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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 14, 2022

1. Thrills and Agony

As an old sports show used to declare on TV, the Winter Olympics feature “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Athletes who have trained for years, win gold medals against the top competition in the world, or fall short by mere seconds or untimely mistakes. This year’s Winter Olympics, now in their second full week in Beijing, China, have had plenty of joy and disappointment for athletes from the United States and other nations. First the agony: mistakes knocked two-time U.S. gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin out of her two best skiing events, the slalom and giant slalom. But then there were U.S. stars Lindsey Jacobellis, Chloe Kim and Nathan Chen. Jacobellis finally won a gold in the snowboard-cross event in her fifth Winter Olympics at age 36. Kim became the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in women’s halfpipe snowboarding. And Chen won a gold in men’s figure skating after falling and finishing out of the running in the 2018 Olympics. In the newspaper or online, follow the competition in the Winter Olympics this week. Find and closely read one story about an athlete who experienced disappointment and one who experienced joy. Use what you read to write a sports column comparing the experiences of the two athletes and the emotions they felt.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Fate for a Slave Trader

The Black Lives Matter movement got its start in the United States, but its impact has been felt all over the world. In the European city of Bristol, England, demonstrators protesting the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the United States toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it in the city harbor. Since then, as in U.S. cities that have removed statues of people with ties to slavery, Bristol officials have been struggling with what to do with the statue. A survey of almost 14,000 Bristol residents has given city leaders their answer, according to a report by the “We Are Bristol History Commission.” The report found that 74 percent of city residents wanted to see the Colston statue put on display in a Bristol museum, laid horizontally as it was when it was taken down, with graffiti painted on by protesters left intact, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Edward Colston was a 17th-century member of England’s Parliament legislature who lived between 1636 and 1721. He was a philanthropist who supported charities and schools, but much of his wealth was gained by buying and selling thousands of people in the slave trade. Many communities are grappling with what to do with statues of people who had a connection to the slave trade or were bigoted against people of color. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how different communities are dealing with this issue. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film examining different approaches being taken by communities. Give your film an eye-catching title and write an outline for how it would tell the story. Include ideas for images you would use in your film.

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.

3. Satellite Disaster

Solar storms are disturbances in the Earth’s atmosphere caused by flares and eruptions on the sun that radiate outward through the solar system. They are not harmful to humans, but they can stir up magnetic and electrical fields in ways that can damage technology, satellites and spacecraft. The SpaceX company discovered just how damaging solar storms can be this month when one caused a geomagnetic disturbance that destroyed 40 of 49 newly launched communications satellites. The satellites were in a low orbit about 130 miles above the Earth as part of the company’s Starlink chain. The storm added kinetic energy to particles in Earth’s atmosphere, caused it to expand and dragged the satellites down into the atmosphere, where they burned up. Damage from the storm was estimated to be up to $100 million. Scientists not involved with SpaceX were surprised the company hadn’t protected itself from the unexpected storm. “Really?” one asked. “They did not think of this?” More and more commercial satellites are being launched into space. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about these satellites and what they do. Use what you read to write a short paper examining the benefits of some of these satellites and what risks they face.

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. Family Oscars

This year’s nominations for the Academy Awards have been announced, and the whole world is watching to see who will take home the Oscars. In the top acting categories, two power couples have turned the competition into a family affair. Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, who have been married since 2010, have each been nominated for Best Acting honors — Cruz for Best Actress in “Parallel Mothers” and Bardem for Best Actor in “Being the Ricardos.” In the Best Supporting Acting categories Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons have scored nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor for a movie they co-starred in, “The Power of the Dog.” Dunst and Plemons have been in a long-term relationship and have a three-year-old son together. This is the first time in Oscar history that all four members of two couples have been nominated in the same year. The Academy Awards honor the top achievements in acting and filmmaking each year. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this year’ nominations. Think like a film critic and write a column examining which films you think are the most unusual and interesting among the nominees.

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.

5. ’Big Five’ Flying

In the world of airline travel, there are the biggest companies known as the “Big Four” — and then there are all the rest. The merger of two of those smaller companies soon could change all that, turning the Big Four into the Big Five. Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines announced plans this month to merge, creating the fifth largest passenger company after American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. The merger of the low-cost carriers Spirit and Frontier is designed to create “an aggressive ultra-low-fare competitor” for the biggest companies, “increase competitive pressure” and produce “more consumer-friendly fares for the flying public,” Spirit’s president said. When combined, the new airline would be able to offer more than 1,000 daily flights to more than 145 destinations in 19 countries, the Spirit and Frontier officials said. Mergers are often big news in the business world because they create new companies out of existing ones. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a business merger. Use what you read to write a business column outlining what each company gains from the merger and how it changes the way the marketplace operates.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.