Empower kids and teens during COVID-19

girl looking out window at virus
girl looking out window at virus
Image by enriquelopez­garre from Pix­abay

Why empower kids and teens during COVID-19? They need it!

Tak­ing action is one impor­tant way to make a prob­lem seem more man­age­able and less fright­en­ing, so get­ting young peo­ple involved can actu­al­ly help them cope with the sit­u­a­tion we are all fac­ing. Giv­ing them a pur­pose gives them some­thing else to focus on besides what they’ve lost or what they’re wor­ried about. And remind­ing them that we are all in this togeth­er (even while six feet apart!), can help them feel less iso­lat­ed and anx­ious dur­ing this chal­leng­ing time.

We need them.

Dur­ing a cri­sis, we need all hands on deck to get through it as well as we pos­si­bly can. And young peo­ple have a lot to offer, even in the case of the cur­rent COVID-19 cri­sis. But try­ing to come up with ways for a young per­son in your life to BE A CHANGEMAKER while com­ply­ing with social dis­tanc­ing guide­lines and keep­ing every­one safe dur­ing this COVID-19 cri­sis may feel like an impos­si­ble task. It’s true that life looks very dif­fer­ent now for most peo­ple, but there are still many use­ful ways for kids and teens to give back.

So, how can we empower kids and teens during COVID-19 in a safe and responsible manner? Here are a few ideas and resources for them to choose from:

    • Do you play a musi­cal instru­ment? Per­haps you can per­form a “dri­ve-by” con­cert to cheer up neigh­bors or sched­ule one for your apart­ment build­ing. I’ve even heard of one group let­ting peo­ple “hire” them for this pur­pose, and then donat­ing the mon­ey raised to orga­ni­za­tions in need dur­ing the cri­sis — win, win!
    • Do you have some durable mark­ers or paint? How about dec­o­rat­ing some rocks with pos­i­tive mes­sages to leave along the side­walk, in build­ing entrances, or on trails in your area? I’ve also seen a lot of fan­tas­tic chalk art on streets, side­walks, even the fronts of hous­es or build­ings (be sure get per­mis­sion before dec­o­rat­ing some­one else’s pri­vate prop­er­ty!). Art, espe­cial­ly that with mes­sages of hope and con­nect­ed­ness, can go a long way toward lift­ing peo­ple’s spir­its these days.
    • Write let­ters or draw pic­tures for senior cit­i­zens or any­one else who may be iso­lat­ed now. Reach out to your local senior cen­ters and ask if you can send pho­tos of the let­ters and pic­tures for them to share with their residents.
    • Clean your room! Seri­ous­ly. Now is a great time to tack­le that over­due chore. Some items to con­sid­er purg­ing include gen­tly used cloth­ing you no longer wear, sports equip­ment you’ve out­grown, toys, books, etc. You may not be able to donate them right now, but it’ll be nice to have them out of your way now, and orga­ni­za­tions will appre­ci­ate them when things open back up again.
    • Check in on friends and fam­i­ly. Use the phone or oth­er avail­able tech­nol­o­gy just to see how they’re doing. Talk about how you’re doing. No mat­ter how old or young you are, this is one that ben­e­fits every­one. It may seem triv­ial, but it may be just what the per­son on the oth­er end needs.
    • Be kind to your teach­ers. Whether your cur­rent teach­ers are your usu­al teach­ers, your par­ents, your grand­par­ents, or an old­er sib­ling, all of this is new to them (yes, even if you are home­schooled!) and they are doing their best to help you be suc­cess­ful while also doing all of the oth­er things they need to do right now, many of which are also new to them. Offer a word of encour­age­ment, a thank you note, or a gen­uine smile when­ev­er you can.
    • Youth Ser­vice Amer­i­ca has a bunch of oth­er great ideas here, includ­ing hold­ing a vir­tu­al dance-a-thon, orga­niz­ing a ted­dy bear hunt, rais­ing aware­ness for an issue you care about, and more!
    • For teens, look into mutu­al aid orga­ni­za­tions in your area and see if you can con­tribute. Not famil­iar with mutu­al aid? The basic idea is that every­one has some­thing to give and that we are all depen­dent on one anoth­er. You can read more about the idea here, but, in short, they are net­works cre­at­ed by indi­vid­ual com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers among spe­cif­ic groups of oppressed peo­ple or dur­ing local emer­gen­cies like nat­ur­al dis­as­ters. With the cur­rent pub­lic health cri­sis, how­ev­er, they’ve been sprout­ing every­where. Paired with the pow­er of today’s read­i­ly acces­si­ble tech­nol­o­gy, they are an even more pow­er­ful force. There’s a mas­sive list of exist­ing mutu­al aid orga­ni­za­tions here. If you can’t find one that fits, start your own with this Mutu­al Aid 101 Toolk­it, and be the hero of your community!

What­ev­er you do, be sure to check fed­er­al, state, and local guide­lines to make sure you are com­ply­ing with the most recent advice. And… stay safe, stay home!

How #ChangemakerEd is improving #BacktoSchool

Be a Changemaker cover

I came across an inter­est­ing arti­cle on Medi­um the oth­er day. It talks about “reimag­in­ing edu­ca­tion in this his­toric time of change” and the impor­tance of #Change­mak­erEd, the glob­al move­ment to empow­er young peo­ple to cre­ate a bet­ter world by mas­ter­ing empa­thy and iden­ti­fy­ing as changemakers.
#ChangemakerEd book "Be a Changemaker" coverThis move­ment isn’t new, but it is grow­ing. And as the author of BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, I could­n’t be hap­pi­er. Through my work with stu­dents and teach­ers based on my book, I have seen it first­hand time and time again. Once stu­dents real­ize they CAN be change­mak­ers, their whole out­look on life changes. Sud­den­ly they see prospects and oppor­tu­ni­ties they could­n’t have even imag­ined before. And it goes far beyond the indi­vid­ual stu­dents them­selves, of course. As it says in the article:

The key fac­tor for suc­cess for every com­mu­ni­ty — be it a com­pa­ny, a city or a coun­try — is the pro­por­tion of its pop­u­la­tion who are change­mak­ers. A col­lec­tive abil­i­ty to address com­plex social prob­lems — and to antic­i­pate future ones — is para­mount to pos­i­tive­ly shap­ing our world.”

#Change­mak­erEd schools and edu­ca­tors are lead­ing the charge to pre­pare today’s young peo­ple for exact­ly that kind of suc­cess by help­ing them gain the knowl­edge, prac­tice the skills, and feel the sense of pur­pose that is nec­es­sary for them to thrive as glob­al cit­i­zens and have a pos­i­tive impact on their com­mu­ni­ties. Along with the core sub­jects, more and more teach­ers are also teach­ing their stu­dents to have empa­thy, be thought­ful, be cre­ative, take action, lead the way, and col­lab­o­rate with oth­ers, while allow­ing them to apply their edu­ca­tion to real-world prob­lems right now.
Inter­est­ed? Read the full arti­cle here to find out more about this impor­tant move­ment, and watch this inspir­ing video about one #Change­mak­erEd high school in Arizona:

And, of course, check out BE A CHANGEMAKER for inspi­ra­tion, real-life exam­ples, and tons of prac­ti­cal how-to advice that teens can start putting to use imme­di­ate­ly, whether they have access to #Change­mak­erED in their own school or not!

7th Graders Changing the World

I recent­ly came across this arti­cle about some 7th graders from Owas­so, Okla­homa. It says, in part:

Sev­er­al read­ing stu­dents at the Owas­so Sev­enth Grade Cen­ter recent­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the school’s first “Be a Change­mak­er” program.
The pro­gram – based off Lau­rie Ann Thompson’s book, “Be a Change­mak­er: How to Start Some­thing That Mat­ters” – enabled stu­dents to affect change in their class­rooms and the com­mu­ni­ty through dif­fer­ent pas­sion projects.
Eighty six stu­dents across five class­es com­bined what they like, what they’re good at, and a prob­lem they felt pas­sion­ate about to cre­ate a cam­paign that would make a last­ing impact in that area.
Lan­guage Arts teacher Amber McMath, who led the two-week pro­gram, used the premise of “Be a Change­mak­er” as the foun­da­tion for the course, designed to help stu­dents in read­ing reme­di­a­tion improve their skills.
“They’re only assign­ment was to come up with a ven­ture that would change the world,” she said. “The book inspired us to do that because it had sev­er­al projects in it, and it also was kind of a guide that walked you through how to do it.”

The kids addressed bul­ly­ing at their school, start­ed a video game club, col­lect­ed food for a home­less shel­ter, and raised aware­ness of issues includ­ing human traf­fick­ing and food waste. They engaged in pub­lic speak­ing events and social media cam­paigns, wrote meet­ing agen­das and press releas­es, con­tact­ed busi­ness­es to ask for help, and researched grants and oth­er crowd-sourc­ing out­lets to raise funds.
Way to go, Owas­so 7th graders (and their awe­some lan­guage arts teacher, Ms. McMath)!
Read the full arti­cle and see a pho­to here.