Getting students to think beyond the classroom and focusing on bigger issues is the goal of many middle and high school teachers.
It’s certainly the goal of Kopachuck Middle School Language Arts teacher Kelle Bryson, who assigned her eighth grade students an end-of-year multimedia project that brings attention to an issue of global or national significance.
These “Challenge to Make a Difference Multimedia Campaigns” are collaborative projects between groups of two or three students to educate their classmates about the chosen issue and provide a way for them to take action.
“The whole idea is that they might only be 13- or 14-year-old kids, but they do have the power to make a difference,” Bryson said. “So often we think we can’t make a difference and we can — even if it’s tiny.”
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Students were allowed to pick their own topics and focused on a range of issues including: suicide prevention, animal cruelty, littering, internet safety and bullying, a common problem and prevention topic in many schools.
The whole idea is that they might only be 13- or 14-year-old kids, but they do have the power to make a difference. So often we think we can’t make a difference and we can. even if it’s tiny.
Kelle Bryson, Kopachuck Middle School teacher
One group, Evelyn Biskey and Abby Archer, focused their anti-bullying campaign on lifting classmates up, titling their project “Be a Ladder to Others.” The pair wrote encouraging notes on 900 Post-it notes and placed them on every locker in the school, an uplifting moment for many students, Bryson said.
“The notes were popular,” she said. “A lot of people said it brightened their day.”
For many of the groups, their chosen campaign focused on a topic that was personal to the members. This is true for the “Just Listen” campaign by Tyler Carr and Xander Southworth, who built on personal experience to encourage their peers to continue reaching out and talking to classmates in difficult situations.
The groups were each required to use different types of media to reach their audiences and spread their message. Some of the different uses of media included posters placed around the school, social media sites and original videos.
They’ve really done some above and beyond work. Most of them took it very seriously, which is why I was so impressed ... hopefully by getting the message out, people will do more.
Using different types of appeals — logical, emotional or ethical — to reach their audience, the students also used slogans and facts to involve their peers and encourage them to take action on their chosen campaigns.
Another anti-bullying campaign — from Katie Mandarino, Ashleigh Johnson and Taylor Dingman — focused on action from students to support and uplift each other with their “Tag a Sm:)e (smile)” campaign. The project encouraged students to write notes to each other, offering compliments and encouragements instead of criticism.
Bryson said that this is her first year using this project and the resulting campaigns from the students have been impressive.
“They’ve really done some above and beyond work,” she said. “Most of them took it very seriously, which is why I was so impressed ... hopefully by getting the message out, people will do more.”