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For Grades 9-12 , week of Mar. 27, 2023

1. Obese and at Risk

All over the world there is growing concern about people who are overweight or obese (extremely overweight). The concern is based on medical studies that have shown people who are obese are more likely to experience health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and even some cancers. Now, a report from the World Obesity Federation has detailed how widespread the problem is. According to the report, more than half the people in the world age 5 and older — 51 percent — are projected to be overweight or obese by the year 2035. By comparison, just 38 percent of the population were overweight or obese in 2020. In raw numbers, more than 4-billion people will be overweight or obese by 2035, compared to 2.6-billion people in 2020, the Washington Post newspaper reports. In the United States alone about 58 percent of adults will be obese by 2035, according to the report’s projected trends. The steepest increase is expected among young people ages 5 to 19, with the predicted obesity rate among boys doubling from 10 to 20 percent and more than doubling among girls, rising from 8 to 18 percent. Getting healthy exercise is a key to losing weight and keeping weight off, health experts say. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about three ways to get exercise that would not involve organized sports. Write a letter to a friend inviting him or her to participate in these activities that would be both fun and healthy. For each, tell how being active in that way would be beneficial. Activities do not have to be strenuous but should be things you could do regularly.

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.

2. Final Four Excitement

The NCAA basketball tournaments are coming to a close this weekend for the top men’s and women’s teams in the NCAA’s Division I. This year’s tournaments have featured surprising upsets and record-setting performances for both men and women. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the teams that will play in this weekend’s Final Four competition — and how they advanced. Use what you read to write a sports column addressing how upsets or outstanding performances enabled one team to advance to the Final Four. The women’s Final Four games will be held Friday, March 31 with men’s Final Four games taking place Saturday April 1.

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.

3. Whale of an Adventure

Ocean sailing provides great thrills and adventures for people who try it as an activity. It also can present great risks. Storms, winds, waves and even pirates can make sailing on the world’s oceans hazardous. The crew of a sailboat heading out into the Pacific Ocean this month discovered another big risk — a whale. The crew was nearing the end of a five-day crossing from the Central American nation of Panama to the Galapagos Islands off the northwest coast of South America when they had an encounter with a huge whale, the Washington Post reported. It was disastrous in every sense of the word. A Bryde’s whale as long as the 44-foot sailboat called the “Raindancer” slammed into the rear (stern) section, bashing a hole in the hull. Water started pouring in as owner Rick Rodriguez and three friends hustled to inflate and launch a life raft and a small dinghy boat. The “Raindancer” sank in less than 15 minutes. Fortunately, the 31-year-old Rodriguez sent out an emergency distress call by wireless radio giving other boats their location. They were rescued in about 10 hours by another sailboat that had received the call. “There was never really much fear that we were in danger,” Rodriguez said. “Everything was in control, as much as it could be for a boat sinking.” People often have to face unexpected emergencies, and when they do they have to think and act quickly. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people dealing with an emergency situation. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing three things the people had to do quickly in the emergency — and why.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. ‘Pearling Town’

Pearls are precious gems formed inside sea mollusks like clams, oysters or mussels. They are round and shiny and greatly valued for their use in making jewelry. Most modern pearls are produced in “pearl farms,” but in ancient times they only could be collected from oceans and other waterways. Archaeologists in the Middle East say the oldest pearls were harvested there by individual divers as far back as 8,000 years ago. But how long have whole communities been fishing for pearls? Scientists in the Middle East nation known as the United Arab Emirates believe they have found “the oldest pearling town” in the Persian Gulf region. The settlement on Sinniyah Island dates back 1,500 years to the 6th Century C.E. and is unusual because it operated year round. Most early “pearling towns” only operated for part of the year. Artifacts found at the site include many loose pearls but also diving weights, Smithsonian magazine reports. These tools helped divers descend to the sea floor quickly and avoid unnecessary swimming. That was important since they had to hold their breath throughout their dives because there were no oxygen tanks. The site also contained thousands of discarded oyster shells. “You only find one pearl in every 10,000 oyster shells,” one expert said. “You have to find and discard thousands and thousands of oyster shells to find one,” Artifacts of old communities give scientists information about how people lived, worked and interacted with each other in ancient times. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a discovery of artifacts from an ancient community. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend telling the most important or interesting things the discovery revealed.

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.

5. Better Bird Immunity

In the spring in the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, millions of birds migrate from warm areas where they stay the winter to cooler areas where they breed and raise families. Many of them make stops along the way, taking breaks from journeys that are thousands of miles long. For years, researchers thought that the birds took the breaks to build up their bodies and strength for the rest of their journeys. While that is true in part, new research indicates birds may be stopping for another reason — to refresh their immune systems to help them fight off disease. A new study published in the science journal called Biology Letters found that the immune systems of birds gained strength during stops that lasted from just hours to over two weeks, the Washington Post reported. Samples of the birds’ blood during layovers indicated that the immune systems were stronger at the end of breaks than at the beginning. The researchers said the rejuvenation of the birds’ immune systems was a separate occurrence from the buildup of fat and muscle from eating during the rest stops. Many birds and animals migrate in the spring. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the spring migration of one species. Use what you read to plan a photo slide show showing this species in its migration, the places it visits and the challenges it faces. Use the newspaper and Internet to find photos for your slide show and present it to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific visual or textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.