1. Fire in the Amazon
South America’s Amazon rain forest is often referred to as the “lungs” of the Earth because it produces 20 percent of the oxygen in the world’s atmosphere. This summer, however, the Amazon is gasping for survival, as wildfires consume thousands and thousands of woodland acres. More fires have broken out this year than in any year since 2013, and they are destroying more than one-and-a-half soccer fields of forest every minute of every day. Especially hard hit has been the nation of Brazil, which controls two-thirds of the Amazon’s territory. Yet Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro initially turned down offers from other nations to help fight the fires. He has since said he will accept public and private donations, such as $20-million pledged by the world’s seven most developed nations, and $5-million from an environmental fund founded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Last week more than 2,500 separate fires were burning in the Amazon, and scientists estimate that more than 3,500 square miles of forest have burned this year. Most of the fires were started by humans, either accidentally or as part of land-clearing operations. The fires in the Amazon will have environmental impact far beyond the jungle areas that are burning. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about long-term effects of the Amazon fires. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining why it is in the interest of all nations to control the fires in the Amazon.
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.
2. Goodbye to a Star
Last year at age 29, NFL quarterback Andrew Luck had one of the best years of his career. The Indianapolis Colts star threw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns, led the Colts to the second round of the playoffs and was the NFL comeback player of the year. He was healthy again, after missing the entire 2017 season due to injury and being plagued with injuries ranging from torn rib cartilage to a lacerated kidney over a four-year period. This year, a nagging calf and ankle problem sidelined him in training camp and convinced him he needed to make a life-changing decision. Just days short of his 30th birthday, he announced he was retiring from football. The news stunned the NFL and its fans, because few quarterbacks at the top of their game retire at such an early age. “For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab,” Luck said when he announced his decision. “ … I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away.” Andrew Luck’s retirement was a life-changing decision for the NFL star. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about another person making a decision that will change their life or career. Think like a news reporter and write out five questions you would ask this person about the change. For each question give a reason you would ask it.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.
3. Swastika Ride
Seventy-five years after the battles of World War II, the European nation of Germany still has great shame over the actions of the Nazi Party that led to the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews. So there was great shock this summer when an amusement park opened a new ride that looked like the Nazi swastika symbol when operated. The “Eagle Fly” ride at the Tatzmania amusement park in the city of Löffingen had two arms that each spun four sets of seats in the air. The problem for the park was that when the seats started spinning, they formed the shape of two swastikas. The park quickly shut down the ride when the problem was pointed out. It said it would redesign each arm to have just three sets of seats instead of four so the ride couldn’t form swastikas. Modern life is often influenced by historical events. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a community examining its history in light of modern events or attitudes. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, detailing why the community is examining its history and what changes or decisions may come as a result.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
4. Nigerian Sci-Fi
With all their apps and functions, smart phones are opening new worlds for users of all ages. In the African nation of Nigeria, a phone has given a group of ambitious teens entry into the world of filmmaking. The group, whose members call themselves The Critics, have used a beat-up smart phone to make a series of slick science fiction films, and their work has gotten the attention of Nigeria’s film industry, known as Nollywood. Since getting started, the teens have made 20 short films, edited them on an old computer and uploaded them to YouTube. Their most ambitious effort is a futuristic sci-fi movie called “Z: The Beginning,” which caught the attention of Nollywood director Kemi Adetiba. Adetiba helped organize an online funding campaign that raised nearly $6,000 to upgrade the group’s equipment for their next film. The Critics aren’t saying what that will be, except that it will be ambitious. “We want to do something crazy, we want to do something great, something that has not been done before,” Critics member Godwin Josiah says. “One of the targets we aim for … is to make the biggest film in Nigeria.” Advances in technology are helping people do new things every day. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a technology advance or breakthrough. Use what you read to write a consumer column for the newspaper, detailing what the advance allows people to do, why that is important and who will be helped most.
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.
5. Heat from the Underground
Subway systems generate a lot of heat, but much of it is wasted and escapes into the air. In the European city of London, England, that will be changing by the end of the year. An innovative new program will capture the heat generated by the city’s “Underground” subway system and use it to heat homes and businesses during the winter months. The program, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, will use a sophisticated system of heat pumps to move the waste heat from the Northern Line subway to homes and business locations. Planners say the program will provide “a low-carbon, low-cost heat source” because it will reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned to heat homes and businesses. The burning of fossil fuels releases great amounts of the gas carbon dioxide into the air, increasing the effects of global warming. London’s subway heat program is an example of a community trying something new to solve a problem. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another community trying something new to address an issue or problem. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation explaining the problem, how the new approach will address it and its prospects for success.
Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.