For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Feb. 22, 2021

1. ‘Fast Track’ Relief

With the end of the impeachment trial of former President Trump, the U.S. Congress can now turn its attention to health and economic problems facing the nation. At the top of the list is President Biden’s $1.9-trillion relief package that would bring relief to individuals, businesses and communities hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic. The U.S. Senate voted 51-50 on February 4 to “fast track” action on the measure, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie between Democrats and Republicans. Harris’s vote as president of the Senate sent the measure back to the U.S. House where it is expected to be acted on or revised this week. Then the measure will go back to the Senate for “reconciliation.” Though President Biden has said he would like to attract Republican support for the final bill, the vote is likely to be another 51-50 tally along party lines. The coronavirus relief package would include $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans and an increase in the weekly federal unemployment benefit to $400 through September. President Biden’s $1.9-trillion relief package will be getting a lot of attention this week. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how the measure is being dealt with by the U.S. House and Senate. Use what you read to write an editorial offering your view of the package and what needs to be in it to help people the most.

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. Honor for a Hero

When rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building in support of former President Trump, Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman played a special role in protecting the U.S. senators and representatives in the building. He diverted the mob away from the Senate doors and at one point turned U.S. Senator Mitt Romney around so that he could escape the angry crowd. In response to his heroism on January 6, the Senate voted unanimously to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer cited Goodman for his “calmness under pressure, his courage in the line of duty, his foresight in the midst of chaos, and his willingness to make himself a target of the mob’s rage so that others might reach safety.” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell added: “If not for the quick thinking and bravery of Officer Eugene Goodman … people in this chamber may not have escaped that day unharmed.” Officer Eugene Goodman is being hailed as a hero for his actions on January 6 during the assault on the Capitol. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read other stories about people who could be considered heroes for things they have done. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing how one person acted like a hero and how the community is better for it.

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. Voyage On, Voyagers

The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft are two of the greatest achievements in the history of space exploration. They were launched nearly 44 years ago in August 1977 and continue to send back data and information from beyond the edge of our solar system. Last spring, scientists lost the ability to send information back to Voyager 2, when the only antenna that can communicate with it had to be shut down for an upgrade. This month the antenna located in Canberra, Australia was turned on again and scientists again were able to communicate with Voyager 2. (Voyager 1 is able to communicate with Earth through two other antennas.) Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are the farthest-traveling and longest-living spacecraft ever launched by America’s NASA space agency. Voyager 1 is now more than 14-billion miles away from Earth and Voyager 2 almost 12-billion miles. Both are now traveling in interstellar space beyond our solar system. The Voyager spacecraft have sent back valuable information about the solar system and outer space for nearly 44 years. Use the newspaper or the NASA website to find and closely read a story about another space mission providing valuable information to scientists. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining the most important discoveries the mission has made.

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. ‘Founding Fish’

Waterways like the Brandywine Creek in the state of Delaware played important roles in the founding of the nation. They provided water for farms, fish for food and water power for grain and lumber mills that sprang up on their banks. All that activity put a strain on the streams, especially the fish populations. The dams that settlers built blocked the path many fish took to spawn and lay eggs upstream. In Delaware, nature and conservation groups are working to undo that damage — some of which goes back 300 years. They are dismantling dams on the Brandywine to allow fish to swim unimpeded for spawning and breeding. Several dams have already been taken down in the last two years and a total of 11 will be dismantled or modified by next year. Already the effort is having an effect. Fish species like shad and striped bass are migrating upstream to spawn, and fish populations are growing. As one conservation group put it, this “quest to bring back our nation’s founding fish to the Brandywine” is like turning back the clock 300 years. The removal of dams on the Brandywine Creek is an example of people taking steps to help wildlife and the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another effort to help wildlife or the environment. Use what you read to create the home page for a website showcasing the goals and achievements of this effort. Divide your home page into categories focusing on different aspects of the program. Then write headlines and text blocks to explain each category.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

5. The Body Electric

It sounds like something from a science fiction movie, but a new device being developed by scientists could turn your body into a battery for portable electronic devices. A team of scientists has reported that it has developed a stretchy, re-usable material that can turn heat generated by your body into electricity that can power smart watches, fitness trackers or other small devices. “In the future, we want to be able to power your wearable electronics without having to include a battery,” said the study’s senior author in a report published in the journal Science Advances. The device produces one volt of energy for every square centimeter of skin it touches. “The nice thing about our thermoelectric device is that you can wear it, and it provides you with constant power,” senior author Jianliang Xiao said. Every day scientists are developing new ways to use technology for products and devices that help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such device. Use what you read to create a television, newspaper or Internet ad highlighting what it does, how it works and how it is an advance over previous technology.

Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.