There’s no shortage of issues that touch everyone around the world, from clean water access and food security to racial and social justice and climate change. As children spend the most time at school, schools have an increasing responsibility to ensure students are globally aware of the issues that will affect them as adults.
Changemakers empower people who have a specific skill set and are motivated to create social change for the greater good. Changemakers find greater purpose with a positive impact on the world and encourage others to do the same.
In this article, we’ll discuss four ways schools can ensure their students become global citizens and changemakers for the future of our world.
A mentoring programme in a school is a great opportunity to empower older students as changemakers
School staff and teachers have an incredibly important role in students’ lives. When they show interest in subjects students are learning, it encourages learning and mastery of those subjects. School staff can also imprint important values, such as kindness, empathy, and social awareness in students and build a classroom culture that values these things.
A mentoring programme in a school is a great opportunity to empower older students as changemakers. Older students can partner up with students in younger grades to work together on school subjects or have a mixed-age lunch.
Schools can also validate student voices and build their confidence in expressing ideas and concerns by creating forums or events. During these events, students can speak openly and have their ideas considered. They can show examples of other young people who’ve made a difference, and the diversity of approaches young people can take, depending on their strengths and cultural context. It’s important to point out that not everyone needs to be the figurehead of a global movement like Greta Thunberg or a powerful political advocate to be a positive global changemaker.
Inquiry develops students’ natural curiosity and provides them with the skills necessary to conduct research and learn independently
It’s important teachers model curiosity to students by showing how knowledgeable and passionate they are about subjects. When curiosity is triggered, students think more deeply about issues and are more likely to create solutions.
Encouraging changemaking allows students to learn about what it takes to make a positive change. For example, a biology teacher who teaches about plants and photosynthesis can take the shoebox plant experiment a step further and have students create a school garden. They can incorporate aspects of the science curriculum while having students learn how to take care of plants and perhaps even grow their own food.
If the curriculum touches on becoming more sustainable, students could calculate their carbon footprint during a math or science class or schools can ask students to research and present ideas on how to make their school more sustainable. This type of collaborative project intersects science, art, information technology, and business management. Students can host a presentation where the school board and key decision-makers vote on the best ideas and take action on them.
When students ask questions respectfully and become involved with solutions, the school’s culture shifts into a community of curiosity, and innovation becomes possible.
Knowledge and inquiry are two learner attributes of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme that Swiss International Scientific School Dubai (SISD) teaches. Inquiry develops students’ natural curiosity and provides them with the skills necessary to conduct research and learn independently. Students actively enjoy learning and sustain this skill throughout their lives.
Teachers encouraged by schools to volunteer on committees and manage events and other programmes trickle down to the student level. When staff ask more questions and offer more solutions, they seek change and become more involved with the school.
Teachers who jump in with a willingness to contribute encourage students to do so themselves. Relationships formed outside of the classroom can be brought into the classroom. Students feel more comfortable with teachers – as are their parents – and are more eager to learn. A proactive school creates community. Active participation among all members creates an attitude that we’re all in this together.
Students should also be encouraged to take positive action within and beyond the school. Being more involved can help students feel less helpless and anxious and give them the confidence to take the first steps into activism. Having the support of parents and school staff can help them overcome fears and practical restrictions.
Changemakers sift through the noise and find commonalities
We’ve all come across people who do not believe in the same things we do. Changemakers sift through the noise and find commonalities. Schools can model the real world, as teachers come from different environments and have diverse knowledge and beliefs that shape them as educators. They also have different strengths and weaknesses.
Changemakers must know how to find common ground and acknowledge what they can do better or differently than how they do things. When there’s mutual respect and admiration and an honest intent to view another perspective, everyone feels more valued and heard, and conflicts can be resolved productively.
Being able to be humble and disagree helps staff and students become more objective and less defensive when confronted with information or views that differ from our own. Teachers can model this for students by disagreeing productively and accepting different opinions.
Changemakers understand the importance of relationships in creating change. As mentioned previously, schools can create opportunities for student leadership where they have input in the school’s decision-making process.
SISD encourages students to be changemakers in its primary grades. Through empowerment and encouragement from the school’s staff and teachers, students are responsible for identifying opportunities and taking action to make a difference.