Skip to content

One World Lessons: Activism – Part II

In our latest blog series, Laura D’Elia and Wendy Garland discuss their experiences and offer diversity, equity, and inclusion lessons that can be taught in the K-6 classroom or library. Each lesson incorporates the Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards and the AASL Standards Framework for Learning, as well as includes recommended picture books from the Diverse BookFinder collection. 

Laura Beals D’Elia (she/her/hers) has been an elementary library teacher since 2002. She has presented at various state, national, and international conferences on such topics as 1:1 iPads in an elementary school library and technology program, digital storytelling, and guided inquiry. She currently co-teaches a professional workshop for educators with her district’s ELL District Coordinator about using inclusive picture books in the classroom for all grade levels.

Wendy Garland (she/her/hers) has been an elementary librarian since 2002. She has a BA in Spanish and a BS in liberal studies from Southern Connecticut State University and a MLIS from Simmons College. She has spoken at library conferences both locally and internationally and was a participant in the AASL Induction Program. She shares all things “library” at @dancelibrarian and Listen. Connect. Empower blog 

Why Activism?

This month’s lesson is a continuation of One World Lessons: Activism, Part I. Children have so much potential for contributing to their communities and creating positive changes, yet sometimes we forget to include them or encourage them. Activists are not born; they are grown. Helping students understand that they can make a difference and learning how to carry out small actions now is how they learn to carry out big actions later.

Jane Goodall quote on a green background with a yellow globe, "Young people, when informed and empowered, when they realize that what they do truly makes a difference, can indeed change the world"

The Lesson

  • Essential Question: What is activism?
  • AASL Standard: Include/Grow II.D.3 Learners demonstrate empathy and equity in knowledge building within the global learning community by reflecting on their own place within the global learning community.
  • Social Justice Standard: Justice 12 Students will recognize unfairness on the individual level (e.g., biased speech) and injustice at the institutional or systemic level (e.g., discrimination).

Pre-Read Aloud

In the previous lesson, we focused on helping students understand what activism looks like through read aloud examples of various activists. This time, we took a moment to review through some of the activists or actions we read and learned about from before.

Read Aloud

At this point in the lesson, we chose whether or not we wanted to read one more book before we asked students to create their own plans of activism depending on whether we thought the students required more examples and more thinking around the topic. We chose from the following list of additional titles and resources:

Right Now!


by Miranda Paul and Bea Jackson

"A joyful, inspiring picture book that introduces readers to eleven young people from around the world who didn’t wait until they were grown to speak up about things that matter to them and change the world for the better, from an award-winning author and New York Times best-selling illustrator. From climate activist Greta Thunberg to anti-bullying advocate Jaylen Arnold to peace activist Bana Alabed and more, these short profiles of young people and their causes will inspire readers to think about what matters most to them. An author's note, Actions to Make a Difference, and additional resources are also included, providing a roadmap for any kid who wants to make change and help others too." -- publisher


No Voice Too Small


by Jeanette Bradley, Keila V. Dawson and Lindsay H. Metcalf

"Fans of We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices will love meeting fourteen young activists who have stepped up to make change in their community and the United States. Mari Copeny demanded clean water in Flint. Jazz Jennings insisted, as a transgirl, on playing soccer with the girls’ team. From Viridiana Sanchez Santos’s quinceañera demonstration against anti-immigrant policy to Zach Wahls’s moving declaration that his two moms and he were a family like any other, No Voice Too Small celebrates the young people who know how to be the change they seek. Fourteen poems honor these young activists. Featuring poems by Lesléa Newman, Traci Sorell, and Nikki Grimes. Additional text goes into detail about each youth activist’s life and how readers can get involved." -- publisher

Biography Incidental

Love Is Powerful


by Heather Dean Brewer and LeUyen Pham

"A little girl carries a big message—and finds it thrillingly amplified by the rallying crowd around her—in an empowering story for the youngest of activists. Mari raised her sign for everyone to see. Even though she was small and the crowd was very big, and she didn’t think anyone would hear, she yelled out. Mari is getting ready to make a sign with crayon as the streets below her fill up with people. “What are we making, Mama?” she asks. “A message for the world,” Mama says. “How will the whole world hear?” Mari wonders. “They’ll hear,” says Mama, “because love is powerful.” Inspired by a girl who participated in the January 2017 Women’s March in New York City, Heather Dean Brewer’s simple and uplifting story, delightfully illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is a reminder of what young people can do to promote change and equality at a time when our country is divided by politics, race, gender, and religion." -- publisher

Any Child

Shaking things up


by Susan Hood and Selina Alko

Shaking Things Up introduces 14 revolutionary young women--each paired with a noteworthy female artist--to the next generation of activists, trail-blazers, and rabble-rousers. This is a poetic and visual celebration of persistent women throughout history. In this book, you will find Mary Anning, who was just thirteen when she unearthed a prehistoric fossil. You'll meet Ruby Bridges, the brave six-year-old who helped end segregation in the South. And Maya Lin, who at twenty-one won a competition to create a war memorial, and then had to appear before Congress to defend her right to create. And those are just a few of the young women included in this book. Readers will also hear about Molly Williams, Annette Kellerman, Nellie Bly, Pura Belprè, Frida Kahlo, Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, Frances Moore Lappè, Mae Jemison, Angela Zhang, and Malala Yousafzai--all whose stories will enthrall and inspire. This book was written, illustrated, edited, and designed by women.--


Post-Read Aloud

Now that students were introduced to the concept of activism and saw examples of it in the books they read, it was time for them to take action. For the younger grades, we worked together as a class; however, older students can work individually or in small groups to create their action plans. We followed the format of the activist checklist (K-2 How To Be An Activist ; 3-6 I Am An Activist) from the previous lesson as a guide.

What is a problem that matters to them? We asked students to brainstorm different kinds of problems or injustices. Younger students did this as a whole class while older students did this in small groups. We brainstormed ideas that matter to them:

  • Help animals
  • Clean up trash
  • Get crossing guards by the playground
  • Help children who need clothes
  • Help people who don’t have food

What action can we take to make change? We did not ask our youngest students to take action at this time. We approached the concept with a “before and after” activity. They drew a “before” scene. Next, they drew an “after” scene showing the change they wished to see through an action that would take place in order to make a change. The goal of the “after” scene was to show how the action would make people’s lives better.

A child's drawing on white paper with colored pencils of one scene where one child is calling another child mean names and another scene where both of the children are getting along.
Before and after: Bullies are in our school, first grade student
A child's drawing in pencil on white paper of one scene where a line of people are sad because they cannot enter another country and another scene where the same line of people are happy.
Before and after: Some people don’t get to come in to our country, second grade student

We asked older students to take action, so we needed to provide guidance on what was possible and realistic for students. As a class we brainstormed a list of different kinds of actions based on the books we read previously. We then asked students to add other forms of action to the list that they knew or had heard about. These included:

  • Creating posters 
  • Writing letters or scripts for phone/email messages to stakeholders
  • Donating money/fundraisers
  • Doing community service projects
  • Organizing or attending protests
  • Talking to news/media outlets

We had them circle the actions they felt they could actually implement. From this smaller list, we had them identify the one action they wished to pursue.

Large, white chart paper with ideas written in various, colored markers in the teacher's handwriting about how students can help animals
Third graders brainstorm how they can help animals

Who or what is needed to help us? Once students identified their action, they needed to brainstorm the resources they needed (material and people). For example, the “Pet Rescue Team” whose brainstorm appears above decided they needed t-shirts, someone to teach them to braid, and someone to reach out to pet shelters to find one willing to accept their donation.

Additional Resources


One of the biggest challenges with this lesson is deciding how much time you want to dedicate to teaching it. These projects can be as big or small as you have time, energy, and buy-in. They can be theoretical such as drawings and Lego creations demonstrating a vision, or they can be actionable such as creating items or writing letters. 

A child's letter to their principal in pencil on white paper asking to hire guards for the playground with various drawings of faces.
Students wrote a letter to the principal asking her to hire a guard to protect the playground which was being vandalized
Student poster with diagonal white and gold stripes as the background which inlcudes photos of litter in a park and photos of a clean park.
Students show the problem (before), the action (during), and the solution (after)
Lego project depicting a bake sale and two red cards written by a student describing how a bake sale can help people in poverty.
Students show the problem (poverty) and the action (bake sale to raise money).

There are so many different ways you can have students learn to use their voices and practice activism and there are so many wonderful books giving examples. The only way you can teach this wrong is not to teach it at all. Take action now!

Explore other One World Lessons

Many of the cover images on this site are from Google Books.
Using Tiny Framework Log in