These are stressful times. At least around me, teachers report students levels of anxiety and conflict that seem to mirror those of adults they see on the news. Perhaps that is happening in your area as well. So, what do we do?
One thought I had this week was that when things around me feel out of control, one of the most powerful things I can do is take action, however small. If I can’t do much on the national scale, I feel better if I’ve done some good here in my own community. I suspect your students may have the same experience. Working for something we believe in restores our sense of hope.
And that brings me to one of my favorite resources—and oldie but still goodie—Barbara Lewis’ A Kid’s Guide to Social Action. The subtitle explains the book more fully, “How to Solve the Social Problems You Choose and Turn Creative Thinking into Positive Action.” The book is designed to help students learn the skills of community activism, from “Power Letter Writing” to using powerful speeches, surveys, proposal writing, and even lobbying. You can use the guide to help your students identify community issues in which they want to become involved and gain the skills to do so effectively. You might even learn a few things yourself—I know I have.
Students can be involved in all manner of local problems, from making areas of local parks more friendly to butterflies or bees, to lobbying for bike lanes on the roads, to serving as conversation partners for those recently resettled from war-torn areas of the world. Whatever issues they take up, feeling like part of a solution rather than a helpless bystander helps build students self-efficacy and creativity along with their research, writing, and speaking skills. It also helps create active and involved citizens. And that is something that gives me hope!
If your class tackles a social action project, we’d love to hear about it.