One of the leading groups of teachers who have designed action projects and lesson plans that focus on social justice is the iEARN (International Education and Resource Network). I met many of the teachers from iEARN when I was involved as the Director of the Global Thinking Project (GTP), and attended one of their international meetings, and also met with some of the key teachers in the movement in Barcelona, Spain in the 1990s. iEarn is in its 20th year of activity, and it the largest non-profit global network that enables teachers and youth to use the Internet to collaborate on learning and try and make a difference in the world. Many of teachers who were active in iEARN were also involved in the Global Thinking Project network; in fact more than 20 schools in Spain that were active in iEARN were participating in the GTP online environmental program.
Social action projects are social justice projects. They are concrete examples of how teachers and students can deal with equity and excellence in teaching, and work with all students, particularly the underserved, and design experiences that have social action components. Students have to see that their work means something, not only to themselves, but to their community, including other youth, teachers, parents and citizens.
iEARN is one of the most powerful resources on the Internet to provide teachers with specific examples of social justice projects, but also iEARN provides online teacher education in which you learn how to connect with other teachers and globalize your classroom. iEARN involves teachers from many parts of the world, and its website exists in many languages.
You can visit the iEARN website, and explore a host of social action projects that have been designed by teachers, and implemented in classrooms around the world. For example, if you search the projects site on iEARN for “environmental” projects you will find several projects including: Four Rivers, One World; Natural Disaster Youth Summit 2008; Planetary Notions, Water Habitat Project, and YouthCaN Environmental Project. These and other projects will give you insight into how to implement social justice projects in your own classroom.
iEARN is not the only source of social action projects. In preparation for the 2nd edition of The Art of Teaching Science, I discovered the Yotvata Salt Flats Project, which I would like to share with you. The Salt Flats Project was one of several identified as one of the Stellar Cases of Technology-Supported Pedagogical Innovations by Ronald Anderson in the online environment.
The Yotvata Salt Flat is located in the Arava desert, on the border of Israel and Jordon. Students designed a website that built upon the peace accord between Israel and Jordon in 1994, and have shown how students can work on a social justice project across borders. I think you will find this example very interesting.
What are some other examples of social action and social justice projects you would like to share? Make a response here, and I’ll highlight them in a later post.