Learning English use a limited vocabulary and are read at a slower pace than VOA’s other English broadcasts. Previously known as Special English.
American political leaders are pushing for schools to reopen this winter as teachers started to receive COVID-19 vaccines. But others are concerned that they may not be ready.
Last Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion spending plan to fight the virus in the United States and help the nation’s economy. The plan calls for a national vaccine plan to administer 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration.
The incoming president added there will be money to “safely” reopen a majority of kindergarten-to-eighth-grade schools in the first 100 days.
Governor Gavin Newsom of California proposed a $2 billion plan to pay for testing, protective equipment and other safety measures to reopen the lowest grades as soon as February 16.
In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine offered to vaccinate teachers in February if the schools agree to have in-person teaching by March 1.
In Arizona, where teachers started receiving shots this month, Governor Doug Ducey said he expects students will return to the classroom soon. The money will not go to schools that remain closed in Arizona. “Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic.” he said.
Teachers are still afraid to return in person
Arizona’s education officials and hospital leaders, however, disagree with the governor. They warn that the state has the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the nation.
Johns Hopkins University reported, as of January 19, the U.S. has experienced 390,000 COVID-19 related deaths and more than 23 million confirmed infections.
Michael White is a doctor at Valleywise Health in Phoenix, Arizona. He said, “We understand that learning and bringing our children together is very important.” But to reduce the spread of the virus, he said children should not be outside of their family group.
Last week, officials in Chicago, Illinois began a slow reopening with the youngest students. Since teachers have yet to receive vaccines, officials are providing them virus tests on school grounds. But some teachers refused to return because of COVID-19 concerns.
Kirstin Roberts is a pre-kindergarten teacher in Chicago. She told the Associated Press, “I don’t believe it’s safe to reopen the schools. I don’t believe it’s safe for my family, I live with an elderly mom. I don’t believe it is safe for the city’s children or their families.”
Jeff Freitas is president of the California Federation of Teachers. The labor leader said vaccinations have to come first, then schools in California can talk about reopening.
“We cannot put our own lives, the lives of our students, and our communities at risk during what is clearly an escalating crisis in our state,” he said.
California has only vaccinated health care workers and people in nursing homes so far.
Utah is one of the first states to vaccinate teachers over other groups. Gov. Spencer Cox has said he wants to vaccinate all teachers by the end of February.
Michael Crookston is a music teacher at Davis High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. He said the COVID-19 vaccine has “been a thing I’ve been looking forward to, a little bit like Christmas.”
I’m Armen Kassabian.
And I’m Jill Robbins.
Lindsay Whitehurst, Terry Tang and Allen Breed from the Associated Press reported the story. Armen Kassabian adapted the story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
administer – n. to manage the operation of (something, such as a company or government) or the use of (something, such as property)
kindergarten – n. a school or class for very young children
grade – n. a level of study that is completed by a student during one year
escalating – v. to become worse or to make (something) worse or more severe
nursing home – n. a place where people who are old or who are unable to take care of themselves can live and be taken care of
Teens Tutor Others Online to Fill Need During the Pandemic
Maple and oak trees with branches full of seeds at the end of summer got American plant expert Lee Reich thinking about how trees grow.
He remembers how, a few years ago, he decided to drop an apple seed into some soil he had placed in a small container. Reich imagined his small seed would turn into a beautiful apple tree. But, it didn’t work out. The seed germinated and started growing. But then, it stopped growing when it was just 10 centimeters tall.
Reich said most seeds that come from colder parts of the world need special treatment before they will grow. He found out that he was lucky his seed grew at all!
Reich now knows how to grow a tree from seeds. When those seeds fall from the branches of tall trees, they cannot start growing right away. Reich noted that the young trees would die during the cold winter if they start growing immediately.
So, most seeds know how to stay asleep during the winter until warmer weather comes. That is when they can grow well. But, if you do not want to wait all winter for your seeds to grow, Reich has some suggestions.
‘Fool the seed’
Reich said you can “fool the seed” into starting to grow.
The way to do this is by placing the seeds into plastic bags filled with potting soil that is a little wet. Then put the bags into a cool place like a garage or refrigerator. The process is known as “stratification.”
It is important to keep the seeds cool, but not too cold, for a few months. The temperature needs to be above freezing but below 10 degrees Celsius.
Reich said you might have a little more work to do before stratification, depending on what kind of seed you are growing.
Harder seeds first need to be softened to let water get in. Such hard seeds come from redbud, juniper and hornbeam trees.
To get water inside the seed, you need to nick them with a small, sharp object. The other way to soften a seed’s hard shell is to put them in soil and leave them in a warm room for two or three months. Then you can begin stratification.
Once the seeds are stratified and conditions are right, they will start to grow roots. For sugar maple trees it might take three months. For apple seeds, it might take only two months.
But Reich shares a warning. Don’t forget about your stratifying seeds! One week, he said, they could be asleep. The next week, they could have fat, white roots. Once your seeds start to grow roots, you can put them in a container, or pot. Or, if you are not ready, keep them somewhere cool until you are ready to plant them outdoors.
Reich noted that some people may wonder what the point is of all this trouble when you can just buy a small tree at a garden center.
“You’re a gardener, you like to grow plants,” he explained.
Reich also said how satisfying it is to look up after many years at a tall tree that you once started from just a seed.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Lee Reich reported this story for the Associated Press. Dan Friedell adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
branch –n. a part of a tree that grows out from the main body, or trunk
gardening –n. the act of taking care of the plants on an area of ground (v. garden)
germinate– v. to begin to grow (a seed)
pot– v. to plant something in a pot
garage– n. a building or part of a building where a car is kept
refrigerator – n. a device or room that is used to keep things (such as food and drinks) cold
stratification – n. the act of arranging something in layers
nick– v. to cut or damage a small part of the surface of something
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US Push to Reopen Schools as Teachers Get Vaccinated
A new study suggests that identical twins are not exactly the same genetically. Identical twins are two babies that come from the same fertilized egg.
Scientists in Iceland examined DNA from 387 pairs of identical twins, their parents, children, husbands or wives.
The examinations led the team to find “early mutations that separate identical twins,” lead researcher and geneticist Kari Stefansson said. He is a professor at the University of Iceland and founder of the company deCODE genetics.
Mutations are small changes in DNA that can happen when a cell divides in an attempt to copy itself. These small changes can influence a person’s physical appearance or control a person’s ability to fight a disease.
The newly-discovered mutations show that identical twins do have genetic differences, the researchers said. The results were recently published in Nature Genetics.
On average, identical twins have 5.2 of these early genetic differences, the researchers found. But about 15 percent of identical twin pairs have more than that. Some might have as many as 100 genetic differences, Stefansson said.
These differences represent a small part of each twin’s genetic material. But they could influence why one twin is taller or why one is at greater risk for some cancers than the other.
In the past, many researchers believed physical differences seen in identical twins were related mostly to environmental influences, such as nutrition or lifestyle behaviors.
Jan Dumanski is a geneticist at Sweden’s Uppsala University. He was not involved in the study. He praised the findings as “a clear and important contribution” to medical research.
“The implication is that we have to be very careful when we are using twins as a model” for examining the influences of genetics or the environment, Dumanski said.
A 2008 paper in The American Journal of Human Genetics found some genetic differences between identical twins. The new study, however, goes beyond earlier work by including the DNA of parents, children, husbands and wives of identical twins.
Studying family members permitted the researchers to examine when genetic mutations happened in two different kinds of cells: those present in only one individual and those passed on to the person’s children.
Stefansson said his team found twins where a mutation is present in all cells of the body of one twin, but not in the other twin at all. However, “sometimes the second twin may show the mutation in some cells, but not all cells,” he added.
The researchers said they also found mutations that came about before the developing embryo split in two.
Nancy Segal is a psychologist who studies twins at California State University, Fullerton. She was not involved in the study. But she called the results “heroic and really significant.”
Segal added that the research is likely to persuade more scientists to rethink the influences of genetics and environment on twins. “Twins are very alike, but it is not a perfect similarity,” she said.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
twin – n. either of two babies who are born to the same mother at the same time
mutation – n. a change in the genes of a plant or animal
pair – n. two of the same thing
lifestyle – n. the way a person or group of people live
contribution – n. something that is add or provided to a bigger cause
implication – n. something that is suggested without being said directly
significant –adj. important