Every year during the second grade changemaker unit, there is a moment where our students begin to notice that some kinds of protests work well to make change across a range of causes. They notice that activists can make change by giving powerful speeches, many activists march with signs, many activists collect signatures on petitions looking for support. Often this emerging understanding leads to spontaneous protests connected to topics of second grade importance. They connect their new knowledge of collective action to their real lives. Past classes of second graders have organized protests against homework with signs, chanting, and marching during roof time. Children have gone on “strike” to get a longer choice time.
In Spring 2016, inspired by our current political climate, children began to organize about a more serious issue: voting rights. Why don’t children have the right to vote? That’s not fair! Emotions began to run high, petitions were circulated, signs were made, speeches were written. Children should have the right to vote! They developed a slogan, “Protest Today! Not Tomorrow.”
Then counter-protests began. Children should not have the right to vote! It’s not a good idea! Petitions were circulated, signs were made, speeches were written.
2B students’ vigorous debating could not be regulated to choice and roof time alone, so we devoted some class time to sharpening our persuasive reasoning, and collecting arguments on either side of the issue. Opinions were clarified and modified, or solidified. The protests and resulting arguments evidenced in the below video, embody our BFS approach to civic engagement, encouraging students to see themselves as agents of change, and respond to inequities and injustice in their communities.