Merging Place Consciousness with Social Action

Note: As promised, here's another post about my thesis :) This is a brief, scattered overview of the project my English 9 students will be engaging in after Christmas...another post will follow about my intentions/goals for the project.

This morning I watched an amazing Ted Talks video (see below) where Natalie Warne, a 20 year old, shares her journey of catching the activism bug at the age of 17 which caused her to devote the next few years of her life working as an intern for the organization Invisible Children. Natalie refers to the people she worked with along the way as " Anonymous Extraordinaries," people who work to make a difference without want of recognition for their actions. I've decided to start my unit with this video clip. After discussing the concept of activism, I'll allow students to brainstorm local people and agencies who are "Local Anonymous Extraordinaries." Students may struggle with this, especially if they or their families are not connected to the community. So, I'll have to come up with my own list as a way to spark discussion. Once we've generated a pretty good list, I'd like for students then to interview these people who are quietly, yet passionately making a difference right here in our own community and then create a journalistic style piece of writing featuring said activist. My plan is to model this off a few different projects. The first is the Foxfire Project, popular in the 60s and 70s in Appalachia in which students recorded stories told by their elders. The second is from Central City native, Wright Morris, who used photography and writing to capture the essence of local places. So in addition to writing, students will candidly photograph these people and/or their work. If all goes as planned, I'll set up a class blog for students to post their pictures and compositions so we have a giant collection of "Local Anonymous Extraordinaries." I'd like the blog to be linked to our school's webpage and the city's webpage as a way to promote the good work our citizens do.

After this portion of the project is completed, students will launch into Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" and our study of the Civil Rights Movement in order to introduce them to Dr. King's four steps for non-violent direct action (which are awesome, practical steps to follow when trying to spark change). Then, my favorite part of the unit: students will choose a local issue to research and support. Students will be required to act on an issue that is important them. In the end, students will create a visual presentation that includes background information about their cause, an overview of what they did to help and photos to prove it, vocabulary they learned along the way, and they'll end with what they learned in this journey. These will be presented to community members during our Social Action Project Night that students organize.

Here's the Ted Talks video I referred to earlier:

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