You have the exciting opportunity to empower students to make a positive contribution to class, school, and community. The suggested activities will help you to do so, as well as fulfilling the second objective of the social awareness competency – to “demonstrate consideration for and contribution to the well-being of school, community and the world.”
Students can be helped to note that there are enough resources and energy and power for everyone. They can learn that spending time and energy for the benefit of someone else will not take anything away from them. They can be helped to understand that in fact when they support others, others are increasingly likely to support them.
As students use their social skills to develop awareness and understanding of others’ feelings, and to make choices that demonstrate support of others, they can be encouraged to notice the positive responses from those they are supporting. They can also be encouraged to notice the positive feelings they get from contributing to others’ joy.
Students can be encouraged to build on the ways in which they can be considerate of and contribute to others. They have already been taught to refrain from actions that may detract from others’ well being, as well as to show some support with their body language and words. They can take this support and their empathy to another level by noticing and responding to others’ needs. Rather than waiting for others to request support and assistance, they can act proactively, offering their support before it is requested.
Students can brainstorm and role-play examples of this kind of support. They can explore actions such as offering help with a project when they notice a classmate struggling, inviting a student to join their group at lunch, and standing up for a student who is being teased. You can describe the importance of “random acts of kindness” and create a bulletin board which you can fill with descriptions of these acts which you have observed and noticed.
Students can explore enlarging the circle of those to whom they offer their support. They can notice and respond to needs of others beyond their class. They can be helped to explore opportunities such as becoming mentors to younger students, acting as tutors, and becoming peer mediators. If these opportunities do not exist, with your leadership, they can work together to develop these kinds of programs.
These opportunities can be enlarged even further, to encompass the community. You can provide information and materials in order to make student aware of needs within the community. You can offer opportunities for social action projects in the classroom, such as making tie blankets or toys for shelter animals. You can then explore volunteer opportunities that they could engage in with their families or on their own.
Students can also learn to make positive contributions to the community and world around them with the projects in which they are involved. Students can be assigned work that has meaning and impact beyond the classroom, learning relevant content, helping others, and feeling empowered by the impact they can have. Examples of such projects include interviewing senior community members and sharing their oral histories in a newsletter that is distributed throughout the community, testing local water quality and publishing the findings, and starting or enlarging a recycling program.
With your support and guidance, students will be empowered to be participatory citizens, making a difference as positive contributors in ever-widening ripples.