5 Ways Students Can Participate in Activism in High School

Group of people marching with a banner and signs, image for Robert Peters educator blog on how to encourage activism in high school students

No matter what school district you work in, there are going to be students who care about issues affecting the world. Student activism is becoming increasingly common, particularly on college campuses, but it’s also popular at the high school level. If you have students who are passionate about specific causes, support their interest and help them become more active in working to better these causes. Whether they’re passionate about the environment, civil rights, animal welfare, helping children, or something else, provide them with the knowledge and tools they need to make a difference.

Educate yourself & others

The first step high school students can take to becoming more involved in their chosen type of activism is by educating themselves and others. If they truly want to make a difference, taking the time to be informed on issues and understand the context is important. Read up on recent news and related websites or blogs in order to learn everything possible. Then, share this newfound knowledge with others through conversations or posts on social media. They could even start a blog and talk about the issues they care about.

Find local organizations

If you live in or near a city, there are bound to be many organizations focusing on a variety of issues. Most organizations allow teenagers to help out if they’re under 18, as long as they have parental permission. Teach your students about these resources and let them know that their time and help is valuable.

Start a fundraiser

If your students cannot give significant time to an organization or cause, starting a fundraiser at school and in the local community could be a good solution. Whether it’s a drive for needed items or just for funds, whatever is raised can then be sent to the organization or cause the students support.

Create a school club

If there isn’t currently an organization at your school that focuses on the student’s chosen issue, they can certainly start one. It’s common for specific causes to be represented at schools and then regular fundraisers and events are organized. For most districts, creating a club is fairly straightforward and encouraged by schools. It’s a fantastic way for your student to become more of an activist and raise awareness of an important issue.

Connect with people

A final step students can take to become a young activist is connecting with other people. Whether in the community, at school, or across the country, there are other people who share the student’s interest in a particular issue. Students can also attend events, such as larger fundraisers, protests, marches, or lectures on the issue. As they begin talking with others and forging new connections, writing a petition or contacting those holding public office is also a great option.

5 Ways to Involve Your Students in Philanthropy

Textbook open to a page that has a chapter titled "we care", image used for Robert Peters educator blog on how to get students involved with philanthropy

Philanthropy is very important to creating a better world, so it’s vital that we teach children the importance of helping others. While most schools push this mindset by teaching children not to bully one another and by periodically hosting fundraisers, there usually isn’t a lot of discussion about philanthropy, its importance, and how young people can get involved in meaningful ways. Young people spend so much of their time in the classroom, that it’s a great place to start teaching them to develop a philanthropic mindset. Here are some great ways you can help students pursue philanthropy.

Start a classroom project

While your school may participate in some kind of fundraiser or philanthropic event each year, it can be beneficial to do something within your classroom as well. Even if you’re just raising money to donate to a specific cause, you’re helping students get involved with philanthropy. However, it’s important to teach them that philanthropy isn’t just about donating money. Consider choosing a cause that lets you make something, such as cards for people in the hospital or an activity that raises money. If you can take your students somewhere to volunteer, definitely do it! It could be something like cleaning up a park or visiting the elderly, just make sure you meet any standards set by your school district for trips.

Teach a lesson on philanthropy

If you can’t actually do something with philanthropy, just teaching students about it can make an impact. Teach them the difference between philanthropy and charity, talk about the history of philanthropy and its prevalence in society today, discuss the ways philanthropy can significantly impact someone’s life; any of these topics can lead to rich discussions and learning experiences for students.

Plan a career day…with well-known philanthropists

Typically, career days involve local adults coming in to speak with students or students dressing up as the career they’d like to have. Consider adding a philanthropic twist to this traditional event by having students research well-known philanthropists and then give presentations on these individuals. You could also have local philanthropists visit your classroom and talk about how they’re involved with philanthropy and why they do it.

Get parents involved

Ultimately, the people who can influence your students the most to participate in philanthropy are their parents. Send home handouts with a list of ways children can get involved with philanthropy and also highlight the benefits, for students and those who are helped through philanthropies. If parents understand the importance of philanthropy, they’re more likely to continue encouraging students to pursue philanthropic endeavours.

Offer outside resources

Like sending a handout home to parents, giving students the resources they need to participate in philanthropy is incredibly helpful. Provide them with a list of suggestions on how they can participate in general philanthropy, like picking up trash or helping out other people in their daily lives. Also consider handing out information on local philanthropies, such as their locations and contact information along with a little blurb about what the organization does. Give students information about community volunteer days as well.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Awards Grants for Teacher Preparation


Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates are recognized for their altruistic dedication to supporting many causes. Their work extends to international communities, where they focus on health, poverty and hunger. At the national level, one of the many causes they support is education. For the past 15 years, Bill and Melinda Gates have donated millions of dollar to improving education in grade schools, and preparing students for college. Earlier this month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced their newest academic awards. These new grants will focus on teacher preparation. They will be giving almost $35 million over the next three years to newly established Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says these centers, “will bring together higher education institutions, teacher-preparation providers and K-12 school systems to share data, knowledge and best practices” and “develop, pilot and scale effective teacher-preparation practices to help ensure that more teacher-candidates graduate ready to improve student outcomes in K-12 public schools.”

Each organization selected to represent a Transformation Center will share the same “indicators and outcomes,” but will independently study different approaches within their own unique environment to analyze which teaching methods are most effective. These intensive programs hope to improve teacher preparation, which could improve student outcomes at K-12 public schools. The foundation has awarded grants to the following:

1. Elevate Preparation, Impact Children (EPIC), a new program by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will work with the state’s 71 teacher preparation programs. The Massachusetts Department of Education stated their goals are to, “Deepen the quality of and extend teacher candidates’ training in the field, promote and support data-driven analysis of graduates’ outcomes so that education preparation providers have the information they need for continuous improvement, and integrate the efforts of educator preparation providers and partners to meet the increasing demand for high-quality, diverse educators.”

2. The National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) will collaborate with more than 30 residency programs to prepare 2,500 new teachers for schools with high needs. The center will also function as a research laboratory for, “identifying, testing,  and   scaling   best practices   for   clinically based  preparation.” This goal of this research is to,
– “Refine  provider  programming  to  be  competency based  and  clinically focused;
– Collect  and  use  implementation  and  impact  data  to  improve  program  design;
– Improve  educator  effectiveness;  and
– Ensure  graduates  are  successful  in their  school  systems  and  communities.”

3. The Relay Graduate School of Education will use their grant to create Teacher2 (TeacherSquared). Led by Dr. Brent Maddin, Teacher2 will gather teacher preparation programs which focus on four themes: “building novice teachers’ competencies, supporting teacher educators, enabling data-driven improvement, and meeting the needs of schools and communities.” Teacher2 plans to work with at least six teacher education programs located among 20 sites, throughout more than 10 states to prepare at least 2,500 new, diverse and effective teachers by 2019.

4. Based out of the University of Michigan School of EducationTeachingWorks is a national organization working towards the improvement of professional teacher preparation. TeachingWorks will provide professional support to staff members of the other national transformation centers. This support will be provided as coaching, workshops and modeling, amongst other resources. This support may also be extended to the teacher educators as needed. The program will also develop and implement teacher preparation program exit assessments. These assessments will gauge a new teachers preparedness, before he or she  independently begins teaching students.

5. The University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation (U.S.PREP) National Center, is based at Texas Tech University and will also receive a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Texas Tech University’s U.S. Prep program will gather six other universities in Texas and neighboring states, to work with local school districts. After three years, the program will spread to more universities. For now, the U.S. PREP program will be led by Katie Button, an associate professor at TTU’s College of Education, along with Sarah Beal, who once worked at TeachAZ program at Arizona State University.

The Bill and Melinda Gates have constantly donated to change in public education. Though their efforts have been met with many challenges, the Foundation is persistent with their dedication to the improvement of public education.

To learn more about the Gates’ Foundation Awards to Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers, click here.

To read more about the EPIC program, click here.

To read more about NCTR, click here.

To read more about Teacher 2, click here.

To read more about TeachingWorks, click here.

To read more about U.S. PREP, click here.