1. McDonald House Founder
It’s unlikely many families would recognize the name of Dr. Audrey Evans if someone asked them. But any that have had to stay overnight near a hospital when a child was seriously ill may have benefited from her caring. Evans, a world-famous children’s cancer doctor, was co-founder of the first Ronald McDonald House that provided low-cost housing so that families could be near their children when they were hospitalized for serious illnesses. Evans, who died this month at age 97, had already made significant contributions to cancer research when she got the idea for a “home away from home” for families of sick children in 1974. With support from McDonald’s restaurants and the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, she established the first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she lived and worked. The idea took off, and today there are more than 365 Ronald McDonald Houses in 64 countries to provide housing at little or no cost for families whose children are hospitalized. As a doctor, Evans earned worldwide respect, particularly for developing the Evans staging system that matched cancer treatments to the level the disease had advanced in child patients. She also did pioneering work showing that chemotherapy and radiation worked best in children when used together. Dr. Audrey Evans worked her whole life to make the lives of children better. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another person who is working to help children. Use what you read to write an editorial or commentary calling attention to what this person is doing and why that is important for children and their families.
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. Freedom to Walk
When people cross the street outside of crosswalks, it’s often said they are “jaywalking.” It’s a crime in many communities, particularly in cities where traffic is heavy. In some places, police don’t strictly enforce jaywalking laws, but in others the laws have been used as an excuse to stop and question people who are poor or members of a minority group. Starting January 1, jaywalking will no longer be a crime in the state of California. Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a law allowing pedestrians to legally jaywalk “as long as it is safe to do so.” Under the Freedom to Walk Act, police officers may still cite pedestrians crossing a street outside a crosswalk but “only when a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision,” the Huffington Post news site reports. Critics of jaywalking laws hailed the new law as a positive step. “For too long, our jaywalking laws were used as a pretext to stop and harass people,” said a civil rights lawyer in the California city of San Francisco, “especially low-income people and people of color.” Laws are often changed in ways that leaders feel will better serve the community. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a law that is being changed. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling why the law is being changed, who will benefit and whether you think the change was necessary.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
3. Big Bucks Action Figure
Action figures are among the most popular toys — especially if they are characters from Marvel comic books and movies. But would you pay nearly $400 for a single action figure? The Hasbro toy company, which makes Marvel action figures, is betting that fans will do that for one of Marvel’s biggest villains. Hasbro is making plans to release a super-sized action figure of Galactus, a villain from the Fantastic Four comic series who eats whole planets to stay alive. Galactus is a larger-than-life villain, and the Galactus action figure is larger-than-life by toy standards. The action figure will stand 32 inches tall, compared to the 6 or 7 inches of most action figures. And its price tag is eye-opening: $399.99. To see if people would buy such an expensive toy, Hasbro ran an Internet crowd-funding program asking people to place orders in advance, the New York Times newspaper reported. More than 30,000 people placed orders — more than double the goal of 14,000. With more than $12-million in advance orders, Hasbro is moving ahead to produce and release Galactus later this fall. It will not be available in stores. Crowd-funding raises money for products, projects or businesses by seeking funds from many sources instead of just one or two. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one crowd-funding effort. Use what you read to write a business column analyzing what crowd-funding allowed the business or project to do that it would not have been able to do otherwise.
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.
4. Return of the Cheetahs
With top speeds of 60 miles per hour, cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animals. Yet they have been slow to return to the Asian nation of India after being declared extinct in the wild more than 70 years ago. Now an elaborate and expensive program is seeking to reintroduce cheetahs to India by bringing them back to fenced wild areas of a national park in the north central region of the nation. The first of the yellow, spotted big cats arrived this month at Kuno National Park — five females and three males between the ages of 2 and 6 years old, the Washington Post reported. Eventually, the $11-million program seeks to establish about 50 cheetahs in the park. The first cheetahs came from the African nation of Namibia, with others coming in the next few years from South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, also in Africa. Africa is home to most of the world’s cheetahs, which are extinct across Asia, except in the Middle East nation of Iran. “This is the only large mammal which India has lost since independence [in 1947],” said a spokesman for the program. “It is our moral and ethical responsibility to restore it.” Government and wildlife organizations do many things to help endangered or threatened species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such effort. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend telling how your community or school could support this effort to help wildlife.
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. ‘Eco City’ Airport
When an airport closes for good, what do you do with the terminals, towers, gates and runways? In the European nation of Germany, the answer is: Turn it into a futuristic “eco city” that is good for the environment, good for businesses and good for students and residents. At the former Berlin-Tegel Airport outside the city of Berlin, government and business leaders are teaming up on a $7.9-billion project to turn the airport into a sustainable community of the future by using the best environmental practices of today. The community will recycle materials from runways to create streets and sidewalks, generate its own electricity, build homes from local wood, cool buildings with plants on their roofs and ban cars from roadways to reduce air pollution, CNN News reports. It will feature approximately 5,000 homes, an area for 5,000 students and up to 1,000 businesses. Work at the 1,200-acre site has already begun, and the project aims to be completed by the end of the 2030s. More and more builders and developers are using “green” practices when building to be more “eco friendly” to the Earth and the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such project. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a film or video telling the story of the project, its goals and its benefits.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.