Ever since I started teaching in 1990, I have been a student voice advocate. Whether it was as a media/English teacher, student leadership advisor or a site leader. I have always believed that students not only have good ideas, but that they may just have new, unique or even better ones. In an effort to find their own voice and place in the world, they may see things that we don’t see or have long been paralyzed to do anything about.

In 1999, I saw students address a school’s racial divide and cultural issues by creating a school-wide learning experience (see Harmony at Buchanan High School). Ever since then, I have believed that projects with real-world outcomes hold some of the greatest potential for helping students become driven, empathetic and engaged citizens. The outpouring of student voice in the wake of the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida, is a great example.

Our students are ready to exercise their collective voices and create calls to action. The following seven ideas are not ranked, but are rather my go to “top seven” that naturally lend themselves to projects that excite student interest, rely on available resources, and maintain relevance and authenticity. Moreover, they are not subject-specific. Indeed, there are many opportunities for English, science, social science, math and others to connect to these project challenges. They are:

  1. Climate Change
  2. Health Care
  3. Food Insecurity
  4. Violence
  5. Homelessness
  6. Sustainability
  7. Education

Read more about these real-world issues by Michael Niehoff at Getting Smart.