This is a lesson that I used as a final project for my alternative education high school civics class. This project-based lesson is based on the Common Core ELA Standards for Social Studies and Writing.
I created this lesson in part to explain the case of Trayvon Martin that was in the news in early 2012. Trayvon Martin was a Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman. The police briefly questioned Zimmerman after the shooting, but did not arrest him or press charges. Trayvon’s parents started a petition on Change.org to have Zimmerman arrested and tried for the death of their son. The petition grew rapidly, and soon over two million people had signed the petition. The state of Florida has since decided to charge George Zimmerman with 2nd Degree Murder, and the trial is still ongoing.
Your students will use the website Change.org in this interactive lesson. The first day of the project involves introducing students to the website, specifically looking at how the website uses petitions to make a difference in a community or the world. The first petition that is discussed is about a high school student who petitioned Seventeen Magazine to use real images of girls in their magazine. After 84,000 signatures on the petition, Seventeen Magazine agreed to stop altering images of girls' bodies and faces.
The Trayvon Martin case and Seventeen Magazine petition show that it is possible, with enough support, to make a difference using the Change.org platform. This project comes with three multi-day activities that ask students to find out what Change.org is, do research about issues that they care about, and create a final project where they can either create their own petition or create a campaign in support of a current petition. Finally, students will have an opportunity to present their causes to their classmates, and gain support for their petitions.
These lessons are designed to take about a week and a half of class time; however, it may take up to two weeks to provide studetns enough time to complete their projects and present their information.
There Oughtta Be a Law!
by Steven Daitch
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License