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For Grades 9-12 , week of Dec. 12, 2022

1. A Senate Switch

Things move fast in the world of politics, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Consider the U.S. Senate. Just when Democrats thought they had won a clear majority with the victory of Senator Raphael Warnock in a runoff election in Georgia, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona scrambled national politics by announcing she was leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an Independent. Democrats still control the Senate by having Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris available to break tie votes, and because Republicans hold only 49 of the Senate’s 100 seats. But Sinema’s move could complicate negotiations on close votes or controversial legislation. Sinema did not immediately say whether she would align, or “caucus,” with Democrats as two other Independent senators do for committee assignments and votes. She did say she wanted to keep her positions on the Homeland Security, Banking, Commerce and Veterans Affairs Committees, which would require Democratic approval. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said he would allow that and stated he looked forward to working with Sinema in the future. “Kyrsten is independent; that’s how she’s always been,” Schumer said. “I believe she’s a good and effective Senator and am looking forward to a productive session [with] the new Democratic majority.” Sinema also said she didn’t foresee a change in her role. “I intend to show up to work, do the same work that I always do,” she said. “I just intend to show up to work as an Independent.” Even with Kyrsten Sinema registering as an Independent, the Democratic Party will still control the U.S. Senate. It will not control the U.S. House, however, after narrowly losing the majority in the midterm elections. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how the Senate and House will operate when new members take office in January. Use what you read to write a political column outlining the greatest challenges the House and Senate will face, how they should deal with them and how that will affect President Biden’s agenda.

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. Teen Mayor

In years past, teens and young adults were often criticized for not being interested in politics. In the 2022 midterm elections, however, young voters played a significant role determining the winners in races for Congress and other offices. In the state of Arkansas one teen went even further. In the city of Earle, 18-year-old Jaylen Smith ran for mayor — and won! Smith, who had been president of his high school student government for three years, defeated the city’s longtime streets superintendent for the mayor’s job, the Washington Post newspaper reported. “You have to start somewhere,” Smith said. “Why should I have to be great somewhere else when I could be great in Earle, Arkansas?” Smith, who lives with his parents, ran on a platform of bringing a grocery store to town, beautifying the city and improving transportation and public safety. He will juggle his duties as mayor with studies as a student at Arkansas State University Mid-South. Teens and young adults played an active role in the midterm elections and say they plan to be active in future elections as well. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the involvement of such young voters and the impact they could have. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor urging young voters to vote and get involved in politics and list reasons that 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. ‘Zombie’ Viruses

From melting icebergs to flooded coastlines, global warming is having a big effect on environments around the world. Now scientists are calling attention to an effect that sounds really creepy. As warming melts the “permafrost” layer of soil and ice in the Earth’s coldest regions, “zombie” viruses are being released that have been frozen for years. The viruses are called “zombies,” because they have never died despite being frozen for hundreds, or even thousands, of years, the Washington Post reports. It’s too early to tell if the viruses could cause deadly diseases like the coronavirus that has claimed nearly 6.7-million lives worldwide over the last two and one-half years. Yet scientists feel they are worth monitoring because there are likely more “zombies” than previously believed, according to a new study by European researchers. “Every time we look, we will find a virus,” said one of the authors of the study. “It’s a done deal … we are going to find some.” Global warming is affecting the world in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different effects that warming is having. Use what you read to design a poster highlighting some of these effects. Give your poster an eye-catching headline and present it to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Person of the Year

Ever since Russia invaded the neighboring country of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has drawn praise around the world for his courage, resolve and inspiration while leading his nation. Now he has been honored with one of the world’s most prominent awards: Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” award. “Zelensky’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious,” the magazine declared. “It spread through Ukraine’s political leadership in the first days of the invasion, as everyone realized the President had stuck around.” Zelensky refused to leave the capital city of Kyiv when Russian forces invaded Ukraine last February, instead staying to support the people of his country. “The fight is here,” he said. “I need ammunition, not a ride.” Time has honored a Person of the Year every year since 1927. Winners have included U.S. presidents, foreign leaders and (in 2019) teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg, the youngest winner ever. Many groups and organizations honor a Person of the Year for contributions to the community. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a person who has made great contributions to your community or state. Use what you read to design and write a public service ad for the newspaper or Internet, calling attention to this person’s contributions and achievements.

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.

5. Accord for a Cord

For people who use a lot of electronic devices, or buy upgrades when they come out, charging cords can be a big headache. Devices like Apple iPhones frequently change the shape of connections at the end of charging cords, forcing users to purchase different cords for different devices. A new and landmark law approved by the multi-nation European Union is about to put an end to such charging headaches. The law approved by the European Union Council will require that smart phones, tablets, headphones and other devices use charging cords with connections of the same shape and size, CNN News reports. The law will take effect in nations on the continent of Europe in 2024 and soon may be followed by other nations around the world, electronics experts say. Under the European law, charging cords will be required to work with the relatively cheap and simple USB-C cord connection — a move that one expert said is “a hallelujah moment for iPhone owners everywhere.” A universal charging cord would make life easier for electronics users. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another change that could make life easier for users of an electronic device or product. Use what you read to write a letter to the manufacturer, detailing why your change is needed and how consumers would respond.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.