For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Feb. 27, 2023

1. Bidens on the Move

Earlier this month, President Biden made news by secretly traveling to the European nation of Ukraine to support President Volodymyr Zelensky in his battle against the invasion of his nation by Russia. On the heels of that, First Lady Jill Biden took off for a five-day visit to the African nations of Namibia and Kenya. Goal of the First Lady’s trip was to show U.S. support for African nations, and to blunt the growing influence in Africa from the Asian nation of China. Accompanied by her granddaughter Naomi, the First Lady focused on the empowerment of women and youth and promoted “our shared values in the areas of democracy, health cooperation and economic prosperity,” the Washington Post newspaper reported. In Namibia Biden delivered a speech to college-age students to highlight the important role young people play in democracy. When her husband was vice president to President Barack Obama, the First Lady made five goodwill trips to Africa. On one of them she was accompanied by her granddaughter Finnegan. The trips by President Biden and the First Lady showcased America’s role as a leader in the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other ways the United States shows world leadership. Use what you read to write a political column outlining what you think are the most important challenges facing the President regarding U.S. leadership in the world, and how he should respond to them.

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. Maya ‘Superhighways’

Thousands of years ago, the Maya people developed a highly advanced civilization in southern Mexico and Central America. The Mayans created cities, had great achievements in art and astronomy and developed the only known writing system of the ancient Americas. Now, through the use of modern technology, the scientists have discovered that the Mayans had another great skill: they were expert highway builders. Using laser technology that can map jungle areas from the air, researchers have found that the Mayans constructed a complex network of highways that connected more than 400 cities and towns like a spider’s web, CNN News reported. The highways were raised stone trails built above swamps and the floors of dense forests and some were almost as wide as half a football field. They were built with layers of mud, stone and limestone cement, topped by white plaster so they would be visible in moonlight at night. “They’re the world’s first superhighway system that we have,” said a lead researcher. The discovery of ancient artifacts can shed light on how people lived and worked in earlier times. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one of these discoveries. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing what scientists learned about ancient life from these artifacts. Then write a paragraph detailing what future scientists could learn from items and artifacts found in your family’s home today. Share with the class and discuss.

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. Do-It-Yourself Win

Debate teams offer many benefits to students. They teach them how to research and organize information, speak effectively in public, support arguments with facts and display confidence when appearing before others. In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the debate team at Masterman High School scored a national victory this month, when two team members won the varsity public forum division at the 48th University of Pennsylvania Tournament. It was a major achievement for the Masterman team and not just because its members out-performed 120 debaters from 23 states. Masterman’s team has no budget, no coach and is led by the students themselves, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reported. The victory by co-captains Henry Anastasi and Joshua Cohen was all the more remarkable because they triumphed over students from schools that spend thousands of dollars to send debaters to competitions. The Masterman students do their own fund-raising and also get support from alumni graduates. “We’re not on the outside” any more,” Anastasi said. They are proud of both their achievements and their city. When they won their division on Super Bowl weekend, they both wore Philadelphia Eagles jerseys to support the hometown team. High school students often make news by overcoming obstacles. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a student or students doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to younger students outlining how the achievements, perseverance and character of the high school students could help younger students overcome obstacles.

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.

For the following activity, please link the word “here” to this url

4. Oops!

One of the biggest fears people have when they go to museums or art galleries is that they will damage something that is on display. That happened to a visitor at an art show in the city of Miami, Florida this month. And the visitor didn’t just damage a “balloon dog” sculpture by famed artist Jeff Koons. The ceramic glass artwork smashed into thousands of pieces when it was knocked off its stand, CNN News reported. The 2021 artwork was titled “Balloon Dog (Blue)” and valued at around $42,000, according to the Bel-Air Fine Art gallery, which was displaying the piece at an art fair. A visitor who is an art collector accidentally knocked over the 16-inch-tall dog that looks like a balloon sculpture at the fair's opening cocktail hour. Bel-Air Fine Art said it was “heartbreaking” that the sculpture had been damaged, even though it was insured. Yet the work could prove valuable even in its broken state. Several art collectors inquired about buying the pieces, a Bel-Air spokesman said. It would not be the first time. A painting by the famous graffiti artist Banksy became millions of dollars more valuable after it had been shredded by a secret contraption installed by the artist in its frame. Balloon sculptures by Jeff Koons (click here) also have sold for millions, including “Balloon Dog (Orange)," a 10-foot-tall, stainless-steel piece that sold for $58.4-million in 2013. Art museums and galleries often display famous or unusual works in exhibitions. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and photos of an artwork on display at an exhibition in your state. Think like an art critic, and write a review of the work, detailing how it makes you feel emotionally, what you like most about it visually and what you like least. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

5. It’s Good to Be King

King Charles III waited 70 years to become king of England, and when he is officially coronated next May he plans to do it up big. The new monarch, who succeeded his mother Queen Elizabeth II, is choosing a wide range of music to celebrate the occasion, and because he is king, he is getting contributions from some of the world’s best composers. One of those is the musical superstar Andrew Lloyd Webber, who composed the music for the famous and popular theater musicals “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.” Webber will write the signature “anthem” that will be used throughout the three-day coronation celebrations. It includes original music, plus words “slightly adapted” from Psalm 98 of the Bible, Webber said. The Psalm includes the words: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” “I hope my anthem reflects this joyful occasion,” Webber said. Among the other works created especially for the event will be a “Coronation March” by Patrick Doyle, an award-winning Scottish composer best known for his work on films like “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” From the Super Bowl to the Fourth of July, music often plays a big part in celebrations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a celebration being planned in your community or state. Pretend you are the music director and choose three or four songs you would include. For each, write a paragraph telling why it would be good for the occasion.

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.