1. Renewable Energy
In the United States and around the world, nations are looking to slow global warming by replacing fossil fuels like coal and oil with renewable energy sources that do not produce Earth-warming greenhouse gases. In 2022, the U.S. achieved a milestone in that regard, according to new statistics. For the first time in 60 years, renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydropower energy produced more electricity than coal, the New York Times newspaper reported. Renewables generated 22 percent of the country’s electricity compared with 20 percent from coal, according to data published by the Rhodium Group, a nonpartisan research firm. In addition, a recent report from the International Energy Agency estimated that renewables are on track to overtake coal as the largest source of electricity generation worldwide by early 2025. Despite the good news on renewables and coal, America’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry increased 1.3 percent overall in 2022. Nations and communities around the world are looking to use more renewable energy sources to reduce dependance on fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases when burned. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such effort. Use what you read to write a consumer column detailing what is being tried, what it seeks to achieve and what are the long- and short-term benefits and challenges.
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. Disappearing Lake
The Great Salt Lake in the state of Utah is the largest U.S. lake after the five Great Lakes and the largest west of Mississippi River. But Great Salt Lake is shrinking due to drought, high temperatures and overuse of water in its region and could disappear entirely within five years. That is the harsh warning of a new report by scientists who have been studying water use and the effects of global warming on the huge water body in northern Utah. In 2022, its surface sank to a record low, 10 feet below what is considered a minimum healthy level, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Over the last three years, the lake has received less than a third of its normal stream flow because so much water has been diverted for other purposes before it gets to the lake. The lake now has just 37 percent of its former volume, the new report notes. Without dramatic cuts in water use, the lake could disappear entirely, authors of the report say, depriving the region of an important wildlife and recreation resource. “This is a crisis,” said a lead author of the report. “The ecosystem is on life support.” Global warming is having severe effects in the American West and other parts of the country. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these effects. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a video for younger students describing these effects and why they are important. Write an outline for your video and give it a title that would make younger viewers want to watch it.
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.
3. Honoring Dr. King
America’s most beloved civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., would have turned 94 on January 15 this year. This week the nation honors his life with the celebration of the Martin Luther King Day national holiday. Dr. King had many achievements in his life, including the “I Have a Dream” speech he delivered in Washington, DC, his belief in non-violent protest and his earning of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of just 35. He was a powerful speaker and writer, and one of his most powerful writings was his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” He wrote it after being imprisoned for non-violent demonstrations against racial discrimination and segregation. In the letter, he wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” With family, friends or classmates, read his amazing letter. Then use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read an article about an issue that troubles you. In the spirit of Dr. King, write a letter to a national or local leader expressing your concerns about this issue.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
4. ‘Super Tuskers’
African elephants are known for their tusks, but some are more spectacular than others. “Super Tusker” elephants have tusks that can weigh up to 100 pounds each and extend from an elephant’s head all the way to the ground. Most of the world’s remaining “Super Tuskers” can be found in the East African nation of Kenya in or near the Tsavo East National Park in the country’s southern region. Not surprisingly, they have been targeted for their tusks by illegal poachers and are now greatly endangered. That’s why the Tsavo Trust was founded in 2013 in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, CNN News reports. The goal of the partnership is to track, monitor and preserve the “Super Tuskers,” as well as other wildlife in the Tsavo Conservation Area. Super Tuskers are bull (male) elephants that have a genetic variation that causes the tusks to grow faster and longer. There are fewer than 50 living in the wild, with some estimates as low as 25. “These massive elephants are under constant threat from trophy poachers and trophy hunters,” says one conservationist involved in the protection program. “… A future where there are no ‘Big Tuskers’ in Tsavo is not worth thinking about.” Efforts to protect the “Super Tusker” elephants of Kenya are an example of people working to aid endangered wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another effort to protect an endangered species. Use what you read to write an open letter to your school or community, asking for support for this effort and explaining why it is important.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.
5. Hiking for Two
The Manitou Incline is a popular hiking trail in the state of Colorado that is one of the steepest climbs in North America. It features a 2,744-step staircase made of wooden timbers and rises more than 2,000 feet in less than a mile. It is a challenge for the best of hikers, and in 2022 one of them made history. Rachel Jones became the first woman to join the 1,000 Club of hikers who have climbed the incline 1,000 times in a year — and she did nearly half of those climbs while pregnant with a new baby! Jones, who is a massage therapist in the nearby city of Colorado Springs, is only the fourth person ever to climb the Incline 1,000 times in a year. Her 1,000 climbs come out to about 2-million feet in elevation, or a whopping 379 miles! “You’d think that it gets old after doing it 1,000 times but it doesn’t,” she told Colorado TV station KOAA. “The best thing is the feeling at the top.” Many people like the challenge of testing their skills and abilities against the demands of nature or outdoor environments. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a person who has done this. Pretend you are going to interview this person for a newspaper or news site online. Use what you read to write out five questions you would like to ask the person about their achievement, and why you would want the answers.
Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.