Records organization was set by a man from the U.S. state of Alabama, using his personal computer. The name “Pi” comes from the 16th letter in the Greek alphabet, which is the first letter of the Greek word “perimetros,” meaning “circumference.” From sports to business to government, large numbers are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story involving large numbers in the millions, billions or trillions. With the newspaper and Internet as resources, research creative ways to explain the size of the numbers in the news. For example, how many first-year teachers could you hire with a million dollars? Share with family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; representing and solving problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

3. Woman Making History

Josephine Baker won worldwide fame as a dancer, singer and civil rights activist in the European nation of France and the United States. Soon she will add to her historic achievements 46 years after her death. Baker will become the first Black woman interred in France’s famous Pantheon memorial. The American-born Baker also will become one of the few foreign-born figures to be interred there. The move to bury Baker in the Pantheon came after a petition signed by more than 40,000 people came to the attention of French President Emmanuel Macron. The French president is the only person who can approve a burial in the landmark crypt, and this summer he approved Baker. Josephine Baker, who was born in poverty in St. Louis, Missouri, began her career as a dancer in New York City but moved to France to escape the racial discrimination she found in the United States. She became a French citizen in 1937 and worked as an ambulance driver and an intelligence agent during World War II, earning medals of honor for her contributions. Her remains are currently buried in the European state of Monaco but will be moved to the Pantheon later this year. Josephine Baker was a trailblazer for African American women and for Black women everywhere. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about a Black woman who is a trailblazer today. Use what you read to write a proposal for honoring this woman now or in the future.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. Supermarket Books

It’s often said that when one door closes, another one opens. In the city of Carmel, Indiana, that happened to the local library, when the door of its main branch closed for renovations. With some creative thinking, another door opened to house the library’s collection — at a closed local supermarket. The former grocery store’s freezers, refrigerators and shelves have been entirely repurposed to hold all of the Carmel Clay Public Library’s children’s and teen materials, as well as most of its adult print collection and audiovisual resources, the Modern Met website reports. The library is even having fun with the re-use of the grocery store. “What's better than pork & beans?,” it asked on Instagram. “An aisle filled with large print books!” The library is expected to use the grocery facility through next year, when renovations are due to be completed. Communities or businesses often re-purpose buildings for new uses. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to do this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining how reuse of one building benefits the community. For added fun, write a letter suggesting a way to repurpose an unused or old building in your community.

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.

5. A Seagull Finds Fame

In the world of marketing and advertising, the images you choose are as important as the words you use. Dramatic or unusual images draw people’s attention, which is the first step in a successful advertising or marketing effort. This summer a photo of a seagull snatching a French fry out of midair got the attention of Google, and now it is being used in an advertising campaign on billboards and the Internet in the European nations of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The photo, which you can see by clicking here, is accompanied by a headline that reads “What are you searching for this summer?” The now-famous photo is actually not a new one. It was taken 10 years ago by photographer Hannah Huxford on a visit to the coastal town of Bridlington in England. She snapped it with her iPhone and it found new fame this spring when she posted it on Instagram to mark its 10th anniversary. Great or dramatic photos are often chosen for advertising or marketing efforts. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos you think would be good for catching people’s attention. Pick three and brainstorm ways they could be used to promote (1.) a product, (2.) an event and (3.) an effort to improve the community. Use one photo for each category, and write a headline to go with it. Explain your marketing/advertising ideas for family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.