Students are increasingly concerned about the state of the world they are inheriting. But through a program we developed in conjunction with David Lange of the Tacoma, WA, School District, about 3,000 high school students are learning to empower themselves to confront and resolve real issues in their community and their world.
First, students in five Tacoma high schools select an issue (such as homelessness, war, or ocean pollution). Then we develop instructional materials to inform the students and their teachers about that topic. After classroom study, students and teachers attend an international conference to get still more information.
Back at school the students lead two-day youth summits where they work to develop action plans. Next they link up with businesses and community groups who will help to implement them. Finally, their plans are integrated into class activities for the rest of the school year. In sum, students work to improve the quality of local or global life in ways they themselves devise.
The program is called "Making a Difference in the World," and it is a valuable experience for everyone involved. The students learn that citizenship means giving of oneself – and how much they can give. The adults also get a lesson in practical empowerment. And education becomes a much more meaningful process, one that addresses the betterment of both the community and the world.
The authors are specialists in international education affiliated with New Horizons for Learning. For more information write Linda at 19614 Sound View Drive, Stanwood, WA 98282.