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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 06, 2017

1. Running Out of Water?

Humans use a lot of water, and that’s causing problems around the world. Human activities are rapidly draining water from about a third of the world’s biggest underground reservoirs known as aquifers — and doing it more rapidly than the water can be replenished. Worse yet, a recent study discloses scientists have no idea how much water is left in those natural reservoirs, which in the U.S. alone supply drinking water to about half the population and water for irrigating farms. Because no one knows how much water is in aquifers, the lead researcher on the study said there is urgent need for “a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left.” Water shortages are causing problems all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about water shortages, lack of rainfall or long-lasting droughts. Then use what you read to design a website to offer information on these issues. Design the home page to show categories of information you want to highlight. Pick an image to illustrate each category. Then write headlines and text blocks to briefly 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; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. Drone Flights Being Curtailed

U.S. military operators of armed surveillance drones are being worn down by the unique stresses of their work, the Air Force has conceded. So it’s trimming the number of flights, even as military and intelligence officials are calling for more over combat zones in the Middle East. In the past decade, drone missions increased tenfold to meet the military demand for streaming video of insurgent activities, and some Pentagon officials had hopes to increase the number of flights. But many of the drone pilots are “undermanned and overworked,” an official has said, and are choosing to complete their military obligation and leave. The Air Force says it is losing more pilots than it can train to keep up with demand. Members of the U.S. have wide range of skills and specialties, and each is important to military operations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about special skills military personnel have and how they use them. Choose one skill or specialty and write a paragraph detailing what it accomplishes and why it is important.

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. Jails Housing Poor & Ill

Jails across the country have become vast warehouses of people too poor to post bail or pay costs, or too ill with mental health or drug problems to care for themselves adequately. A study titled “Incarceration’s Front Door” found that most of the inmates in local jails are there for minor violations, and often stay for long periods because they can’t pay court-imposed costs. The Vera Institute of Justice report noted that this is “a huge burden on taxpayers,” adding that the nation “need[s] to decide whether this is how we want to spend our resources.” The number of people housed in jails has increased in the last 20 years from 224,000 to 731,000, even as violent crime and property crime have fallen. How jails and prisons operate is a question often discussed in criminal justice circles. And there are sharp differences of opinion about how things should be done. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about discussion or debate involving jails or prisons. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving your view on how the situation should be handled. Support your arguments with facts from the stories.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; 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.

4. M.D. Exams Not ‘Macho’?

Men are at a higher risk for “silent killer” diseases like hypertension and diabetes, yet more than half of all American men haven’t seen a physician in the past year for a routine exam that could catch such ailments early. Some research suggests this is a macho thing. If that’s the case, it’s dangerous, the AFC/Doctors Express organization warns, because many more men than women drink heavily, smoke cigarettes, don’t have health insurance and are employed in dangerous occupations. All of those are risk factors for health problems, and the organization’s physicians recommend that men follow a Checkup Checklist with a medical professional every year. Regular check-ups with a doctor are important for both men and women. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about the benefits of regular check-ups and the most common problems they can reveal. Then use what you have read to brainstorm an idea for a short video or film encouraging men or women to get regular checkups. Write the first scene of your film in a way to quickly get the attention of your audience.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Press Freedom in Hong Kong

The Asian region of Hong Kong has long had a tradition of an independent and freewheeling news media. But that is increasingly threatened, now that Hong Kong is an administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, according to a new study. Journalists have been assaulted, stories are being censored and advertisers are shunning publications that anger the Chinese authorities, the writers group known as the PEN American Center reports. Hong Kong had retained a high level of autonomy when it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 after years of British rule. Press leaders and social activists say that independence has been whittled away as Chinese authorities encroach on the city-state’s autonomy. In the United States, freedom of the press is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of the press allows newspapers and their writers to report the news the way they see fit and freely express opinions about issues or leaders. Examine the importance of freedom of the press by reading the stories on the front page of today’s newspaper. Imagine the government had the power to block publication of one story. Write a paragraph analyzing what the public would lose by not having access to the information in the story, and why that would be important.

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.