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10 Social justice activities to try in class

Social justice is the view that everyone deserves to enjoy the same economic, political and social rights, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender or other characteristics. Teaching social justice in the classroom is crucial for preparing young people to become responsible global citizens in the 21st century. 

Numerous resources and Web sites provide tips and activities for helping students reflect upon social justice issues in the classroom. Here are 10 great activities that will get kids at different grade levels thinking about human rights and our responsibility to take care of each other.

  1. Lemon peel (grades 3-8):  Give a lemon to each student and ask them to "get to know" their lemons. Have them look for any identifying marks, shape, brightness of the lemon, etc. Then, take the lemons, put them in a basket and have the students find their lemon. Students should not have trouble with this. The next day, peel the lemons and have the students attempt to find their lemons again in the basket. This will teach them that although we look different on the outside, we are the same on the inside. 
  2. "This is Our House" (grades K-3):  Assign students to read, or read to them, This is Our House by Michael Rosen. In this book, George, the main character, creates a cardboard box. When other children come and try to play in the box, George turns them away for their outward characteristics. The story teaches students that everyone looks different and it is hurtful when others are treated poorly because they are a girl, have red hair, etc. Have kids create their own "cardboard box," and have everyone go inside it. 
  3. Face-to-face (grades 3-6):  Place students in pairs and have them observe and interview each other. Have students list their differences as well as similarities. See if these attributes are external or internal, and discuss this with the class. Students should leave the activity realizing that it's important to respect and celebrate human differences.
  4. Draw a picture (grades 2-4): Gender stereotyping is common in the workplace and in society. Have students draw pictures that represent different professions, such as construction worker or teacher. Collect the drawings and add up how many men or women were represented in each drawing. Use the data to discuss how gender roles and societal expectations impact individuals' employment opportunities.
  5. Art and Social Justice: What is a Portrait? (grades K-5): This lesson helps children start thinking about what a portrait can show about race and racial stereotypes, and how portraitists might reinforce or fight against stereotypes through their art.

  6. Timeline of school integration (grades 4-6):  By using this timeline, students will learn about the ongoing quest to integrate schools, beginning as early as 1849 and continuing until today. This will raise social awareness about segregation and teach kids that regardless of race, every person has the right to a quality education.
  7. I See You, You See Me: Body Image and Social Justice (grades K-5): This series help students think about their bodies and body images in a social justice context. Each lesson looks at a different aspect of the relationship children have with their bodies.

  8. Reading Ads with a Social Justice Lens (Grade Level K-5)  Children are surrounded – and targeted – by advertisements: on television, the computer, even on their journeys to and from school
  9. Native American influences on U.S. history and culture (grades 3-5):  Give students this pop quiz to help them learn more about what Native Americans contributed to our culture. 
  10. Can girls be plumbers? (grades 2-4)Teach about gender stereotypes, roles and career choices. Provide photos of both men and women and a list of  different jobs. Have kids use the photographs to create a display with the photos on one side and the corresponding jobs on the other. See what the students match up, and then discuss. 


Article by Kassondra Granata, EducationWorld Contributor
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