We Can Change the World…

I have always had this idea for a unit that has never come to full fruition.  It’s like the little lesson that could.   Here is a brief peak at it…

I showed this video to the class to get things started:

And then we read this:

John Maxwell wrote, “It’s been said that there are two kinds of people in life: those who make things happen and those who wonder what happened. Leaders have the ability to make things happen. People who don’t know how to make things happen for themselves won’t know how to make things happen for others.”

Maxwell went on to say, “What you do with the future means the difference between leaving a track record and leaving a legacy.” Legacies aren’t just wishful thinking. They’re the result of determined doing. The legacy you leave is the life you lead. You just never know whose life you might touch. What you do know is that you can make a difference. You can leave this world better than you found it.

A legacy comes from the idea that everyone, regardless of their rank or position, can make a difference. What is the legacy you will leave behind?  Who will you be remembered by?  What will you be remembered for?
Adopted from http://goo.gl/Ou60x

It is really hard to get people to change.  Easy to tell them to change, hard to make it happen.  We finished the year with a unit called “We Can Change the World.”  We started by talking about how difficult it is to make something change (government, schools, people) and then threw around some ideas that have seemed to work, and the modern media that has been a big influence—twitter, facebook, youtube.  After studying the 19th Century this year we went to “Is it easier to create change now compared to the 19th Century?”  We took a look at the Progressive movement and some of the things they tried to change and what methods they used to change things.  And then wondered…what would happen if the Progressives were around today and got to use their methods, but were able to use modern media to do it?

The assignment—pick a problem facing the world today.  Try to get people to make a difference using by combining modern media with a solution from the Progressive era.  First research the modern problem, then research the Progressive movement and solutions, then come up with a couple solutions that combine both.  Take one of the solutions and make it come to life.  We looked at other modern PSAs (videos, billboards, etc) as examples.

We called it our “Legacy Project.”  It was the last thing we were going to do, the last thing they were going to leave behind in middle school.  The last thing they were going to give the world—they were going to create a research paper and a PSA, then drop their pebble onto the internet and hope that the ripples would go out.

Time was not on our side.  There was simply not enough of it.  We had to rush the whole thing.  Rush the research, the writing, the PSAs, the posting.  Not all the kids got to finish all the parts, and many pieces were missing.   But…it was a good idea, and it did get the kids thinking.  One girl while writing her paper looked up and simply said, “I think I can make a difference.”  One girl started a school wide fundraiser for her cause, and other kids created great PSAs.  During the last weeks of school when kids are supposed to be tuning out, mine tuned in…they tuned into the fact that change doesn’t come from thoughts, but from actions, and that they all have the power to make a difference.

We posted all of their research papers and PSAs onto a Posterous site in one furious posting session during the last 30 minutes of regular class time for the year.  It was a do the best you can sort of class—some kids completed it in full with their PSA, others put up the best draft they had along with some images.

The unit did leave me with some questions about my teaching.  Many kids did not get to finish.  Many kids didn’t get to polish their papers, their videos, their posters that they made.  I don’t think they got anything less out of it than the kids who did.  As I was grading the posts (shhh…not a post on grades) I found myself not focusing on the finished product as much as I focused on each student’s process. That is not new…in a class in which most kids will hand in different final products for each unit on a regular basis I normally do focus on the process.  The process I found myself focusing on wasn’t the writing process, or the process of turning their idea into something real.  It was personal change.  Did they change?  Did they believe? We can tell people to change, we can show people how to change, or we can be the change we want to see in the world.  It’s the process that we started 10 months earlier on the first day of school, the process of becoming the change we want to see–this unit was the fruition of that process.  It wasn’t just about other people, it was actually about them.  It was about who they were, who they will become.  It was their legacy project.

This is a story I shared with them that was a fitting end:

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.
As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change –
So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country, but it too seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now I realize as I lie on my deathbed, if I had only changed myself first, then by example I might have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement I would then have been able to better my country,
And who knows, I might have even changed the world.”

All of their projects can be found athttp://wecanchangetheworld.posterous.com I think it is important to point out that you are not just getting the highlights on the site–every project was posted.  I think if you are used to feeling intimidated by looking at incredible projects posted on the internet you might feel a bit more comfy after seeing these 🙂  I teach at a school that is perfectly in the “middle,” so what you will see are projects from kids who can write write write, but also many many many from kids who struggle to even complete a sentence.   Please visit the site with the completed projectsor you can scroll through some below.

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