This blog post was written by Georgina Ardalan, an Early Childhood Educator at Janney Elementary School (DCPS).
Educators, as we prepare for our students’ arrival in the next few weeks I have a challenge for you: Find something that is important to your learners and, over the course of the year, take action! How do we do this? Have fun with your students. Listen to them. Tell stories to each other. Figure out what they are passionate about and don’t be afraid to lift up their voices!
Earlier this month, I had the great honor to share our classroom’s Children Are Citizens project at WISSIT, the Washington International School Summer Institute for Teachers. As I was up on stage, I was reminded about the opportunity each of us has. I sometimes worry that many of us sit by and feel helpless when we read tragic things in the newspaper. When I read about the off-leash dog who killed a beaver in Rock Creek Park, I took that article back to the classroom to see what kindergartners in my care would say. They made signs. HUNDREDS of signs. We took action to make our park a better place.
What I discovered is that when we engage in a Children Are Citizens project–whether it’s handing out cards asking people to be happy, writing a guidebook to a local park, or creating a sign campaign to keep dogs on leashes–young children have an innate desire to want to make other people’s lives better. All of these past projects incorporate small acts that can change the trajectory of lives. These tiny moments are actually a really big deal. The projects that we do together feel good when we do them. And, because it feels good to feel good, we find ourselves wanting to do these projects again and again.
What can we do as a classroom to solve big world problems? Where can we start? I am here to tell you we can start small. Listen to the children. Find out what’s important to them, and a project will emerge. Give it time, don’t rush. The most important thing is that the children are taking action together to make our community, our city, and our world better. The important residuals of these efforts will live on with them.
For this upcoming year ask yourself, What do you care about? Then ask your students what they care about. Take action, all the while telling everyone you know about it. We’re all influencers; we just have to use the influence we have, and together we can make real change.