by LeeAnne Lavender, Service Learning Coach
Above: Grade 2 students sharing their peace messages with parents and teachers from Concordia.
When the Inspire Citizens team helped elementary educators at Concordia International School Shanghai redesign their social studies curriculum a few years ago, the grade 2 team fully embraced the opportunity to create units rooted in global citizenship.
Two key units in the revised curriculum are called “I am a Global Citizen” and “Be the Change”. In the first unit, students learn about what it means to be a global citizen in response to essential questions like “How can we care and be more aware about our world? (people, planet, animals)” and “How can we use tools to learn and teach about people and the environment?”. They interview community members and learn about the ways that people care about others, animals and the environment.
Students transfer this knowledge into the “Be the Change” unit that follows. Their knowledge about how others have made a difference is used to propel their ideas about how they can make positive and purposeful change, too.
Typically, students engage in service learning cycles during this unit. Using the action standards in the social studies C3 framework (the standards that now frame the elementary social studies program), teachers guide students in investigating a community need and preparing to take action in response to that need. Students have, in the past, taken action on campus to plant a tree, teach peers about the issue of plastics in the ocean, run awareness campaigns about kindness, established bird feeders on campus, and more.
This year, the grade 2 teachers faced an extra challenge.
Just as the unit was getting underway this year, Shanghai went into a serious lockdown for Covid-19 and schools went back online. Grade 2 teacher Silvina Rubiano was determined this would not derail her students’ access to a robust action experience, and she tackled some immediate needs surfacing in the local community.
“In this unit, the students wanted to explore ideas of peace and how to spread peace in our community and the world,” explains Silvina. “With the lockdown, it was clear that many adults in the international school community in Shanghai were not feeling peace. People were stressed and upset, and they were facing many challenges. I wondered about how my grade 2 students could meet that need, a need for personal peace in these challenging times.”
Silvina ran a design session where students ideated around the question “how might we help others feel peace during the lockdown”? Students came up with some excellent ideas, from helping their parents with chores at home to sharing food through common food shelves that have been set up in apartment buildings.
They also wondered if they could create messages about peace that could be shared with others, and Silvina saw this as a wonderful opportunity for advocacy.
“It would be amazing to have the students share messages through stories and videos with others in our community,” says Silvina. “I know this will make a difference.”
The students divided into groups. One group is writing stories and poems about peace. Another is creating a video about peace. And a third group is drawing and creating visual images about peace so they can make posters and positive messages. All of these products are being compiled and shared with teachers at Concordia, and with teachers at international schools throughout Shanghai.
Concordia is a founding member of the Shanghai Service and Sustainability Network, which includes over 20 schools in and around the city of Shanghai. All of the students’ peace messages will be shared through the network so they can uplift teachers across the city.
“I really hope that others are inspired by what the kids are sharing,” says Silvina.
To amplify the sharing and demonstration aspect of what the students did in the unit, Silvina organized a zoom call with parents and community members where students shared their work. People joined the call from multiple countries and continents, and the students were excited to connect and share.
This learning experience has been rich and has helped the students see how they can take positive and purposeful action using digital storytelling and advocacy. Especially in the face of weeks of lockdown measures, this has empowered students to “Be the Change” in tangible and effective ways.
Click HERE to see the peace stories, posters and drawings created by the Grade 2 class.