Being an educator means more than teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Teachers are also called to help their students become good citizens and stewards of the world. One of the best ways to do this is to incorporate social causes into the classroom setting. For example, celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October helps students learn more about this unfortunately common health issue and how it impacts our society.
Perform a Class Research Project
Creating a class research project is a great way to get students involved in a social cause. Consider dividing the class into groups and have them make a poster about a specific area of research related to the cause. This research can span several disciplines. In the example of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one group could focus on the science of breast cancer—such as how genes increase risk—another group could explore social factors like access to mammograms. A third group could discuss how breast cancer affects mental health.
Participate in a Local Community Event
Consider asking your class to participate in a charity walk, local park clean-up, or Habitat for Humanity event. This is a great way to foster a sense of community pride and civic engagement.
Raise Money for a Student-Selected Cause
At the beginning of the year, ask students to discuss local or national issues of importance. This might include health initiatives, environmental projects, veteran’s issues, homelessness, hunger, or poverty. Choose three charitable organizations (check their charity ratings to ensure the money goes to a good place) and have your students vote on their top choice.
Then, bring in large jars for students to fill with spare change. Encourage them to come up with creative ideas for fundraising to meet their charitable goal.
Help Students Reflect On Their Blessings
One of the most important ways that students can become better social stewards is for them to cultivate a humble, compassionate attitude. Begin by having students write down their blessings. Ask them to think broadly about the advantages they have received from their families and from society at large. Depending on your students’ age group, this exercise could foster a broader discussion about privilege and the need to be compassionate toward others.
Of course, teachers must tread lightly in the classroom around some social causes. While students feel passionate about many issues, it’s typically best to avoid promoting a cause that is very controversial or political. Instead, encourage your students to do their own reading outside of school and to talk to adults in their lives about the issues that matter most to them.