1. Civic Responsibility
The last year has been a challenging one for government, politics, civic engagement and understanding of the U.S Constitution. The results of the presidential election were disputed by the losing party even after multiple recounts and court decisions. A mob attacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from performing its duties. Faith in government and the courts was challenged by everyone from the President to state legislatures. And belief in conspiracy theories spread on the Internet. There has been much debate over how this breakdown came about, but a coalition of educators, historians, teachers and school leaders believes it knows the answer. Schools no longer teach history, government and civic responsibility in ways to help citizens understand how government, the courts and the Constitution work. To remedy that, the coalition has unveiled an initiative called Educating for American Democracy as a way to overhaul how history, social studies and civic responsibility are taught in schools and it is urging federal and state governments to commit funds to do it. Many people do not understand how the government is set up, how it supposed to work or how the U.S. Constitution affects elections, the courts or other government actions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories examining this problem. Use what you read to write an education column outlining the most important things students and young adults should know about government, elections, the U.S. Constitution and civic responsibility. Share with classmates and discuss.
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. Spring Worry
Coronavirus cases are dropping or holding steady around the world, but health officials worry about “spring break” and spring vacations. When thousands of students flocked to Florida and other vacation areas last spring, it caused a spike in coronavirus infections. Now U.S. health officials fear this year’s spring break could cause another rise because southern states are easing safety restrictions. On top of that, Mexico has just announced that it is loosening its coronavirus rules in tourist destinations like Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen. Starting this week, hotels, restaurants, shops, theaters and theme parks in these areas will be allowed to operate at 60 percent capacity, compared to the 30 percent limit previously in effect. Visitors will still be required to wear masks and social distance, but last year’s spring break demonstrated that many people won’t. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in January that American travelers “should avoid all travel to Mexico” due to “very high” levels of the coronavirus. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about spring break and health safety. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper about how well people on spring break are following safety precautions and how that behavior could affect efforts to control the coronavirus.
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.
3. Death-Defying Ski Trip
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is one of the most famous rock formations in the world. It looks like a giant gray basketball cut in half and it soars nearly 5,000 feet up from the valley below to a total elevation of more than 8,800 feet. Every year thousands of hikers challenge themselves to climb the Half Dome from the valley to the summit and back. This winter two men from the state of California outdid the most hardy of adventurers. Jason Torlano, 45, and Zach Milligan, 40, traveled DOWN Half Dome, on skis, over thin snow and a route that could have killed them with a wrong move at any moment. At one point they had to take off their skis and use rappelling techniques to climb down bare rocks known as “death slabs” for the danger they present. The super skiers completed the 4,800-foot descent in five hours. Torlano, who grew up in Yosemite Valley, said skiing Half Dome was a dream come true. “I just couldn’t believe we pulled it off,” he said. "I was just trying to stay alive," Milligan said. Skiing down Half Dome is an extreme sports achievement. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another extreme sports achievement. Use what you read to write a personal column detailing what skills and character traits were needed for the athlete to succeed in this extreme sport. Include which of these skills you have and whether you would like to try the extreme sport activity. Share with friends and discuss.
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.
4. Slave School Found
In many southern states it once was illegal to educate enslaved or free Black children for fear they would be less easy to control. In the state of Virginia a school set up in the city of Williamsburg sought to do just the opposite. The Bray School located on the campus of the College of William & Mary taught reading and Christian doctrine to enslaved and free Black children in an effort to get them to accept slavery and their station in life, the New York Times newspaper reported. The children were taught to read Bible stories and sermons about slaves who loved their masters in an effort to reinforce the idea that slavery was a force for good and approved by God. The school operated from 1760 to 1774 but what happened to it after that remained a mystery for many years. Now, 247 years later, it has been rediscovered, almost in plain sight. Examination of a building on the William & Mary campus found that it had expanded and enclosed the original Bray building. The original wood structure built with 18th century timber was still inside the more modern building. Now the building will be moved to the Colonial Williamsburg historical site and restored to show the complicated role education played for slaves, officials said. Many communities and institutions are re-examining their roles in slavery and their treatment of Black Americans. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a re-examination. Use what you read to create a poster showing what the effort has found and why that is important to the community.
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.
5. Alaska Mystery
The Internet and social media can be great tools for connecting people to each other. They also can do great things connecting people to history. Consider the “mystery photos” found by a German woman at a flea market in the European nation of the Netherlands. The photos were taken in the U.S. state of Alaska about 60 years ago and show a variety of native Alaskans going about their daily lives or posing for family portraits. Jennifer Skupin, who found the photos, took them to CNN News, which publicized them in a travel story titled “Do you know the mystery behind these Alaska travel photos?” Skupin also posted a collection of 200 of the photos on a Google Drive people could access online. As word spread about the photos, hundreds of people in the Yup'ik native community logged in to see them. They were able to identify a great many of the people, places and activities. Walkie Charles, an associate professor of Yup'ik, at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, told CNN the photos are an invaluable historic resource. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo that shows the life of a community. Make a list of things the photo conveys about the community or the people who live there. Then think about the community you live in. Pretend you are a photographer and make a list of people, places and things you would take pictures of to show what life in your community is like. Present your list to family, friends and classmates and explain your choices. Then use a smart phone or camera and take pictures of your subjects to share with others.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.