1. Use Your Power
One of the world’s most famous teenagers is no longer a teenager, but she is still working to halt global warming and save the environment. Greta Thunberg turned 20 on January 3, and she continues to challenge global leaders to take steps to address climate change. Thunberg first rose to fame at age 15 in the European nation of Sweden when she led protests against climate change outside Sweden’s parliament legislature. She later drew international attention for organizing students around the world to protest global warming and climate change in a Fridays for Future movement that gained support in 150 nations. At 17 she challenged world business and government leaders to think of their children when addressing the perils of warming. “Our house is … on fire,” she said. “Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. … I wonder, what will you tell your children.” For her activism, she has been named Time magazine’s youngest Person of the Year, was chosen one of Forbes magazine’s Hundred Most Powerful Women and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times. Greta Thunberg is a teen who has been honored for making a difference. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another teen who is making a difference. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation outlining this teen’s efforts and why they are important. Use images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your presentation.
Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
What does it take to be happy? One of the world’s longest running studies of human happiness has been asking that question for 85 years, and it has found that above all else one thing is key to a happy life. More than money, intelligence or social status, strong relationships are what make people the happiest, according to the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Nurturing those relationships makes people “socially fit” the way exercise makes people physically fit, the New York Times newspaper reports in a series called “The Happiness Challenge” (click here). “Socially fit” people have friends to confide in and friends to have fun with. They interact with people in positive ways in their daily lives. And they avoid loneliness, which can damage both physical and emotional health. You don’t need to be outgoing to improve your social fitness, according to Dr. Bob Waldinger, who has written a book about the Harvard study. Teens and young adults can engage with others in quieter settings around things that they care about, such as computers, hiking, pets, movies or the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people who have strong relationships with others. Use what you read to write a personal column detailing the benefits of having such relationships, what it takes to make them work and relationships you have had that have been special or beneficial.
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. Breaking Down
Knowing how to break down words into their different parts is a skill that can help you all through life. And it’s not just for English class or elementary school. It can help in high school classes and careers in business, technology, engineering or any field that has specialized language. In the city of Memphis, Tennessee, a new program is giving high school students a fresh experience breaking down words and demonstrating how it’s not “babyish” to do it in older grades or even college. The program involves classes in all subject areas and helps students build vocabulary by recognizing prefixes, suffixes and root words. Prefixes are letters that appear at the beginning of words such as “co” (with), “re” (again), “anti” (against) or “dis” (not). Suffixes are letters that appear at the end of words such as “tion” (action), “ment” (result of) “ity” (state of) or “ism” (theory or belief). A root word is word on which other words are based (read, reading, reader). The Memphis program takes a few minutes at the beginning of classes to let students break down new vocabulary words before moving into the lesson. Newspapers and the Internet offer great opportunities for breaking down words and building vocabulary. In the newspaper or online, find 10 words that are new to you. Break down each word for prefixes, suffixes and root words. Study each breakdown and write out what you think the word means. Check your answers against an online dictionary.
Common Core State Standards: Identifying multiple language conventions and using them; recognizing nouns, verbs and modifiers; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.
4. Writing About Hate
Hate crimes are growing in number in the United States, and courts are struggling to decide how to punish people who commit them. In the western state of Oregon, a man who pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime was given an unusual sentence: homework. Last month, 35-year-old Jarl Rockhill pleaded guilty to placing a racist sticker on the fence at an immigrant and refugee community organization in the city of Portland, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The judge who heard his case sentenced him to reading a book and watching a film about racism and writing two essays about what he learned. The book was “Between the World and Me,” a prize-winning work by African American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates that discusses racism in the United States. The film was “Myanmar’s Killing Fields,” a documentary movie about the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar. Rockhill’s sentence also included 50 hours of community service, two years of probation, a stay-away order from the refugee organization and an order to write a letter of apology. Researching and writing about a subject can deepen your understanding of it. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a subject you would like to know more about. Use what you read and additional research to write a paper or essay about the subject, detailing what you learned and how that knowledge deepened your understanding.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.
5. Old Time Music
Long before there were CDs and streaming systems, music was recorded, stored and played on wax cylinders that looked much the cardboard rolls in the middle of toilet paper. Music later moved on to flat plastic records, CDs, cassette tapes and digital files, but some of the old cylinders were held onto by collectors as artifacts of musical history. They couldn’t be played much, because they were very fragile, and the needles used to play them could damage the surface. Now a new invention has replaced the needle with a laser beam, and old cylinders are getting new life, the New York Times newspaper reports. Of special interest is a collection held by the New York Public Library, which includes recordings of both private conversations and performances of the Metropolitan Opera more than 120 years ago. Because lasers don’t damage the surface, the library plans to play and digitize more than 2,500 cylinder recordings in its collection and share them with the public. Technology is constantly being used in new ways to do new things or do things more effectively. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one new use of technology. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend explaining how the new use of technology makes things easier or more efficient for people.
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.