For the past few years, Taking Action has been my thing. Our Walk for Water campaign raised over $30,000 over three years and more importantly, raised awareness of hundreds of students and their families about the global water crisis.We got written up in the local newspaper, stories on the public access channel, and I ended up with awards from Rotary and Free Masons groups in our community. (I didn’t deserve these awards, my students did. I tried telling this to anyone who would listen, but no one really listened.)
I thought I had figured out how to Take Action, but then I had a realization… I had figured out how to get students to ask their parents for cash. Cash for a t-shirt, cash for over-priced snacks at events, cash for a soccer tournament. My students didn’t really raise money, they got handouts from parents, grandparents, and anyone else around.
I had this realization as we started planning this year’s Walk for Water. There would be a small group of students that would take the leadership and plan things, but most of my students would give money, show up the night of the Walk, participate, and that was about it. If I was going to be the “Take Action” guy, I had to do more.
My plan was to take every Friday of the third trimester and turn then into Take Action Fridays. In my head, students would pick any problem around the world that they cared about, research it, then find a way to take action, not to solve the problem, but at least make it a little better. That was the plan.
What I’ve got has been, well, not that. There are some students who have done a lot of great work. They researched and have produced posters or brochures or made Instagram accounts that show their work. But as we come down to our last few Fridays, there are some who have nearly nothing to show for weeks of classes given up.
Yes, they are 7th graders, and they should be able to work through issues, but there is a lot of blame that goes to me. So, if I were to do it again, here is what I would do.
1. Start earlier. The end of the year is hectic – testing, assemblies, Spring Break. Too many times we had breaks between our Take Action Fridays.
2. Start local. It’s hard for students to grasp global issues, but there are plenty of issues in our local community – and here they can see the results of their work!
3. Lock in a topic. Too many students asked if they could change their topic. Each time they changed their topic, it was back to square one.
4. Work with your human resources. Use your librarians, learning coach, counselors, administrators. Someone needs to know about the passion each student has, and it’s hard for one teacher to check in with everyone in a 40 minute class.
5. Set some research parameters. Figure out how much research do they need to do. Decide if Google searches are ok or if they need to use databases and journals.
6. Provide a menu of options to take action. Too many students have never been asked to do something like this. They research material to spit it back at us. Show them ways to share it with the community and world! And remember, you can always order something not on the menu!
7. Feedback. Get students to do self reflection, peer feedback, and feedback from some grown up (again, use those human resources!) Like any assignment, the first feedback they get shouldn’t come at the end.
So as I look ahead to next year, I’ve got my work cut out for me. But, after seeing some of the great work they did this year with very little assistance, I can only imagine what I’ll see next year!
What did I miss? What else should I try? Comment below and join us Tuesdays at 9 Eastern for #worldgeochat!