For Grades 9-12 , week of Jan. 14, 2019

1. Women in Power

Gains made by women in the 2018 election have given the U.S. Congress more female members than at any time in history. Nearly 24 percent of the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate are now women, but the nation still lags behind many countries in the number of women legislators. On the continent of Europe, for example, women make up nearly 40 percent of the legislature in France and more than 30 percent in both Britain and Germany, the Washington Post reports. In Latin America, legislatures of Cuba and Bolivia are more than 53 percent female, and in Mexico women hold more than 48 percent of seats. Worldwide, the country with the highest percentage of female lawmakers is the African nation of Rwanda, whose lower house of parliament is currently more than 61 percent female. In the United States and around the world, women are playing a greater role in politics. Supporters say this will change things for the better, because women bring a different perspective to politics and a different approach to problem-solving. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how the involvement of more women could change government and politics. Use what you read to write a political column spotlighting some of the more important changes.

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. Second-Hand Smoke

Breathing second-hand smoke from other people’s cigarettes has been well established as a health hazard. But it may be a bigger problem for babies and children than previously thought. New research from Pennsylvania State University has found that babies and toddlers exposed to second-hand smoke can be affected in almost the same way as adult smokers. The study focused on the presence of a chemical called cotinine, which is produced when the nicotine in cigarettes is broken down by the body. Researchers found that up to 15 percent of babies and children in low-income families had levels of cotinine similar to what would be found in an adult smoker. And about 63 percent of the children had significant levels of cotinine. “We’re finding [as much as] 15 percent of the babies have levels as if they were smokers themselves,” said Clancy Blair, a senior author for the study. “It’s scary,” added Lisa M. Gatzke-Kopp, the study’s lead author. Second-hand smoke is a health issue important to babies and young children. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another health issue that is important to babies and small children. Use what you read to design a public service ad for the newspaper, highlighting the key things families should know about the issue. Give your ad an eye-catching headline.

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

3. Long Odds for Jobs

Getting a good job is never easy, but in the Asian nation of India, the odds have proved astronomical. When India’s national railway system announced it had 63,000 openings for low-level jobs, 19-million people applied! That meant every applicant had a less than one-in-300 chance to win a job for positions such as porter, cleaner, gateman or assistant switchman. Many of those seeking the low-level positions were recent college graduates who could not find jobs in their fields, the Washington Post reports. India has the second largest population in the world with 1.3-billion people (second only to China). The number of workers between ages 15 and 34 is expected to rise to 480-million people by 2021. College graduates always face challenges getting jobs after graduation. But some fields are better for graduates than others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about which fields of study offer the best chances for getting a job after graduation. Use what you read to write a college/career advice column for college students. Create a chart of the most promising career fields to go with your column.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.

4. Toughest DUI Law

Many states have passed tough DUI laws in an effort to stop people from Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol. On New Year’s Eve the western state of Utah implemented the toughest DUI law in the country. The law lowered Utah’s blood alcohol limit to 0.05 percent, the tmost rigorous standard in the nation and significantly lower than the 0.08 standard used in most states. The new law also made it a felony of criminal homicide if anyone causes the death of another while driving with a “blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 … or greater.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that an average-size man would have to consume three alcoholic drinks in a short period to achieve a blood alcohol level of 0.05, CNN news reports. States frequently change laws in an effort to improve public safety. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a change in law made to make the public safer. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor analyzing why you think the change is a good step, or why you think it won’t work, or doesn’t go far enough.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

5. Turtle at Risk

The golden coin turtle gets its name from the beautiful yellow coloring it has on its head. It is one of the rarest turtles in the world and worth its weight in gold to poachers (selling for up to $10,000 per turtle). Though it once lived in nations across Asia, the golden coin turtle is now found in the wild in only one place: the region of Hong Kong in southeastern China. Poachers have pushed the turtle to the brink of extinction by trapping it illegally for sale as pets, food or for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Breeding programs have been set up to save the golden coin turtle from extinction, but researchers warn that unless illegal hunting is stopped the turtle could die out in the streams, forests and parks of Hong Kong. The golden coin turtle is a species facing extinction in the wild. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other species facing extinction. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film telling the story of this endangered species — how it became endangered and what steps could be taken to help it. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Choose a celebrity to narrate your film, if you like. Explain your choice.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.