1. Black History Politics
February is Black History Month, and African Americans are breaking new ground in President Biden’s cabinet and in the U.S. Congress. In the cabinet, African American gains are led by Kamala Harris, the first vice president of Black and South Asia heritage. In addition, the cabinet will include the nation’s first Black defense secretary (Lloyd J. Austin III), the first Black head of the Environmental Protection Agency (Michael S. Regan), the first Black chair of the Council of Economic Advisors (Cecilia Rouse), the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (Marcia L. Fudge) and the ambassador to the United Nations (Linda Thomas-Greenfield). In the U.S. Congress, Vice President Harris will be the first Black woman to serve as president of the U.S. Senate, and Raphael Warnock will be the first Black U.S. senator elected from the state of Georgia. In the U.S. House, more Black women (24) will serve in 2021 than ever before. African Americans are making significant gains in politics and government. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these leaders. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining why it is important to have people of color in prominent positions in a diverse society.
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. Super Bowl
The Super Bowl is the championship game of pro football and the most watched game of the year. This year’s game next Sunday (February 7) will feature the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and one of the most interesting quarterback matchups ever. The Chiefs are led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a superstar at age 25 and winner of last year’s Super Bowl. The Bucs are led by 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady, who is making his 10th appearance in a Super Bowl and has already won six championships. To make it to the Super Bowl, the Chief won 16 games against just 2 losses in the regular season and playoffs, while the Bucs recorded a 14-5 combined record. Excitement is building for the Super Bowl. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about players who will be performing in the game. Use what you read to write a short sports column, predicting which player you think will have the biggest impact on the game. Share with friends and classmates and discuss.
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.
3. Loon Grounded
The parent company of Google is shutting down a high-flying plan to use balloons to bring Internet service to Africa, South America and other remote or undeveloped areas of the world. The service, called Loon, was launched in 2011 but never achieved financial success, parent company Alphabet announced. For most of its years Loon had operated on an experimental basis, using balloons filled with helium gas to create “floating base stations” carrying Internet access equipment. It won praise for helping restore Internet service to the Caribbean commonwealth of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and last year launched its first balloons in the African nation of Kenya. Despite such successes, Loon’s chief executive said “We haven’t found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business,” the Slate website reported. Each balloon cost tens of thousands of dollars and had to be replaced every five months. The Loon project was an attempt to use technology in a new way to provide service for people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another attempt to use technology in a new way. Use what you read to write a consumer column analyzing the greatest challenges the effort faces and the overall prospect for success.
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.
4. A Really Old Pig
Early human artists didn’t have canvases or boards to paint on, so they painted on the walls of caves. And they have been doing it longer than previously believed. A discovery in the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia indicates that artists were painting representational images of animals and other objects as far back as 45,500 years ago. The discovery in a cave on the island of Sulawesi was of a warty pig, painted in a red ocher color and six feet long, CNN News reported. The pig in the painting appears to be watching a fight between two other warty pigs nearby. Older, abstract works of art have been found in caves, but the Indonesian pig is the oldest that represents a figure drawn from life, and also the oldest animal painting. It was dated by measuring the amount of radioactivity in the limestone rock of the cave walls and ceiling. Archaeology discoveries help scientists learn more about how people lived in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an archaeological discovery. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing what archaeologists discovered, how they discovered it and what new things it is teaching them about life in the past.
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.
5. Record Low Ice
As recently as 40 years ago, America’s Great Lakes were almost entirely covered in ice during the winter months. This year, due to water temperatures that set records last summer, they are hardly covered at all. Scientists with the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report that ice on the five Great Lakes reached a record low in January with as little as 1.8 percent of the surface covered. In recent years up to 20 percent of the surface would be covered, the Washington Post newspaper reports. While more areas may “freeze over” in February, “ice coverage is definitely below normal,” one NOAA scientist said. Water temperatures in the five Great Lakes were unusually high this summer due to global warming, and that has affected the amount of ice in the winter months. Global warming and climate change are affecting the natural world in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one effect. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, detailing what has happened, why it has happened and how that affects both the environment and people. Share and discuss with family, friends or classmates.
Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.