A common goal of teachers is to develop lessons that students not only enjoy but remember in future years. A lesson that students remember throughout school, tell their family about, quote in a graduation speech, and impacts them beyond high school. These lessons begin as soon as students enter elementary school.
A unit that teachers can create life-changing lessons in involves teaching students what social justice is. Whether you have directly seen a focus on social justice in your community or on the news, it is vital that students not only learn what social justice is but also what it looks like and how it begins with one person.
Positive Behavior: Students have to learn what positive change looks like. By doing this, they will be able to handle playground conflicts and disagreements among friends in positive, appropriate ways. Once students learn these skills, they will be able to expand their work. For example, they may identify problems in their community and brainstorm solutions. Students will learn what an activist is and what community activism means. In order to produce positive behavior, students need to learn what it is and see examples.
Responsible Citizen: Beginning at a young age, students need to know what it means to be a responsible citizen. Based on the age, this might mean picking up litter, completing volunteer work, or voting. Teaching social justice begins with teaching students how to be responsible. Unfortunately, society has recently seen too many stores become destroyed or looted. We need to teach our students how to make positive choices as a citizen.
We can teach our students the importance of voting and how to be a responsible voter, such as reading about different issues and candidates. During election years, teachers may have mock elections to show students what it is like to vote. Depending on your students, this may mean looking at who is running for president or voting on a new classroom rule! Democracy can be ingrained in many ways.
Become a Problem Solver: Students do not instantly know how to solve problems. They learn how to do this from a young age. It may have started with how to stack blocks on top of one another and will progress as students get older. By upper elementary, students want to help, have their opinion heard, and be a valued member of the classroom.
The Power of One resource teaches students all about petitions. Students may even start a petition in their classroom, which is a great way for the principal and possibly the board to see what changes students would like. The petition may be over something served in the cafeteria or adding an extra swing to the playground. It may even be over adding a reward incentive at the end of each nine weeks. Regardless of what it is, a petition allows students to learn positive, appropriate ways to be heard. This portion of the resource will show students how important a peaceful petition is!
To be a problem solver, students need to learn how to brainstorm ways. Whether they are learning to vote, write a petition, or work on something in the community, they need guidance. Graphic organizers are a great way to help students organize their thoughts in order to take the best action. It is never too early for students to make a positive change in their community!
Civil Rights: Uniting Past with Present
At the heart of any social justice lesson, there should be some type of focus on the Civil Rights Movement. Students need to be able to see how far the world has come but how there is still plenty of room for progress. Rosa Parks and Dr. King are two positive figures students can gain so much inspiration from. As students learn about the amazing accomplishments of Rosa Parks and Dr. King, they can see how it only takes one person to begin a positive movement. Don’t forget to remind students that no change is too small! Allow students to start with advocating for a change within the school or community. Whether students are setting up a recycling bin in the cafeteria or setting up a program to welcome new students, they will feel proud to make changes.
Let’s Take Action!
As mentioned above, social justice begins with teaching students how to get involved. The Power of One Person resource includes postcards for students to fill out. Students may begin with filling these out about a classroom election or a local election. They may also be used to write to a local representative, who may even have time to come into your classroom to speak! Postcards are a great way to teach students how to take action and allow their voice to be heard.
The Power of One resource is all about encouraging students to be positive, responsible citizens in order to make the world a better place. It is vital to encourage students to be the best version of themselves and never feel they are too young to make changes in their community. By starting local, they are gaining the skills and confidence to take their voice throughout the world as they get older.