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Posts Tagged ‘social cause

Civic Engagement for Young People During Social Distancing

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Many of us feel a bit helpless to help others out during these coronavirus social distancing and isolation times. This also true for kids and young people. There are actions they can take as part of their home schooling. They can participate in civic engagement and activism activities.

Civic engagement is defined as “working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference (”

Quite frequently, not only do state standards permit teachers and schools to support student activism, but they encourage student activism as a means by which to develop civic understanding. Although standards vary from state to state, many of them are modeled on the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS, 2013), which specifically endorses student activism:  “Civics is not limited to the study of politics and society; it also encompasses participation in classrooms and schools, neighborhoods, groups, and organizations . . . In civics, students learn to contribute appropriately to public processes and discussions of real issues. Their contributions to public discussions may take many forms, ranging from personal testimony to abstract arguments. They will also learn civic practices such as voting, volunteering, jury service, and joining with others to improve society. Civics enables students not only to study how others participate, but also to practice participating and taking informed action themselves” (

Civic engagement and activism in normal times has benefits, but in these times of coronavirus and social distancing-isolation, the benefits are amplified as such engagement can move young people from feelings of helplessness to feelings of empowerment.

Even in social isolation, there are actions young people and kids can do. The following activity guide can provide ideas and give some structure to civics activity engagement.

The following PDF has links with more information about how to do that challenge:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 24, 2020 at 2:06 am

Photojournalism Activity: Community Service or a Social Cause Event

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Recently, I had an amazing experience attending a local One Billion Rising event.  I enjoy taking photos and video of special events like this one.  I spent the afternoon following the event creating an Animoto mash-up of the photos and video taken while I was at the event.

The process of putting together the video mash-up provided a great opportunity for me to deeply reflect on the event.  I saw and experienced things I did not get to during the event.  This experience made me think this would be a great learning activity.


  • To create, as a means of reflection, a video mash-up of photos and video taken during a community service project or a social cause event.
  • To learn some skills related to ethical photojournalism.


  • Ask learners to identify a community service event or an event that is promoting a social cause that they would like to attend.  Examples include serving meals at a holiday event, a dance fund raiser for a charity, collecting food for local shelter, neighborhood clean-up, or a community rally like One Billion Rising.  Many news shows feature weekend events that include these type of events.  For younger kids, this could became an activity for parental engagement.  Parents and/or parent volunteers can help with the travel and logistics.  A Google spreadsheet could be set up to list these.
  • Prior to the events, review with learners how to take photos and videos at public events. As learners will be acting in the role of photojournalists, go over the National Press Photographers Association Code of Ethics.


  • Practice sessions can be set up where learners take photo and/or video of their peers during learning activities.
  • After the event:  Decide which video mash-up tool will be used for creating their videos.  My preference is Animoto as it permits the upload and use of photos, video, and text.  Here is a Animoto video tutorial:
  • To further reflect on their experiences and video, learners can answer some of the following questions via a blog post or a Voicethread where the video has been uploaded.
    • What about your community involvement has been an eye-opening experience?
    • Describe a person you’ve encountered in the community who made a strong impression on you, positive or negative.
    • How has the environment and social conditions affected the people at your site?
    • Has the experience affected your worldview? How?
    • Have your career options been expanded by your service experience?
    • Why does the organization you are working for exist?
    • Did anything about your community involvement surprise you? If so, what?
    • What did you do that seemed to be effective or ineffective in the community?
    • How does your understanding of the community change as a result of your participation in this project?
    • How can you continue your involvement with this group or social issue?
    • How can you educate others or raise awareness about this group or social issue?
    • Talk about any disappointments or successes of the project. What did you learn from it?
    • What sorts of things make you feel uncomfortable when you are working in the community? Why?

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 16, 2013 at 2:18 am

Social Media a Cause: Learning Activity

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Assisting learners in becoming social activists as part of the educational curriculum is based on three premises:

  1. Kids are bored and disengaged during school time.
  2. Young people are engaged in social activism outside of school time.
  3. If one of the goals of education is to help students become responsible citizens, then learners should be given the opportunity, skills, tools, and strategies to be active change agents.

Kids are bored and disengaged during school time. Young people are bored at school.  Several polls and surveys provide evidence of this.  Gallup in a recently published poll found that Student Engagement Drops With Each School Year.

The Gallup Student Poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in grades five through 12 from more than 1,700 public schools in 37 states in 2012. We found that nearly eight in 10 elementary students who participated in the poll are engaged with school. By middle school that falls to about six in 10 students. And by high school, only four in 10 students qualify as engaged


On older, more extensive survey, High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), found similar results.  42,754 high school students participated in the survey. These students where selected from 103 different schools in 27 different states and reflected a cross section of the US population.

However defined, boredom is a temporary form of dis-engaging from school; it is important for schools to understand both the extent of students’ boredom and the reasons why students are bored. HSSSE asked two direct questions about boredom: “Have you ever been bored in class in high school?” and “If you have been bored in class, why?” Two out of three respondents (66%) in 2009 are bored at least every day in class in high school; nearly half of the students (49%) are bored every day and approximately one out of every six students (17%) are bored in every class. Those students who claimed they were ever bored (98%), the material being taught was an issue: more than four out of five noted a reason for their boredom as “Material wasn’t interesting” (81%) and about two out of five students claimed that the lack of relevance of the material (42%) caused their boredom.

What is important to note, especially in the context of this discussion, is that students find the content material covered at school to be uninteresting and that it lacked relevance.  Students desire relevant and meaningful learning.  They want and deserve to learn about things that matter to them, things that they find relevant, things that they feel they can use in their outside of school lives. Young people are engaged in social activism outside of school time. But young people are engaged and find meaningful learning outside of school time through their social networks.

For all we hear about “kids these days” and their irresponsible use of social media−posting questionable pictures of themselves or letting Twitter corrode their ability to hold a thought for more than a nanosecond−it turns out that most are using it to express a genuine passion for changing the world around them. And they’re succeeding. And these trends extend well beyond the U.S. In other countries shows similar interests in contributing to larger causes. China’s young adults for instance, lead the world in online political discussions and offline they donate the most money to charities. India’s younger generation ranks the first in the world when it comes to staying informed, and they’re the most optimistic about the impact their activism has on the world around them.  It seems that our youngest generation of adults are the ones leading the charge when it comes to effectively making a difference.

Specific examples of young people changing the world through social media include:

Although the following Infographics shows data from the 20-28 age group, this is not that far removed from the adolescent age group.


If one of the goals of education is to help students become responsible citizens, then learners should be given the opportunity, skills, tools, and strategies to be active change agents.

Eric Dawson, whose organization has been training educators to teach peacemaking skills for two decades, suggests three things adults can do:

  1. Ask young people questions of engagement. What do you think about that? What would you do? How do you think we could make this better?
  2. Take young people’s ideas seriously.
  3. Give young people concrete opportunities to act on their ideas.

“The idea is to invite them to try on this role,” he adds. “It’s having courage and compassion, taking risks, showing perseverance, crossing lines of difference, mobilizing and working with others.” (

The following learning activity, found in Technology Social Emotional Learning Activities, describes some ways social activism could be brought in to the classroom. Goal

  • To search social networks to explore and identify social causes of personal interest.
  • To decide if and how one wants to contribute to these causes.


  • Social media is being used to promote social causes.  See the Infographic below about the social activism habits of today’s young people.
  • Encourage learners to review some of the causes found on Facebook and other social media (e.g. Harry Potter Alliance); and report to one another causes of interest.  A list of causes that have a presence on Facebook can be found at:
  • A new website, Kicker, helps young people understand what’s going on in the world – so they can then go change the world.  The site aggregates key media pieces; news articles, videos, Tweets, etc., about current news items and then ends their thread of media with a Kicker, ways young people can become active in related causes.  For example, here is a Kicker from the news thread, Youth in Revolt: How to Take Education Into Your Own Hands:


  • harnesses the awesome energy teens have and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, a new campaign is launched. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car.
  • Through exploring and researching sites such as those recommended above, learners can decide if and how they want to contribute to identified causes.
  • Note: The purpose of this activity is to have learners to search social networks to explore and identify social causes of which they have interest.  Since it involves social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter, learners will need to be over 13 years old.  An alternative for younger students is to explore the causes as a class using an Interactive Whiteboard or LCD project and decide on cause to follow/contribute to as a group.


  • An extension for older learners (senior high school or older) is to help them establish their own cause and become their own 21st century activists.  Have them view and discuss the following video for ideas:


The junior high students at a middle school were asked to do something to change our community, or change the world. Most groups just created videos about the cause and left it at that.

But one group went beyond these basic requirements and used social media to raise money for their cause, Pencils for Africa.  They . .  .

  • Created a website, HSAAPAAT, to promote their cause


  • Made a video

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 21, 2013 at 11:09 pm

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