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For Grades 9-12 , week of May 08, 2017

1. An Artificial Womb

Premature births are the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States, and “extreme prematurity” is the biggest reason. Extreme prematurity occurs when a mother gives birth earlier than 26 weeks into the average 40-week pregnancy. Now a team of researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has created an “artificial womb” that may save the lives of many more premature babies. The artificial womb, which has been tested on premature lambs, is a sealed bag made of polythene. It contains amniotic fluid that provides all the nutrients and protection needed for growth and an interface delivering oxygen that is similar to a natural umbilical cord. “This, in theory, should allow support of premature [human] infants,” the lead researcher said, noting that the goal is to “meet the unmet needs of extreme prematurity.” The development of the “artificial womb” is a medical advance that could affect many lives. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another medical advance. Write a paragraph summarizing what the advance accomplishes and why that is important.

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.

2. Cherokees Sue Over Opioids

The opioid epidemic has hit the Cherokee Nation hard in the area of Oklahoma where it is located. Now the Nation is seeking to hold pharmacies and drug distributors accountable for it. The Cherokee Nation has filed a lawsuit seeking “hundreds of millions of dollars” in damages because the companies “have turned a blind eye” and not taken steps to solve the opioid problem, Cherokee lawyers contend. In particular, the Nation alleges the companies have not complied with federal drug regulations, failed to keep detailed information on the medications sold, not protected pills from theft and failed to set up safeguards against filling “suspicious” prescriptions. The suit by the Cherokee Nation was filed in tribal Cherokee Court, a move that likely will be challenged by the drug companies on the ground Cherokee Court would not be an unbiased venue to hear the case. The opioid epidemic has affected communities all over the nation and caused numerous overdose deaths. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about opioid addiction and the ways different communities are trying to deal with it. Use what you read to write a short editorial, assessing one effort to deal with the opioid epidemic and its prospects for success.

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.

3. Life Without Oxygen

The naked mole rat is one of the weirdest looking mammals on Earth. And looks aren’t the only thing that’s weird about them. Scientists have discovered that the tiny, hairless mole rats can survive without oxygen for short periods, and also can live in reduced oxygen environments. Scientists involved in a new study found that naked mole rats could survive up to 18 minutes without oxygen by shifting the way they metabolize nutrients. They said the mole rats appear to have developed this ability to adapt to crowded colonies in which up to 200 rats cram together and reduce the amount of oxygen available. Researchers said understanding just how these creatures switch metabolism to stay alive could lead to new treatments for human patients suffering oxygen deprivation due to strokes or heart attacks. Scientists are constantly studying wildlife species to learn new things about how they live and survive. In the newspaper, find and closely read a story about a study of a wildlife species. Create a story board to explain what the study has learned in the form of a comic book or series of comic strips. Share strips with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Free College

A college education can help people land better jobs and careers, and in the state of Tennessee all adults are going to get a chance for higher learning — for free. The state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would fund two years of community college or technical school for “older adults” at no cost to the students. The bill now goes to the state Senate. The program called Tennessee Reconnect will cover all adults over 24 years old, so people really don’t need to be that old to qualify. It’s a companion to the Tennessee Promise program that will give all high school seniors access to two years free of community college and technical education. Both will take effect in the fall of 2018. A college education can help people obtain better jobs or careers. So can advanced technical training. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a college or technical program that helps people in their careers. Use what you read to create a one-minute TV commercial highlighting the benefits of the program. Write a script for your commercial. Read the text aloud to make sure it fits into one minute. Detail what images you would use with your script.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Obama Mural Debate

A new mural of former First Lady Michelle Obama has sparked a heated debate about artists’ rights, plagiarism and the creative process. The mural was painted by Chicago artist Chris Devins on a building in the Chicago neighborhood where Michelle Obama grew up. It depicts her as an Egyptian queen wearing a colorful headdress. As soon as it was finished, Devins drew criticism online because it was almost identical to a work created by Rhode Island art student Gelila Mesfin — and because Devins had implied it was his own idea when he raised $12,000 for it in a GoFundMe campaign on the Internet. He has since credited Mesfin as inspiration for the mural and has offered to pay her a licensing fee. Mesfin herself had based her work on a photograph by Collier Schorr and had credited the photographer as the inspiration. The rights of artists who create works of art are protected by copyright laws. The nation’s founders felt so strongly about artist’s rights that they included copyright protection in the U.S. Constitution. As a class, use the newspaper or Internet to read about copyright cases involving artists, writers, moviemakers or others. Use what you read to hold a class discussion on why copyright laws are needed, and what penalties would help protect copyrights.

Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic,