1. Warnings About U.S.
To keep Americans safe when they travel to other countries, the U.S. State Department has long issued “travel advisories” about which nations pose the greatest risks. With the recurrence of mass shootings in the United States, other nations now are offering advisories about the U.S. After the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, the South American nations of Uruguay and Venezuela issued warnings to their citizens about traveling in the United States. Venezuela told citizens to take “extreme precautions” in the U.S. due to “the proliferation of acts of violence and hate crimes.” Uruguay noted the risks posed by “the indiscriminate possession of firearms by the population.” Even U.S. ally Japan warned that because the U.S. is a “gun society,” gun violence can occur “everywhere.” On top of that, the human rights group Amnesty International weighed in, telling possible visitors to the United states “to exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the country due to rampant gun violence.” Gun violence is a bigger problem in the United States than in many other countries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories comparing the U.S. gun situation to other nations. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing key differences and things the U.S. could learn from the practices of other countries.
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. Eat Your Insects
Insects play important roles in the natural world. They pollinate fruits and vegetables, control pests and clean up dead materials from plants and animals. In the future, they might also play another important role: feeding the growing population of the world. According to a United Nations food organization, there are more than 1,900 species of insects that can be eaten by people. All of them may be needed with the world population growing at a rate of 82-million people a year. Some cultures already eat insects, but many do not. To get people used to the idea, a company in the nation of South Africa is offering foods that only use insects as a source of protein. The company, called Gourmet Grubb, runs a restaurant that only serves insect meals and has developed a way to make ice cream from an insect-based liquid called EntoMilk. EntoMilk is made by blending the larvae of a tropical insect known as the black soldier fly. “Insects are inherently high in fat and protein and minerals,” company founder Leah Bessa told CNN News. “The black soldier fly has protein and fat content comparable to beef, and zinc, iron and calcium that are much higher than that of beef.” Insects could someday help meet the food needs of people. In many parts of the world, meeting people’s food needs is a serious problem today. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an area that has severe food needs and food shortages. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining the area’s food needs, what is being done and what other nations could do to help.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
3. Steal This Sign
The song “Old Town Road” has been a record-setting hit for Lil Nas X this summer, even if people can’t decide whether it’s a rap song or a country song. It has topped Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for more than 19 straight weeks, making it the longest-running single in the list’s 61-year history. It also has caused problems for the sleepy suburban town of Wellesley in the state of Massachusetts. Wellesley actually has an Old Town Road, and once the song became a hit, people started stealing the signs marking either end of the street. It happened so many times, the town stopped replacing the signs, which cost $250 a pair. “We’re keeping an eye on the popularity of the song,” a spokesperson for the town said told the New York Times. “We’re holding off as long as we can” before replacing the signs again. “Old Town Road” has been the most popular song of the summer. What other songs have been popular with you and your friends this summer? Use the newspaper or Internet to read about current songs you like. Use what you read to create a Back to School playlist of top songs. Write a paragraph explaining why you like these songs.
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.
4. A Perplexing Plant
Biologists who study plant life worry most about two things: plants that are endangered and plants that are invasive. But can a plant be both in danger of dying out and a risk to take over a new environment? The answer, apparently, is yes. A carnivorous plant known as the waterwheel is endangered in areas of the world where it is native. Yet it is thriving in the states of Virginia, New York and New Jersey, where it has been introduced by people. The waterwheel is an interesting species, which feeds on tiny shrimp, shell-less crustaceans, insect larvae, and the occasional fish. It is an underwater version of the Venus flytrap, which attracts and feeds on insects on land. Scientists worry that the American populations will take over the habitats where they are living. At the same time, they feel the American populations could save the species from extinction. As one researcher told the New York Times, the locations where waterwheels are growing in the U.S. are “either site zero for saving a species, or site zero for a really big problem.” Both endangered plants and invasive plants can have a big effect on habitats. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an endangered or invasive plant. Use what you read to write a paragraph outlining the impact this plant is having on its environment, or could have in the future.
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. Cure for Ebola?
The Ebola virus is one of the most feared and deadly health risks in the world. It can damage the body’s organs, cause uncontrollable bleeding and lead to a painful death. Until now, there has been no cure for Ebola infection, but new treatments are raising hope in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. And the timing couldn’t be better, since an outbreak in Congo has infected nearly 2,800 people and killed nearly 1,900 since it began a year ago. The new experimental drugs have significantly increased survival rates for people infected with the disease, scientists announced this month. They have performed so well that health professionals now plan to administer them to every Ebola patient in Congo. Health officials still need to persuade people to accept the treatments, but “from now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable,” one doctor said. Finding a cure for the Ebola virus would be a major breakthrough in medicine. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another breakthrough in medicine. Use what you read to write a letter to a relative, telling why this breakthrough is important and whom it will affect most.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.