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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 05, 2024


President Biden recently issued an executive order that imposes financial sanctions and bans visa approval for four Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been accused of attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists. With the United States’ history as a close ally to Israel, the order was a rare move against the Middle Eastern country and its citizens. The Biden administration is facing criticism for its support of Israel as the country uses military force against Palestinians to root out the militant group Hamas in Gaza. Read more about the executive order online, then write a paragraph explaining how an order against four people is meaningful in the greater context of the Israel-Hamas war and the United States’ relations with Israel.


For people struggling with dependence to their smartphone, some have turned back time and made the switch back to a flip phone to simplify their lives. Of those who have made the switch, many have said its improved their relationships, mental health, and productivity. Yogurt company Siggi’s even rolled out a contest for people to ditch their smartphones for the month, offering $10,000 to ten winners at the end of February—more than 322,000 people signed up. There are some challenges, as our world is increasingly dependent on smartphones even outside of connectivity and social interaction, like using QR codes for restaurant menus, digital tickets for airlines and events, and more. There are ways to reach a middle-ground in making smartphones less addictive, like turning off notifications, deleting social media apps, and changing display settings from color to grayscale. Do you think you’re addicted to your smartphone? Research recent studies that look at smartphone and social media addiction in young people, like the number of times people in your age group check their phone in a day. Then, write an article that summarizes the facts you’ve learned and how a smartphone-free challenge like this would affect those results. Include tips for people your age that might be considering switching to a flip-phone.


In an effort to reduce the amount of the dangerous drug fentanyl coming into the United States, the Biden administration has negotiated with China to put competitions aside for a common goal. China is the main source of chemicals used to make fentanyl, according to the New York Times. The Biden administration is looking for China to restrict the export of those chemicals so people in the US will have less opportunity to make the synthetic opioid drug. Fentanyl kills at least 100,000 Americans a year and has become an epidemic in the United States; Oregon declared a state of emergency last week to address the fentanyl crisis in Portland as deaths increased 533 percent from 2018 to 2022. As the government looks to address the drug crisis from outside sources, how can it be addressed in the United States at the ground level? Using research about the drug and its dangers, create a campaign that encourages people to stay away from drugs and stay safe from fentanyl. Write out your ideas of how you would reach your target audience and what messaging you would use to convey information.


A new study shows an increasing divide between young men and women on the impact of feminism and women’s equality. Research from the United Kingdom found Gen Z men and boys were less likely to believe it’s harder to be a woman than a man in today’s society, that feminism has done more harm than good to society, and more. Young men in the study were no more supportive of gender equality than older men; 37 percent of men ages 16 to 29 say “toxic masculinity” is an unhelpful term. Comparatively, 47 percent of young men find it a helpful term. For women ages 16 to 29, 68 percent say its harder to be a woman, while only 35 percent of men in the same age agree. Surprisingly, only 17 percent of men ages 60 and older believe it’s harder to be a man today, compared to 25 percent of men in all lower age groups. Why do you think young men feel this way compared to older men? Do you think there’s a difference between the men studied in the UK and those here in the US? Write an opinion article about this study and your views on the topic, supporting your claims with research where possible.


Research may finally have an answer to why women are far more likely than men to be affected by autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the body. The answer could lie in how the female body handles its extra X chromosome, according to researchers at Stanford University. At least 80 percent of autoimmune diagnoses are in women, and this new study points to the XX chromosome pair, as the X chromosome is larger than the Y chromosome found in males. Women’s cells have to inactivate the extra X chromosome to avoid getting double the genes from it, using a specific type of RNA called Xist (pronounced “exist”). This RNA attached protein clumps to the chromosome, thus inactivating it. However, in some cases, the RNA may leak out of the cell, where the immune system can take notice and attack the normal proteins associated with Xist. Part of why the link was never discovered before is that many standard tests for autoimmune diseases were made using male cells, where Xist doesn’t exist. Research more about men as the standard patients in medical research and how it has affected health care for women. Then, write an article summarizing what you’ve learned and these new findings and how they fit together.