One of the first things we talked about in social studies this year was what it means to be a peace maker. Our school says the “peace keeper’s pledge” every morning in assembly, but I challenged my students, asking them, what is the difference between a peace keeper and a peace maker? We talked about it a lot over the course of several days, deciding that being a peace keeper is an important job, but unless you know when to start being a peace maker, change never really happens. In the words of one of our students, “changemakers break the rules to make better rules.” Peace makers and change makers stand up to injustice when no one else will. Peace makers and change makers are active, not passive. And in fifth grade, we have learned how to be peace keepers, and we are ready to be peace makers.
Our first project of the year was called “We Are Change Makers.” Students were split up into groups of 3 or 4, and they chose an individual to research from the book 101 Changemakers: Radicals and Rebels Who Changed US History. These individuals are people who are not often talked about in history classes, people like Claudette Colvin, who was the first black girl to not give up her seat on the bus (9 months before Rosa Parks!). Students spent two weeks researching their changemakers, and then created a presentation to teach the rest of the class about their changemaker. Our kids did incredibly well, and presented their projects in an array of ways, from plays to posters to PowToons.
I was so impressed with the maturity our kids used in discussing such sensitive topics such as race and gender. They were marvelous. They truly are changemakers.
Check out Wiley, Victoria, and Alejandro’s PowToon about Jane Addams!
I am so excited to do this project again next year, but I think I will let students choose partners instead of assigning groups.
All of the materials I used for this project are now on my TeachersPayTeachers store, and the book 101 Changemakers is $15 on Amazon. I would love to see how our project could play out in other classrooms!