1. ‘Hymn for the Hurting’
At just age 24, poet Amanda Gorman has become a person people turn to when they need words of hope or grief, anger or outrage. She first drew national attention when she read a powerful poem called “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Now she has weighed in on the tragedy of the Texas school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers. The poem is called “Hymn for the Hurting,” and it gives voice to the feelings that people across the country have been struggling to express. It mixes hurt with hope, anguish with aspiration. “Everything hurts,” her poem begins. “Our hearts shadowed and strange, / … We carry tragedy, terrifying and true. / And yet none of it is new …” It does not end on such a down note, however. “May we not just grieve, but give,” she writes. “May we not just ache, but act; / May our signed right to bear arms / Never blind our sight from shared harm; / May we choose our children over chaos. / May another innocent never be lost. / Maybe everything hurts, / Our hearts shadowed & strange. / But only when everything hurts / May everything change.” Amanda Gorman has used her latest poem to express strong emotions about school shootings and school safety. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about how students have reacted to the Uvalde shooting or other school violence. Use what you read and your own reactions to write a poem of your own about Uvalde or other school violence. In the spirit of Amanda Gorman, use vivid word pairings and unusual forms to make your poem memorable. Share poems and discuss with family, friends or classmates.
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.
2. A Racial ‘Reckoning’
In a “reckoning with history,” one of America’s leading slave ports will open a museum next year on the harbor front spot where slaves were unloaded from ships and sold. The museum in Charleston, South Carolina will be located at what used to be Gadsden’s Wharf, where slave ships docked and unloaded at least 100,000 enslaved Africans, CNN News reported. The 150,000-square-foot International African American Museum will feature nine exhibition galleries, an “African Ancestors Memorial Garden” and a large genealogy library that will help people do African American ancestry research about their families. More than 48 percent of all African slaves who came to the United States entered through Charleston, according to Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard University professor and historian. “So, for blackness, black culture, the African experience, the African American experience, slavery — however you want to slice it — this is ground zero,” Gates said. The museum is scheduled to open on January 21, 2023. Many communities and institutions are re-examining their role in the slave trade in the nation’s past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one community’s efforts. Use what you read to create a documentary video about the effort and the community’s reaction to it. Write an outline for your video and choose a celebrity to narrate it. Write a paragraph explaining why you chose the celebrity and why you think he or she would be effective.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
3. Fire-Proof Protest
All over the country, a war on books is heating up, with community activists taking aim at books they don’t like. Some want them banned from school or public libraries. Some want them censored. Some even want them burned to keep them out of the hands of children, teens or pre-teens. In response to such efforts, one of the world’s most famous authors has offered an unusual and dramatic response. Margaret Atwood, author of the futuristic novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” has created a fire-proof copy of the book and is auctioning it off to support literary freedom of expression. The unburnable, one-of-a-kind edition is being auctioned online by the Sotheby’s auction house through June 7, with proceeds going to PEN America, a nonprofit group supporting freedom of expression in literature. Bidding started at $35,000 and was approaching $100,000 by last week. “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been targeted repeatedly by community and political conservatives for its portrayal of a future world in which women have lost most of their rights and have been relegated to a role of child-bearers for the men of the society. The red capes and white hoods worn by the handmaids in the story have been adopted and worn by women protesting for women’s rights and equality in America and around the world. People often do unusual things to protest actions or ideas they disagree with. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about unusual protests. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing which approaches are effective and which are not. Share and discuss as a class.
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.
4. Wild Coast
As its name suggests, the Wild Coast of the African nation of South Africa features large stretches of undeveloped coastline, beautiful beaches and dramatic cliffs. Located in the nation’s eastern region, it borders the Indian Ocean where whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sardines live and migrate. It is one of the last coastlines in the world that belongs to Indigenous people. It also is an area rich in oil and other natural resources, and a place where development and preservation of the environment are in conflict. The Shell oil company wants to explore for oil in the waters off the Wild Coast, and residents who depend on the sea for a living want to block the effort, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Six months ago, a judge in South Africa gave the local residents a historic victory in the battle, temporarily blocking Shell from doing seismic exploration of the ocean using high-tech sound technology that could disrupt marine life. Seismic exploration uses air guns to bounce sound waves off the ocean floor to create models of what the floor looks like. The judge’s landmark ruling did not permanently block Shell from exploring off the Wild Coast but it did give residents time to gather more support. That will be important in the months ahead, because the South African government feels exploration by Shell would help the region’s economy. In nations large and small, there is often conflict between people who want to develop natural lands and people who want to preserve them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such conflict. Use what you read to Prepare a PowerPoint or multi-media presentation on the conflict between development and preservation and what might be a solution.
Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. ‘Witchcraft’ Reversal
A woman falsely accused of “witchcraft” in colonial New England finally has had her named cleared. It only took 329 years, but the Massachusetts state legislature voted late last month to formally exonerate Elizabeth Johnson Jr. on charges brought against her in 1693 at the height of the notorious Salem Witch Trials. The vote to clear Johnson’s name was sparked by an investigation by an eighth-grade civics class at a middle school in the town of North Andover whose students researched Johnson’s conviction and explored how to get it overturned, the Associated Press reported. The students’ work prompted State Senator Diana DiZoglio to draft legislation exonerating Johnson that was approved as part of a spending bill involving the state budget. North Andover teacher Carrie LaPierre — whose students pushed for the legislation — praised her class for taking on “the long-overlooked issue of justice for this wrongly convicted woman.” Johnson, who was once described as “simplish” and may have been mentally disabled, was one of 28 members of her family to be accused of witchcraft in 1692 and sentenced to death. Though her sentence was later overturned by the governor, her name was never cleared of the charges because she had no survivors. People often make news by working to “right a wrong” committed in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such effort. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining what is being done to right this wrong, why people feel the effort is important and obstacles that exist to success.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.