1. Oscar Women’s History
March is Women’s History Month, and at last week’s Academy Awards ceremony, two women made history in the world of filmmaking. When Michelle Yeoh won the Oscar for Best Actress, she became the first Asian performer to win the award in the 95-year history of the Oscars. At the same ceremony costume designer Ruth E. Carter made history by becoming the first Black woman to win two Oscars. Yeoh won the coveted acting award as star of the movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which also won the Oscar for Best Picture. Carter won her Oscar this year in the Best Costume Design category for the movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” She won her first Oscar, also in Costume Design, for the first “Black Panther” movie in 2019. “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” the 60-year-old Yeoh said. “… And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime.” Carter thanked the Academy “for recognizing this superhero that is a Black woman. She endures. She loves. She overcomes. She is every woman in this film.” Across the United States and the world, women are making history by doing things that women have never done before. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a woman who has done this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how this woman’s achievement could inspire other girls and women. Share with the class and discuss.
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. Teens for Prison Reform
The juvenile justice system was set up to keep teens convicted of criminal behavior out of the adult prison system. But often, juvenile detention centers have disrupted education, hardened criminal attitudes and failed to “rehabilitate” behaviors that lead to future imprisonment. In the state of Louisiana, teenage girls are leading a fight to close juvenile detention centers and replace them with community-based residences and programs that give teens and young adults a chance to change their lives and get out of the prison system. The girls are members of the Black Girls Rising program, which is an extension of a larger group called Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, the website called The 19th reports. In partnership with the Black Man Rising group for young men, the teen girls provide resources and information to incarcerated young people and their families and offer emotional support when a young family member is imprisoned. The bigger, long-term goal is to close youth detention centers, replace them with local alternatives to youth incarceration and raise awareness about the racial disparity between the number of Black and White youths who are imprisoned. While Black youth represent about 15 percent of young people in the United States, they represent about 41 percent of those in juvenile facilities, according to data analyzed by the national Sentencing Project. From prison reform to global warming, more and more teens are working to change things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a teen or group of teens doing this. Use what you read to write a political column outlining what the teens are trying to do, what obstacles they face and what kind of support they need to succeed.
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.
3. Musical Support
Music often can bring people together, and it did so in a big way recently in the state of Kentucky. At a high school basketball tournament, a team that was unable to bring its band got unexpected support from musicians from a rival school. The unplanned support came about in the middle of a tight game between the Martin County High School boys’ basketball team and Lawrence County High School, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The two teams were evenly matched on the court, but Lawrence had an advantage because its band was pumping up the crowd. Martin’s band had not made the trip to the tournament due to a bus driver shortage, but the band of rival Pike County Central High School came to the rescue. With the score tied, Pike’s musicians started playing for Martin, energizing the team and its cheerleaders. Martin eventually won and moved on to the state tournament for the first time in 40 years. Pike’s team lost in the regionals and did not advance to the states, but Pike musicians still got to go. At the invitation of the Martin band, Pike’s band played alongside their sometime rivals to support the Martin team. “Them doing that really shows their sportsmanship,” one Martin player said. Music can bring people together in many positive ways. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about one example of this. Use what you read to create a song, poem, rap or rhyme about “The Power of Music.” Read it aloud to the class, with feeling!
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.
4. A Heritage of Protest
In the history of American protests, People’s Park in Berkeley, California holds a significant place. It was the scene of many protests against the Vietnam War and other issues, and the site of a bloody confrontation between protesters and police in 1969 in which one person was killed. Today, the park is again sparking controversy, this time over a plan to use some of its land for housing for the University of California. UCal-Berkeley, which owns the park, wants to build a $312-million complex that would house 1,100 students and more than 125 homeless people, while leaving half the park as open space. Berkeley residents and activists want to preserve the whole park as a historic site and have filed lawsuits to oppose the plan, the New York Times reported. The city of Berkeley declared the park a historical and cultural landmark in 1984, but a severe student housing shortage prompted the university to draw up a plan to put college dorms there. In late February, a state appeals court in San Francisco sided with the opponents and indefinitely halted construction. UCal-Berkeley officials say they will appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court. People often go to court and file lawsuits to stop plans or developments they oppose. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one case of people doing this. Use what you read to write an analysis of the case, the merits of arguments on each side and whose case you think is stronger.
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.
5. ‘Adaptive Reuse’
In the United States and around the world communities often have to figure out what to do with old buildings after they have outlived their original use. For many years the easy solution was to tear them down and build something new. In more recent times, communities have realized that tearing down old buildings often destroys structures that had beauty, style or architectural distinctiveness. As a result, “adaptive reuse” became an option for buildings that often had a significant role in a community’s past. In the European nation of Spain, the city of Canfranc has just celebrated an ambitious reuse project that turned an abandoned railroad station into a luxury hotel. The Canfranc Station was first opened in 1928 and was active as a railroad hub for more than 40 years. It closed in 1970 and lay dormant for more than 50 years after that. Then with support of the local government, a bold plan for adaptive reuse was put in motion, CNN News reported. A $29-million project transformed the grand old station into a five-star hotel with 104 rooms, a wellness area, a pool and three restaurants. Adaptive reuse provides cities and communities a way to preserve significant or beautiful buildings from the past by giving them a new purpose. In the newspaper or online, find and closely study photos and stories about old buildings in cities or communities in your state. Use what you read and additional resources to write a proposal for re-using one of these buildings in a new way. Be sure to outline the reasons this building deserves to be preserved and how its new use would benefit the community. For added fun, talk as a class about old buildings in your community that could be candidates for adaptive reuse.
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; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.