Resources for Teachers and Students
, week of
Aug. 05, 2019
1. Bad Debt Plan
A school district in the state of Pennsylvania got a harsh lesson in community relations this month when it attempted to collect money that families owed for school lunches. First the Wyoming Valley West School District sent out letters to 1,000 families warning that if the lunch debts were not paid off children could be placed in foster care through action by the state’s Dependency Court. Then the school district further angered parents by defending the move as a “last resort” to get payment on more than $22,000 owed for lunches. To top things off, the district initially turned down an offer from a businessman to pay the debt, leading to charges it was more interested in “shaming” families than actually dealing with the issue. After the intervention of State Representative Aaron Kaufer, who represents the area in the state legislature, the district reversed itself and said it would accept payment of the debt by the businessman through its education foundation “This issue needed to be laid to rest,” said Kaufer, who attended district schools as a child. “We needed to get back to focusing on education.” The way school officials interact with parents often is in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the Pennsylvania lunch controversy or another situation in which school officials are interacting with parents in a way that is causing debate. Write a letter to family or friends analyzing how the school officials are acting and suggesting a better approach. Discuss the case or the Pennsylvania lunch case with family or friends,
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.
2. Football Brain Injuries
When football great Nick Buoniconti died last week at the age of 78, his family announced that he wished to donate his brain for the scientific research of football head injuries. Buoniconti’s request brought new attention to the risk of brain injuries from playing football, just as NFL teams were opening training camps for a new season. Concussions and repeated hits to the head have been linked to the brain injury known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), and in recent years Buoniconti had talked openly about the toll playing football had had on his brain. He said he had struggled with memory loss, a decline in thinking ability and a dropoff in the ability to perform basic tasks like dressing himself. “I feel lost,” he said in an interview. “I feel like a child.” Buoniconti played 14 years as a linebacker in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. He was a leader on the Dolphins’ 1972 team, the only NFL team to go undefeated and win a Super Bowl. The risk of brain injuries from football has gotten more and more attention. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about brain injuries and football. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining further steps football teams, programs and leagues should take to ensure player safety.
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. Heroes at the Beach
It was not just another day at the beach. Four Americans visiting the European nation of Ireland became heroes in an instant when they jumped into action to rescue a 6-year-old who had been swept out to sea. It was fortunate that brothers Eoghan Butler, Walter Butler and Declan Butler were all strong athletes, as was their brother-in-law Alex Thomson. Three had been competitive swimmers, the Washington Post reported, and they would need all that skill to overcome cold and choppy seas to reach the 6-year-old girl who was a half mile offshore on a flamingo raft. It took an hour to reach and bring the girl back to shore. “I knew we were getting deep, but I didn’t care,” Declan Butler, 18, told the Post. “I just didn’t want to give up on her.” All the Americans live in the Washington, DC area. People become heroes in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone doing something heroic. Use what you read to write a public proclamation thanking the person for his/her actions. Include how these actions could inspire people to help others or make the community a better place.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.
4. Wind Power
When it comes to energy, much of the world relies on fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal to generate electricity. That works in the present, but the Earth does not have an endless supply of fossil fuels. For that reason, many nations are developing renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydro-electric water power. The African nation of Kenya has made a major investments in renewables, and this summer launched an ambitious plan to harness the wind. Kenya is building the largest wind power farm on the continent of Africa. The farm will increase Kenya’s electricity supply by 13 percent when it is fully operational and help push the nation toward its goal of having 100 percent of its energy generated by renewable sources by 2020, CNN News reports. At present, about 70 percent of Kenya’s energy comes from renewable sources. Developing renewable energy sources is getting more and more attention around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about nations or communities paying more attention to renewable energy. Use what you read to design a poster highlighting different kinds of renewable energy and their benefits.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. The Swarm
It seemed like a science fiction movie, but an invasion of grasshoppers was all too real this summer in the western U.S. city of Las Vegas, Nevada. Swarms of pallid-winged grasshoppers took over the famous Vegas entertainment strip and other tourist sites as well. The Sky Beam light display over the Luxor hotel and casino made the grasshoppers visible for hundreds of feet in the air. Scientists say the grasshopper invasion is the result of an unusually wet spring in the Las Vegas area. The weather provided ideal conditions for grasshopper breeding, in both Nevada and neighboring Arizona. The insects are expected to hang around for a week or two and pose no threat to humans, other than annoyance. Natural events involving wildlife often can seem like science fiction movies. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a natural event that could be a good basis for a sci-fi movie. Brainstorm a plot and give your movie a title that will make people want to see it. Write a “pitch letter” to a movie company seeking financial support. Tell why your movie would appeal to audiences.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; 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.
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