Be The Change: Grade 2 students act to create change

Grade 2 student Mia with a label and letter she made to educate others about how to recycle paper on campus. 


by LeeAnne Lavender

Service Learning Coach

A recent grade 2 unit called “Be the Change” has resulted in several powerful service learning experiences that have created ripples of change on campus, in Shanghai, and reached as far as Hong Kong, London and California.

Coming after a unit called “I am a Global Citizen”, the “Be the Change” unit was designed to give students a way to create action plans linking a United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to a local or global need.

And what a wealth of action occurred! The students were excited to apply their learning in tangible ways, and used all five components of the service learning cycle to create a variety of experiences that met environmental and social needs.

Here are some examples of the deep learning that occurred:

·      one group investigated trees and the value of trees to our planet’s ecosystems. They researched local trees, and wondered if they could plant a Querus tree on campus. After receiving permission, they planted a tree in the elementary school playground, and made posters to educate peers about the importance of trees.

·      shark finning and the environmental impacts of overfishing sharks (apex predators in the oceans’ ecosystems) was alarming to another group of students. They made a short video (PSA) pushing adults to avoid eating shark fin soup. The PSO has been accepted for online distribution by, and  

·      concerned about plastics in the oceans after conducting research and interviews, a group of students diverted some single-use plastic bottles from the recycling programs at their housing complexes to make a sculpture. They then used this sculpture to teach other elementary school students about why they should avoid single-use plastics, teaching their peers about the impact of plastics on the oceans.

·      one group was interested in educating others about how they can protect themselves and others from COVID-19, so they made a short video with some tips to share with other students.

·      wanting to encourage others not to waste paper, one group designed, made and distributed special labels for the scrap paper trays in every elementary classroom.

·      in one class, students divided into three groups to take action. Animal Advocates, the Currency Savers (which partnered with grade 1 students learning about budgeting in a math unit) and the Friendship Circle groups all planned, organized and ran campaigns designed to create change.

·     a locally-minded group redesigned an underutilized space on the third floor of the elementary building. Using a scaled model, they added vertical gardens, flower beds, a wet weather awning and even a zip line. 

In all grade 2 classes during the Be The Change unit, there was evidence of students investigating a global issue, planning and preparing to take action, acting to create change, and reflecting on what had been accomplished and learned along the way. Students demonstrated to others what they had learned and done in a variety of ways, from sharing their videos with parents, other classes and the greater community to talking with school leaders and sharing posters throughout the elementary school.

Students were empowered to see how they could “Be the Change” in so many different and varied ways during this unit. Thanks to the grade 2 teachers for making this happen: Corinna Raasch, Melissa Alcorn, Naomi Stewart, Silvina Rubiano and Dan Speed.

The videos below features short interview with grade 2 students Amy C and Vessel A about their experiences and what they learned, as well as the shark fin soup video made by a group from Mr. Speed's class.