Rationale:

As educators, we strive to empower our students with tools to be effective, active citizens. Not only do they need skills like addition, subtraction, reading, writing, listening and speaking, they also need to know how to apply them in a real world setting.

This unit is devoted to getting youth involved in the world around them. The aim is not to politicize the classroom, but to provide the skills for practical and responsible participation in efforts to transform the problems that face us as individuals, as neighborhoods, as nations, and as a global community.

Background Reading For Teachers:

Objectives:

  • Students will identify social problems that they want to solve.
  • Students will examine various forms of action that have worked in the past.
  • Students will write a persuasive essay that analyzes the problem selected.
  • Students will be able to formulate a decision-making approach and follow through in their action plans.

McRel Standards:

  • Behavioral Studies
    Standard 2 (Level III.5) Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identify, and behavior
  • Language Arts
    Standard 1 (Level III.1, 5, 10, 12) Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
  • Standard 4 (Level III. 3, 4, 5) Gathers and uses information for research purposes
  • Life Skills, Thinking and Reasoning
    Standard 5 (Level III. 1, 2) Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques
    Standard 6 (Level III. 1,2,3,4,5) Applies decision-making techniques

Materials:

Procedure: 3 hours

How do we take action? (hour 1)

worksheet

  1. Place a piece of cloth on the ground and explain that you have a challenge for the class. Explain that the activity they will do, must be done with utmost respect for the class; no one can grab others inappropriately, etc.
  2. Then ask all the students to crowd onto the cloth. Explain that their challenge will be to turn the cloth over without anyone touching the ground. If someone steps off, they will need to begin again.
  3. Observe the dynamics as the class tries to solve the problem. Do not step in unless it is absolutely necessary.
  4. Once they have finished, discuss their process of problem solving as a group.
  5. Read the Action Activity assignment aloud. Put students in small groups. Ask them to brainstorm all possible responses and the consequences of those responses.
  6. Discuss.
  7. Ask students to read "Nonviolence and Nonviolent Direct Action" by Máire A. Dugan and complete the accompanying worksheet.
  8. Homework: Finish the for homework, if necessary.

How do we take action? (hour 2)

Issue Background worksheet

  1. Read Peacebuiler Profile: Craig Kielburger, then ask students to complete the accompanying worksheet.
  2. Discuss as a group the nonviolent tactics Craig Kielburger used to create change.
  3. Return to the Action Activity worksheet. Ask students to list their favorite issues on the board. Allow students time to discuss and group themselves according to issues they want to address. Groups could be as big as the entire class, or as small as one student.
  4. Hand out the Issue Background worksheet. Give students the rest of class time to research their topic.
  5. Homework: Finish for homework.

How do we take action? (hour 3)

  1. Begin with a council circle. Ask students the following question: What are you finding in your research, and what do you think it takes to understand the opposing side of your argument?
  2. Ask students to complete Doing Something worksheet, as a plan for action.
  3. Next ask students to write a persuasive essay that explains their interests and positions. Use the Persuasive Essay worksheet and the Persuasive Rubric to help structure the essay.
  4. Towards the end of class ask students to meet in groups, and plan what kind of action they'll take.
  5. Ask students to share their plans with the class.
  6. Homework: Write a persuasive essay that you will eventually send off as a letter, or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (depending on your action plan). Take planned action and reflect upon it in conflict journals.

    Optional Activity: Read aloud the story, The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono. Discuss.

Michelle Maiese is a graduate student of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder and is a part of the research staff at the Conflict Research Consortium. Michelle Maiese is a contributor to Beyond Intractability which is an online “encyclopedia” compiling easy-to-understand essays on almost 400 topics which explain the dynamics of conflict along with available options for promoting more constructive approaches.