Very often, when schools talk about ‘taking action’ in the classroom, they are talking about raising money. While occasionally raising money is a good solution (and, potentially, the only solution), it is not a viable way for classes to take action as a part of every topic. Even if only one class in a school used raising money as the only form of action, by the time they finished four or five topics, the parents and community would not be well and truly finished with fundraising! Taken to a school-level, it is absolutely unviable.
And yet we know that taking meaningful action that connects students to their local and global community improves engagement and learning by making the topic and skills relevant to their lives. So how can we bridge this disconnect? Here are some suggestions on how to take action in your classroom, without asking for money.
1. Other types of donations
Money is not the only type of donation many charities will take! One of my best experiences in the classroom was helping my students run a book drive, to collect books for children in detention centres. We ended up receiving over 1500 books!
Charities like Vinnies and the Salvation Army also welcome donations of clothes, blankets and household items. Many households have items that they have been meaning to give to charity but just haven’t got around to it yet. Alternatively, most charities that work with homeless people will have some type of drive to collect cans of food, especially in winter and at Christmas. You will be amazed how much your class can collect for charities if you ask for goods rather than money.
2. Connecting students to people
Taking action does not always have to be collecting for charity either. Sometimes, connecting students to other people can be equally as effective. This may involve taking the students on an excursion to a nursing home or to see veteran’s to hear histories from real people. It may mean connecting with scientists or people from other countries over Skype/Google Hangouts to ask the questions they have to an expert. Connecting to others is one of the most powerful things we can do; students can take action by learning to how to make meaningful connections.
3. Teach others
We know that our students have learnt something if they are able to articulate it well to others. Why not put this in to action by planning a Science Fair, or another type of expo, where students have to explain what they have learnt. You could even invite parents and grandparents along for an added dimension.
An alternative to this is for your students to teach what they have learnt to a younger class. It could be a short event that just lasts one lesson, half a day or a full day of activities and learning.
4. Plan a special day
Take the students out of the school setting for the day, if you can, to fulfill an action plan based on their learning. Studying the environment? Organise a clean up day around local beaches or parkland, or participate in National Tree Day. If your students are old enough, talk to your local volunteer organisations who work in similar areas to your topic of study. Most places would love 25 helpers, even if it is just for the day.
5. Plan an event
Your class could also organise a school event, raising awareness rather than money. There are people in the world who have to walk for miles four or five times a day for water, and students could organise an event for their class, year level or even whole school to walk that distance to increase empathy and understanding. Older students could participate in something like the Two Dollar Challenge to begin to understand the challenges for the homeless or people living in third world countries.
6. Ask your students!
Finally, ask your students for their ideas! In my experience my students always mention raising money first, but when we unpack it further they come up with amazing ideas together that I would never have thought of by myself. I have seen schools where it was the students who pushed for an improved recycling programme, and rain water tanks to decrease the school’s water use. Ultimately, if it comes from them then it will be more meaningful than anything else.
Have you assisted your class to take action without raising money? I would love to know how in the comments.