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for Grades 9-12

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For Grades 9-12 , week of Dec. 10, 2018

1. Phone Storage

Cell phones can cause problems in some schools, if they are overused or used in class. In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one high school has taken an extreme approach to cell phone use. Kensington High School has banned cell phones entirely, leaving students with the problem of what to do with their phones during the school day. With the help of local businesses, they came up with a solution: stashing their phones at local stores while they are in class. The approach started informally at the start of the school year, but now some stores hold 40 or more phones a day during school hours, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Some charge a modest fee of 50 cents a day while others offer the service for free. Students get a numbered ticket when they drop off their phones, so they can retrieve the correct phone when they return. The wide use of cell phones has prompted many schools to create policies governing their use (or non-use). As a class, discuss any cell phone policies or rules that your school has. Then discuss any changes you would like to see (or what kind of policy you would write, if your school does not have one). Write a short editorial outlining your views on cell phone policies for schools.

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. Puck Power

What should you do if a gunman breaks into your school? At a college in the state of Michigan, the answer is take the gunman on — with hockey pucks. Oakland University faculty and students are being trained in self-defense using hockey pucks, among other things, to distract and ward off attackers. Pucks are lightweight and hard and can cause real damage if thrown with velocity, according to University Police Chief Mark Gordon, who is leading the training. They also can easily fit into desks or backpacks. The union representing faculty at Oakland University is on board with the unusual approach, funding 2,500 hockey pucks for distribution to students and teachers. The Oakland effort is not the only unusual self-defense tactic proposed for dealing with school shootings. In the state of Pennsylvania, the Blue Mountain School District equipped all of its classrooms with a five-gallon bucket of rocks. The growing number of school shootings has prompted many school districts to develop safety plans. In teams or pairs, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about plans different districts have developed. Use what you read to draft a proposal for keeping students safe should a shooter attack the school. Share and discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

3. 64 Satellites!

The SpaceX company continues to break new ground as a space transportation business that serves both private companies and the government. This month it reached a new milestone, carrying 64 small satellites into space on a single mission. It was one of the largest satellite-launch missions in history, and the biggest ever for the United States. The satellites taken into space will serve a wide array of businesses, from Internet services to supply companies. As a private company, SpaceX is working to develop less costly ways to transport people and materials into space. Key to its cost-cutting is its method of re-using rockets and other hardware equipment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other innovations being developed for space travel or transportation. Pick one and create a multi-media presentation for the class, detailing how the innovation is breaking new ground and why that is important. Present your report to the class.

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.

4. Deadly Art

More than a few artists have said they would die for their art. A sculptor in the Canadian city of Toronto almost did. Gillian Genser likes to create sculptures by piecing together unusual materials, and for years she has been working with natural mussel shells taken from local waters. She was using them to create a sculpture of Adam, the first man in the Bible. But her work was making her sick — headaches, vomiting, memory loss, hearing problems — and doctors couldn’t find the cause. Finally, she had a blood test and discovered she was suffering from heavy-metal poisoning. And the source was the mussel shells she was using. The shells had absorbed metal toxins like lead and arsenic from the polluted waters where they were growing. Genser then was exposed to the heavy metals when she ground or drilled the shells. Genser said she was “flabbergasted” when she discovered the natural materials she was using were toxic. Contamination of natural areas by chemicals or heavy metals can cause long-term damage to habitats, wildlife and even humans. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about a contamination issue that is causing long-term damage. Use what you read to write a short editorial, outlining the problem, proposing a solution, and detailing who should be responsible for executing the solution.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Uber Bus

Uber and Lyft services have transformed the way people get around all over the world. Now Uber is taking the private vehicle transportation model even further in the African nation of Egypt. Uber has launched a minibus service in the city of Cairo that it hopes will be as successful as private cars and drivers have been with Uber’s ride-sharing app. Uber says its Uber Bus service will be “the most affordable way to use Uber technology to get around the city.” The new program is part of an Uber plan to increase the popularity of ride-sharing in Egypt and countries in the Middle East. Businesses often try new things to increase their sales or popularity. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a business doing something new to gain sales or popularity. Use what you read to write a business column for the newspaper, analyzing the effort and its long-term prospects for success.

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.