Opinion
International Opinion

Four Steps for Transforming Students Into Young Activists

By Adam Carter — July 06, 2017 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Editor’s Note: How can we encourage students to take action? Adam Carter, social studies teacher at the Schutz American School in Egypt, shares the steps he has taken with his students.

As educators, we need to guide our students in not only learning about important global issues, but also toward ways they can become an active part of addressing these challenges. This will allow students to learn the power of their own agency, take control of their learning, and become active problem solvers.

One way to do this effectively is through a simple 4-step process:


  1. Study the issue: This represents the inquiry-based method of identifying an issue and, based on the grade level and teaching style, either presenting the content to students or guiding them to research and identify the challenge and understand it in a local and global context.
  2. Research what actions are being done to reverse or alleviate the problem: It’s important that students understand that there are many inspirational people, both professionals and everyday folks, who have devoted their lives to addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems. Part of the learning experience stems from recognizing that even the worst crises can be alleviated or even solved.
  3. Come up with a class-led potential solution: Sometimes this stems from a teacher’s suggestion, but whenever possible, we should encourage students to come up with their own proposals, which means we need to build in opportunities (such as brainstorming sessions or research activities) for them to formulate their own solutions, even if they are modeled on pre-existing projects or successful approaches.
  4. Turn ideas into action: This is where the proposal turns into direct involvement, in the form of outreach, spreading awareness, making a contribution, or service learning. Again, students should lead as much as possible, taking control of the learning experience. The level of teacher involvement here differs significantly based on grade level and resources available.

Below is an example of my students using this process to take action.

Funding a Kiva Microcredit Project to Address Sub-Saharan Poverty

1. Study the issue

When studying the causes of poverty of sub-Saharan Africa in our 7th grade geography class, we learned that one of the reasons many people in the region are poor is because they lack the capital or the banking services needed to start a business.

2. Research what actions are being done to reverse or alleviate the problem

This provided the perfect segue to introduce the microcredit phenomenon. I was able to show my students how microcredit institutions work using my own experience and knowledge—including two field reports about an emerging shopkeeper in Guatemala and a Cape Verdean farmer’s goat cheese business. Personalizing the lesson makes the learning journey much more meaningful for students.

3. Come up with a class-led potential solution

We had an engaging discussion about the successes and potential pitfalls of microcredit, and then the students explored Kiva‘s website—one of the best-known microcredit lending programs—based on the prompt, “Can we use the microcredit model to make a difference in the world?” By letting the students come to that conclusion (or not), they are taking control of the learning experience.

4. Turn ideas into action

Next, students used the Kiva site to filter through projects to choose a recipient from one of the sub-Saharan countries we were discussing, and then presented their case to the class. I encouraged students to help fund their chosen project if they desired, inviting them to make a short presentation to their parents or other potential donors. After making our class donation, we were then able to check up on the recipient in the coming months with regular updates from Kiva.

Recognizing their power to change lives

My students learned so much more than the basic facts; they saw firsthand that if they search for a solution and band together, they have the power to change lives. Most schools have the famous Gandhi quote, “Become the positive change you want to see in the world” plastered somewhere in their halls; we as teachers need to provide students with the tools to actually carry out this pledge.

Resources to Explore:

The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

International What the Research Says How Nations Can Repair Pandemic Damage to Students' Well-Being, Trust in Government
International data suggest the pandemic has marginalized young people in many countries.
3 min read
Image of high school students working together in a school setting.
E+/Getty
International What the Research Says Schooling in a Pandemic: How Other Countries Are Doing It
A new study highlights how instruction in 11 countries has changed following pandemic closures and outbreaks.
3 min read
Children attend a lesson in a school in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has lifted the restrictions on schools in Russia's capital, students of all grades will to return for face-to-face education after months studying remotely.
Children attend a lesson in a school in Moscow last January. Russian schools had relatively shorter periods of academic disruptions than other countries, a new study finds.
Pavel Golovkin/AP
International Opinion Why Other Countries Keep Outperforming Us in Education (and How to Catch Up)
Money from the American Rescue Plan could be our last chance to build the school system we need, writes Marc Tucker.
Marc Tucker
5 min read
A student climbs stacks of books to reach the top
Tatyana Pivovarova/iStock/Getty Images Plus
International Global Test Finds Digital Divide Reflected in Math, Science Scores
New data from the 2019 Trends in International Math and Science Study show teachers and students lack digital access and support.
3 min read
Image of data.
iStock/Getty