My group of freshmen students in our Intro to the Social Studies classes were nearing the end of a unit entitled "The Future" and I was eager to find out how motivated they were in impacting the world around them. It required more than just classroom discussion as talk is always easy, and I firmly believe that talk, backed by thought, leads to action.
In lieu of a written exam for the final, they were going to embark on a two-day assignment which required that students work in groups of 2-3 students. I instructed them that we "needed to do something" and if they put their best effort forward with passion and knowledge, they stood a chance of acing the project. I laid out the written instructions in a clear and concise way, go to the website www.dosomething.org and identify a cause which interested them. They were required to construct a 3-5 slide PowerPoint presentation identifying WHY they chose the topic, WHY people needed to know about the topic, HOW they were going to promote a greater awareness of the topic, and WHAT problems they expected to experience along the way.
After each class spent two period in the computer lab, their work revealed an exciting new awareness for each of their topics. Each group provided a 6-7 minute presentation and they all surpassed my every expectation. Some of the best projects were recycling cell phones for overseas troops, creation of a local rain garden, increased awareness of high school dropouts, and remembering out troops. I was in awe of the way that these students went about the task and then conveyed their strategies to the class for voicing both concern and action. It gave me satisfaction in knowing that these students "got it" -if even for this one class. For some it could be an exercise in futility, but for others it planted the seed of awareness of how they can effectively deal with an issue in the way of inquiry and communication to the general public. Mission accomplished!