Yak’s Corner

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For Grades 9-12 , week of July 10, 2017

1. Gerrymandering

One of the most controversial subjects in politics is how district boundaries for state legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives are drawn. The boundaries are set by state legislatures and often they are drawn to favor one party over another (depending on which has control). This is known as political “gerrymandering,” and now the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether it is constitutional when done for political advantage. The High Court will hear a case from Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges ruled last year that the state’s Republican leadership had pushed through a plan so partisan that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections. The Supreme Court has often been asked to strike down state electoral maps that reduce the influence of racial minorities, but it has never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is being challenged in the courts and by political organizations around the country. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to oppose or correct gerrymandering of legislative districts. Use what you read to write an editorial offering your opinion on what should be done, if anything, to reduce the effects of gerrymandering. Discuss your views with family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. ‘Purple Rain’ Tribute

The musician Prince was one of the most famous people born in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. And he continues to inspire pride over his achievements a year after his death. Last month, the Minnesota Twins baseball team paid special tribute at a “Prince Night” at Target Field by celebrating one Prince’s most famous songs. The Twins handed out “Purple Rain” umbrellas to the first 10,000 fans who showed up for the Twins’ game with the Cleveland Indians. The umbrellas were purple on top, and had a colorful picture of the musician riding a motorcycle on the under side. During the seventh inning “stretch” before the Twins came to back, fans opened the umbrellas and sang along to the music of “Purple Rain.” The “Purple Rain” umbrella giveaway was a creative way to honor the musician Prince. How would you honor a celebrity you like or admire? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a celebrity you like (living or dead). Pretend you have been assigned to organize a tribute event to honor this person. Write an outline for your event, detailing things you would do or offer to celebrate the person’s life or achievements. Discuss with friends and family.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it.

3. New Saudi Successor

In the Middle East nation of Saudi Arabia, the country’s king has reorganized the political power structure — and his son is the big winner. Saudi King Salman removed his nephew as crown prince in favor of his son, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. That makes Mohammed bin Salman first in line to succeed his father King Salman as ruler of the oil-rich nation. The 31-year-old also has been appointed deputy prime minister and will continue in his role as defense minister, according to a royal decree from the Saudi King, who is now 81 years old. Despite his youth, Mohammed bin Salman has had a prominent role in economic and military affairs in the nation. Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States and one of the most important nations in the Middle East. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the importance of Saudi Arabia to the United States and other nations. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining steps the U.S. could take to ensure good relations with Saudi Arabia.

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.

4. A Breezy Protest</p>

Students who oppose school rules sometimes find unusual ways to protest. Consider the boys at the Isca Academy in London, England. When a record-breaking heat wave hit London just before the end of school, the boys at Isca asked the school to ease its dress code and let them wear shorts. The school said no, so the boys came up with an unusual way to protest. They got their female classmates to loan them skirts from the official school uniform, and about 70 boys showed up wearing them the next day instead of pants. As an added benefit, the protest gave the boys relief from the heat. “It’s a nice breeze,” noted one eighth grader when asked about his skirt. Protests can sometimes call attention to issues in an unusual or humorous way. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an issue to which you would like to call attention. Or think about an issue at your school. Brainstorm an idea for a protest that would call attention to the issue in an unusual or humorous way. Write a paragraph describing your protest, and illustrate it with a drawing.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

5. ‘Robocop’ in Dubai

In a move right out of science fiction, the city of Dubai in the Middle East has added a robot to its police force. It can speak multiple languages, recognize faces with Artificial Intelligence, connect electronically with police headquarters, and allow people to record crimes or incidents with a keypad on its chest. It can’t make arrests, but it is equipped with a camera that can transmit live images to the police operations room. Named “Robocop” after the 1980s movie series, it is being used to patrol city streets, shopping malls and areas that tourists visit. If it is successful, Dubai officials say they would like to use robots for 25 percent of Dubai’s police force by the year 2030. Dubai’s “Robocop” is an example of technology being used in a new way. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another new use of technology. Write the word “TECHNOLOGY” down the side of a sheet of paper. Use each letter to begin a word or phrase that describes a benefit of the new use of technology.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; closely reading written or visual texts to make logical inferences from it.