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For Grades 9-12 , week of Sep. 09, 2019

1. No Fruity Flavors

The growing popularity of e-cigarettes among teenagers has become a significant concern for health experts around the country. A top worry is that candy or fruity flavors like bubble gum, cherry, mint, blueberry or vanilla will encourage teens to try e-cigarettes and risk addiction to the nicotine they contain. This month, in an effort to curb teen use of the products, the state of Michigan became the first in the nation to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes entirely. The ban covers both retail and online sales and will last for six months, at which point it can be renewed. During that time state health officials will be working to develop permanent regulations to ban flavored e-cigarettes. The Michigan ban comes at a time when there has been a rash of reports of serious lung illnesses connected to e-cigarette use, including two deaths. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about e-cigarettes and how they can affect users. Use what you read and additional research to create a website offering information on e-cigarettes, what is known about their effect on health, and questions would-be users should ask. Design the home page to showcase key issues to consider. Pick an image to illustrate each. Then write headlines and text blocks to 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.

2. ‘Frozen in Time’

Shipwrecks are a window on the past, letting people see what life was like in years gone by. In the frigid waters of the Canadian Arctic Ocean this summer, researchers have explored and photographed a wreck that hadn’t been seen in nearly 175 years. It was so well preserved that its contents and interior seem “essentially frozen in time,” one researcher reported. The wreck was that of the HMS Terror, a British vessel trapped in ice while trying to find a “Northwest Passage” to the continent of Asia in 1845. On board were 129 men, and when they abandoned the trapped vessel, all died in the freezing conditions of the Arctic. The Terror was first discovered by a native Inuit hunter, who noticed a mast sticking out of the ice on a trip to an area known as Terror Bay. The ship was identified in 2016 by a team of Inuit and Canadian researchers. The interior of the ship was seen for the first time this summer when researchers sent an underwater robot down to examine the wreckage. Cabins on the boat were found to be perfectly preserved, with glass plates stacked neatly on shelves, bottles and jugs standing upright in storage nooks and rifles still hanging on the walls. Researchers hope cabinets and storage dressers in the rooms may hold artifacts or journals that will shed light on the ill-fated voyage. Shipwrecks are one way historians learn more about the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another way historians are studying the past. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of the approach taken by the historians in the story.

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. Stay Positive!

In movies and in life, people often say you’ll be better off if you “always look on the bright side of life.” Now there’s scientific proof to back up that advice. A new study has found that optimists who look on the bright side live longer than pessimists who view things darkly. A team of researchers in Boston, Massachusetts found that the most optimistic people live an average of 11 to 15 percent longer than pessimists. Both male and female optimists are more likely to live to age 85, the researchers reported in the science journal called Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers did not answer the question WHY optimists live longer, but noted that optimists generally expect good things to happen, feel they can control important outcomes and deal with stress more effectively, the Washington Post reports. Optimists also tend to live healthier lifestyles, exercise more and avoid health risks such as smoking or drug use. Being optimistic can help people be successful. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about people who are optimistic. Use what you read to create a song on the benefits of “Staying Positive.” Take the tune of a song you like and re-write the words to fit the message. Then share or perform it for the class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

4. Car Tax

As in many cities of the world, traffic plagues the European city of Brussels, the capital of the nation of Belgium. Now officials are looking at a new — and likely unpopular — way to reduce traffic problems. The officials are considering a new tax that would penalize heavy use of cars in Brussels. The tax would be linked to the length and frequency of car trips, and use camera systems to monitor which cars and drivers frequent the capital’s roads most often. Its goal is to persuade drivers to use other means of transportation and reduce congestion on city streets. It won’t be taking effect soon, however. Government leaders expect to enact the new tax sometime over the next five years. Many cities and communities have traffic problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a city trying to solve a traffic problem. Use what you read to write a proposal to address the issue. Be sure to outline why you think your approach would be effective.

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

5. Dumb and Dumber

Sometimes crooks deserve to get caught. In Washington State recently, a man called police to report his truck had been stolen. William Kelley reported the theft around 6 in the morning in the city of Kennewick, telling officers he had left his keys on the seat of his pickup and “someone just stole it.” When authorities reviewed video from security cameras in the area, they discovered why Kelley was in the area in the pre-dawn hours in the first place. He was robbing a business across the street from his truck. Kelley was arrested and charged with burglary. His truck was not immediately recovered. Criminals often do dumb things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such hapless crooks. Use what you read to write a humorous news report detailing the dumb details of the crime.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.