For Grades 9-12 , week of Sep. 27, 2021

1. A Global Pledge

In the battle against global warming and climate change, poorer nations often have a harder time than wealthier ones because they lack the resources for programs to cut carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. At the United Nations last week, President Biden announced that the United States will provide some of those badly needed funds to bring change about. The President said he plans to double the funding the United States provides each year to help developing nations address the effects of climate change and build greener economies. Biden said he intends to work with Congress to increase U.S. spending on the issue to $11.4-billion a year for poor nations “to support the countries and people that will be hit the hardest and that have the fewest resources to help them adapt.” Among the goals of the U.S. effort will be to help developing nations transition away from using fossil fuels like oil and gasoline, which create greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere when burned. Reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will require the cooperation of many nations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to get nations to work together to address this problem. Use what you read to write a short editorial detailing the most important steps that need to be taken next to make progress on this issue.

Common Core State Standards: 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.

2. Deep in the Amazon

The Amazon rain forest in the South American nation of Brazil is one of the last places on Earth where indigenous native peoples live in much the same way as they did thousands of years ago. At the same time, technology and social media are making inroads into what once were isolated tribal communities. One unusual use of social media is teaching the world about ancient customs by beaming them out as TikTok videos. This amazing convergence of the primitive and the modern is the work of a 22-year-old woman who lives in the Tatuyo Indigenous Community on the banks of the Rio Negro river in northwestern Brazil. The woman, Cunhaporanga Tatuyo, first got interested in TikTok when her village of thatch-roofed huts got a satellite antenna to connect with the Internet, the Washington Post newspaper reports. She started making videos of daily life: painting her face, preparing food, showing her family dancing and playing traditional flutes. It wasn’t until she showed herself eating the wriggling larva of a palm beetle that her popularity exploded. Almost immediately the video had a million views, and her following now has swelled to more than 6 million people. Though some might question using the Internet to spotlight native culture, Cunhaporanga feels it is a way to document and safeguard it from outside threats. All over the world, the culture and traditions of indigenous peoples are threatened by modern life and development. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one group of indigenous people facing such challenges. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film about these people. Write an outline for your documentary, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Koala Danger

When it comes to wildlife, one of the most popular symbols of Australia is the fuzzy and cuddly koala. Koalas are sometimes called bears, though they aren’t really related. They are marsupials like kangaroos, and carry their young in pouches on their bodies to keep them safe. Over the last three years, Australia has been anything but safe for koalas, however. A conservation group called the Australian Koala Foundation has revealed that the South Pacific nation has lost nearly one-third of its koala population due to deadly droughts, bushfires and developers cutting down trees that koalas use for habitat and food, CNN News reports. The koala foundation estimates the koala population has dropped to less than 58,000 this year from more than 80,000 in 2018. One state — New South Wales — has seen a decline in koalas of 41 percent. “The declines are quite dramatic,” Australian Koala Foundation Chair Deborah Tabart said. “I just think action is now imperative. I know that it can just sound like this endless story of death and destruction, but these figures are right.” In fact, she added, they are “probably worse,” since an estimated 3-billion wild animals were killed or injured by bushfires alone in 2019 and 2020. Bushfires and wildfires are causing huge damage in Australia, the United States and other nations. When calculating what has been lost in the fires, wildlife are often overlooked. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about wildlife losses in wildfires and bushfires. Use what you read to write a fund-raising letter seeking money to pay for wildlife rescue and recovery efforts. Be sure to include all relevant statistics and to begin your letter with the most dramatic ones.

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.

4. ‘Upcycling’

Everyone is familiar with recycling — reusing materials like paper, metals and plastic to create new products. Now it’s time to discover a new word — “upcycling.” It’s coming to the food we eat. Upcycling has been around for a while in the fashion world in which people take old clothes and make them modern and new. In the food world, upcycling means taking materials that would be thrown away in mass-market food production and turning them into new food products, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Upcycling materials could be the “shavings” left over when making “baby carrots,” apple and banana peels, or the crushed materials left over from making fruit juices. The Whole Foods Market chain recently called upcycling one of the top 10 food trends of 2021, and some upcycled products already can be spotted on the shelves: upcycled chocolate chip cookies, upcycled barley milk and upcycled veggie chips. Upcycled materials not only keep wastes from filling up landfills; they are rich in fiber and nutrients. The challenge is getting people to eat healthy foods that have the word “waste” in their ingredients. People can practice upcycling at home by using all parts of the foods they buy — or finding creative ways to use leftovers. In the newspaper or online, find and study grocery ads showing vegetables, fruits and other fresh foods. Take note of parts of the foods people don’t usually use. Use the newspaper and Internet to research ways to use these food parts that might otherwise get thrown away. Look up recipes for using them — or create your own.

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.

5. World’s Oldest Twins

With advances in medicine, exercise and nutrition, people are living longer and longer around the world. In the Asian nation of Japan, two sisters have become the world’s oldest identical twins — at age 107! Umeno Sumiyama and Koume Kodama were born on November 5, 1913 and certified by the Guinness World Records organization as the oldest identical twins on September 1. They were born on Shodo Island but lived much of their life apart after Kodama married and moved off the island. They kept in touch at family gatherings and around the age of 70 went on several Buddhist pilgrimages together, CNN News reported. The world’s oldest person is also a woman from Japan, 118-year old Kane Tanaka. The oldest man is 112-year-old Saturnino de la Fuente Garcia of Spain. Senior adults are living active and healthy lives for longer and longer. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a senior adult who is living an active life at an advanced age. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, detailing how this senior’s active life could inspire people of all ages to stay active.

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.