When is the Last Time Your Students Changed the World?

What if every young person had the opportunity to change the world before graduating high school? We know that throughout history, and even today, young people have been on the forefront of important social movements. But too often, students living closest to the challenges facing our world are the furthest-removed from the decision-making power to make the changes their community needs.

Request a quote for thinkLaw’s Hack-a-Thon for Social Change now to give your students a chance to BE the change they wish to see in the world.

Through an exciting partnership with Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Social Studies Department, thinkLaw was able to work with 60 phenomenal secondary students and 8 teachers to empower young people to BE the change they’ve been waiting for. This Hack-a-Thon for Social Change was a twist on the typical “Know Your Rights” youth seminars because we leveraged students as subject-matter experts in designing powerful solutions for urgent problems impacting their day-to-day life.

After being trained in thinkLaw’s “Thinking Like a Lawyer” critical thinking strategies, PGCPS Social Studies teachers kicked off the Hack-a-Thon by leading students through rigorous and engaging lessons relating to important issues facing their communities. Prince George’s County, for instance, was the most undercounted county in the United States for the 2010 census. Students took this information and conducted a root-cause analysis to develop concrete strategies to ensure this issue didn’t repeat itself in 2020. But the analysis from multiple perspectives, investigations, and stakeholder analysis were just the beginning.

Students used these critical thinking skills to identify the most important problem facing their community. With students empowered with strategies to disagree without being disagreeable and build consensus, they settled on a problem: how might young people be able to better communicate across lines of difference? Based on their analysis, this was the root cause of most student conflicts.

They returned for our second Saturday session to dig deeper into this issue. Breaking into groups, students performed extensive research to build their expertise on the root causes of communication breakdowns and conducted a detailed stakeholder analysis to understand how this issue impacted various groups of people in their school communities.

Finally, our last Hack-a-Thon session took PGCPS students into design mode, using the design thinking process to build out an MVP (minimum viable product) – a solution that can start getting to the core of solving the issue. Building out an empathy map to understand the needs of end users, students worked through an iterative process to develop and test solutions (using all the students they could text, snap, or call as their test groups), ending up with this:

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I am here

The symbolic gesture reflects a clear sign of being open to others, no matter where they may be coming from. Students realized that to spark their peers  to courageously reach outside of their social comfort zones, a clear sign of the openness must exist, hence the symbol. They decided that using a fashion and social media campaign, young people would be able to send a powerful signal that their presence matters and that they are open to speak to others regardless of their differences. Leaning on their influential peers, they plan on developing an initial set of influencers to spark a movement.

Although this kind of work is never quite done, giving students the opportunity to be a part of an unpredictable experience that respected their voices, pushed them out of their comfort zones, and gave them the sense of pride that comes with being the change the world needs is the kind of accomplishment every young person deserves to achieve and replicate throughout their life.