Inspiring students to engage the community through self-directed, humanitarian projects.

by Michael Lindblad

Grades 9-12

Introduction

I’ve found that inviting my students to participate in humanitarian projects that they select themselves engages them more directly and helps them create their own meaning in ways that empower and extend their learning.

Each year in my classroom I encourage my students to develop and deliver their own humanitarian project, one that helps others in need by providing aid or resources not otherwise available in the community.

I shape their project by:

–Helping students understand what a humanitarian is and what it would mean to support someone in a humanitarian project;

–Encouraging students to develop the planning, communication, and presentation skills they need to engage their own local community to support their project; and then

–Connecting the imperiled communities they wish to support with the social, cultural, and historical events and conditions that have shaped their histories.

This project ensures that my students leave the classroom with a deeper, more empathetic understanding of the world around them.

Reflections

What I did well…

This project shows that you can’t wait around for incredible things to happen in schools with low budgets; you have to exercise teacher leadership by engaging all of the stakeholders in the community around one project. The fact that we raised over  $20,000 for humanitarian relief in Gresham, Portland, the U.S., and around the world in one of the poorest school districts in Oregon, shows the students anything is possible. I selected the right book in Mountains Beyond Mountains to model humanitarianism and a high area of need in Haiti. I also got the backing of my principal and school accountant while allocating several months for the project.

What would I do more of, better or differently…

Even though we individually wrote thank you notes to all businesses, parents, school, and community members each year, I think the distribution was sporadic and nothing replaces delivering the thank you letters personally to businesses. I would have organized thank you tours to all businesses. Also, I should have documented all student humanitarian project creations to model to other students/teachers around the world. I was hesitant about directing student creativity by showing other projects first. We could develop more online collection areas.

I still want to grow in this practice by…

I would be interested in creating humanitarian mentors from prior years.  If we had a page or social media area where students all shared their annual humanitarian projects, and connected with a mentor from a prior year that would be helpful. It would also be interesting to continue to check on the student humanitarian goals throughout their lives to see if any had continued their work in college or beyond.

About Michael Lindblad

Michael Lindblad is a multicultural educator from Portland, Oregon. He just completed his 45th speaking engagement as the keynote speaker for the U...

Find out more