Person holding a sign at a Global climate change strike
Lesson

10 Questions for the Future: Student Action Project

Students create a plan for enacting change on an issue that they are most passionate about using the 10 Questions Framework.

Published:

At a Glance

Lesson

Language

English — US

Subject

  • Civics & Citizenship
  • History
  • Social Studies

Grade

6–12

Duration

One 50-min class period
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement

Overview

About This Lesson

This lesson is intended as a culminating activity to inspire students to apply the 10 Questions Framework to issues they are most passionate about. The final assessment for the unit provides links to other resources from Harvard’s Democratic Knowledge Project website that will help students transfer the knowledge gained from their unit of study into tangible opportunities to take action in their community. While this lesson provides a framework for introducing final projects, it does not offer explicit guidance on how to design a project. For this reason, before implementing this lesson, teachers need to be clear about what types of action-oriented projects they want to adopt for this unit (using the links we provide or their own project ideas). They will also need to consider how they will tailor the 10 Questions Framework to the interests and needs of their students. See the Notes to Teacher section for more information.

How can the 10 Questions Framework help you plan a course of action to address an issue or problem that you care about?

  • Students will define an issue that matters to them and identify short- and long-term goals for enacting change on that issue.
  • Students will spell out the specific strategies to achieve their goals that align with their long-term and short-term visions.
  • 2 activities
  • 1 teaching strategy
  • 2 handouts
  • 1 assessment

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before you teach this lesson, please review the following guidance to tailor this lesson to your students’ contexts and needs.

The purpose of this lesson is to circle back to students’ interests and passions on a specific issue and have them conceive of ways to enact change on that issue using the 10 Questions Framework. Teachers will likely need to devote additional class periods, as necessary, to introduce the project and provide time for student collaboration to complete it. This unit defers to teachers’ judgment about the specific implementation methods most appropriate for their students’ abilities and interests.

Teachers must sometimes approach the end of a Facing History unit with flexibility and creativity, as students may be inspired to invest themselves in a class project, or series of projects, to make a difference in their school, community, country, or the world. While this lesson is designed to provide students with some models and inspiration for the various ways in which they might choose to participate in creating a more humane world, students may already feel galvanized to do something beyond the scope of this lesson’s activities. We urge you to follow their passion and energy, to be willing to deviate from this lesson’s activities when possible, and to use the resources here to help guide projects in the school, community, and beyond that are conceived, created, and led by your students.

We encourage teachers to structure sufficient time for students to debrief their projects and provide feedback to each other. The following prompts might be helpful to consider when planning a debrief process for your students:

  • What was the issue your project aimed to tackle?
  • What were the short-term and long-term goals of your project?
  • What strategies did you use?
  • How did your project incorporate the 10 Questions Framework?
  • Overall, how did your project go? What challenges did you face, and how did you respond to them?
  • If you could do the project over again, what changes would you make?
  • What counts as success for your project?

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Lesson Plan

Activities

  • Open the lesson by asking students to reflect on what it means to take civic action by choosing to respond to one of the following quotes in their journals. Pass out the handout Quotations from Changemakers and ask students to respond to one or more of these quotes in their journals. Students can respond to the quote in any way they choose, including explaining why it resonates with them, what they like or dislike about it, or its intended meaning.
  • Once students have responded privately, ask them to return to their initial responses to Questions 1 and 2 from the framework, which they began to explore in Lesson 1: “What do I care about?” and “Why does it matter to me?” Tell students to reread their previous answers and underline one to three sentences that they want to dig into more deeply after using the framework to analyze two case studies of student activism. Next, have students start a new entry that explores one of the sentences they underlined. They might write about new understandings, raise new questions, or expand on personal connections to the material. Time allowing, invite volunteers to share ideas from their reflections with the class.
  • Pass out copies of the 10 Questions Framework: Questions for Me handout. Tell students that they will explore their ideas from Lesson 1 in more detail in a new response on their handouts (Questions 1 and 2).
  • Once students have identified an issue that matters to them, ask them to detail the goals that they want to achieve on that issue. Ask them to identify both a short-term and long-term goal (Question 3 on the handout).
  • Ask students to select two or three questions from the 10 Questions Framework that will most help them achieve their short- and long-term goals (Question 4 on the handout). For instance, if a student’s goal is to accomplish policy change on a specific issue, they may want to choose Question 9 (“How do you get from voice to influence?”) and Question 10 (“How do you find allies?”).
  • Once students have chosen their questions, give them time to think about how they will address the questions through specific actions. For instance, if they want to address Question 10, they may want to co-sponsor a forum with local community organizations. Students should write their ideas in the column marked “Answer.”
  • Debrief students’ responses to the questions on the handout using the Concentric Circles strategy so that students have the opportunity to share ideas with a number of different classmates. Then give them time to add any new ideas to their handouts.
  • To close the lesson, ask students to reflect on the following quote from civil rights activist Franklin McCain: “Inevitably, people will ask me, ‘What can I do?’ What kind of question is that? Look around you. Once you identify what you want to do, don’t ask for the masses to help you because they won’t come.”
    • How do you interpret McCain’s quote? How have the youth you’ve studied in this unit embodied McCain’s philosophy?
    • What have you learned from this unit that will help you heed McCain’s advice?

Assessment

To extend this study, consider having your class design civic action projects using the 10 Questions Framework. For examples of classroom projects and supporting handouts, visit the following websites:

  • Bending the Arc: This collaborative project for high school helps students apply lessons from African American history to contemporary issues, with the goal of developing well-researched, achievable, and community-focused projects.

Youth Participatory Action Research (PAR): This project for eighth grade guides students to investigate meaningful social topics, participate in research to understand the root causes of problems that directly impact them, and then take action to influence policies through the dissemination of their findings to policymakers and stakeholders.

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Facing History and Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

Most teachers are willing to tackle the difficult topics, but we need the tools.
— Gabriela Calderon-Espinal, Bay Shore, NY