How might we empower students to take action?

After watching the March for Our Lives movement unfold, Elizabeth Skeggs, the librarian at Apollo Middle School, thought about how she could empower her students to create change in their own lives. An idea for a project emerged: have students use a design process to identify problems at Apollo, engage key stakeholders and test solutions.

To start, Elizabeth's 7th grade students listed problems they saw on campus or in the surrounding community and categorized them to create a few focus areas. Teams formed by students choosing which problem they were passionate about working on.

Problem ideation and categorization.

Next, the teams researched and talked to students and teachers at Apollo to get ideas and understand what might work. We caught up with the students to ask them about their process and learnings.

The problem: Trash on campus

This team started by running informal interviews because they knew if other students didn't buy into their vision, nothing would change. So, they asked "What would help you pick up your trash?" The answer: more trashcans.

With the help of the head janitor, the team ordered more trashcans and designed "keep our school clean" flyers to post around campus. The result: a cleaner campus!

"Even though we're young, we can still make change." -Tia

The problem: No time to play outside

First, this group needed to gauge interest in being outside before school, after school and at lunch. To their surprise, the response from other students was an overwhelming "yes!"

From there, the team reached out to the P.E. teacher for permission to use the equipment. Before this project, the students never had access to basketballs and footballs during free time. Here's what one of the team members said about seeing their change in action:

"I didn't think we would make it this far! It's cool that it actually worked." Haron

The problem: High number of stray dogs

Three separate teams formed to address this issue from different angles. One team set out to educate their peers about the importance of spaying and neutering pets. Another team focused on running a donation drive for pet supplies. Yet another aimed to educate their school community quality pet care.

All of these solutions were driven by student research, surveys and interviews with their school community. Skeggs encouraged her students to test solutions and incorporate what they learned in the next phase.

"This project opened our eyes to the problems in our community and how to tackle them, together." -America

Why are projects like this important?

Projects create space for students to practice real-world problem-solving. When students have the autonomy to try, fail, try again and observe results, they begin to truly see themselves as change-makers.

Want to know more about the process or the results? Reach out to Elizabeth Skeggs, ElizabethSk@susd12.org

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