I recently stumbled across a fascinating bit of trivia. In 2012, a fifth-grade teacher in Kansas City, MO, gave his students a lesson on molecules and challenged them to create their own structures using a molecular model kit. One student, Clara Lazen, showed particular interest in the project, and at the end of the lesson presented her teacher with a creation he had never seen before. The teacher snapped a picture of the model and sent it to a chemistry expert in California, who quickly responded with exciting news – Clara Lazen had just discovered an entirely new molecule! Since then, this new molecule – Tetranitratoxycarbon – has become the subject of theoretical chemistry papers, with Clara and her teacher being listed as co-authors on the initial report.

These kinds of stories always inspire me because they remind educators how our students can literally change the world. Too often it can feel like progress is something slow and incremental. Discoveries, when they happen, take years of research, testing, and trials to achieve. Students show us that this doesn’t always need to be true. When younger generations are allowed to fully embrace their curiosity, creativity, critical thinking skills, things can change for the better overnight!

The Right Tools

VAI has always been an advocate for this kind of hands-on, inquiry-based learning. It’s one of the reasons we’ve worked so hard to provide engaging lessons that encourage students to think critically about real-world problems. So, at the risk of self-promoting, I wanted to share some projects that educators can use to make a positive, tangible impact with their students. Here are just a few ways your class can get involved and change the world:

Lend a Hand: Around the world, millions of talents go to waste because people lack the resources to get started. In 2006, Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for his innovative idea of microlending to help impoverished communities. In this project, students will learn how microlending can be an incredibly powerful force for good. Your class will raise and lend money to entrepreneurs in developing nations who are trying to make a positive impact on the world. In the process, they’ll also develop their skills in math, vocabulary, and social-emotional learning!

State of Sustainability: Every state is uniquely great. From coastlines to mountains to rolling prairies, our landscape is diverse. In this project, students will become aware of the need for a sustainable world by focusing directly on their own state’s sustainability. They will use their creativity to design a book about their state that informs readers how small changes can develop a more sustainable world. Finally, they’ll publish their book and sell it for a charitable cause. Not only does this project encourage students to be responsible stewards, but it also instructs them in science, language, and history!

Take a Stand: Students hold great potential for change. Yet, public policy decisions are hardly (if ever!) influenced by the creativity, interest, and experience of our smallest citizens. In this project, students will take a stand in support of a public policy issue that matters to them. They will learn about all sides of several topics like education and the environment. Through respectful discourse, they will construct and articulate well-researched positions on a topic of their choice with an inspirational podcast! This project is perfect for introducing civics to students while also fostering growth in technology and information literacy.

Go Change the World

These are just a few of the projects which can turn your classroom into a dynamic force for good. We never want a lack of funding to be a hindrance to quality instruction. So, if you are in need of funding support, apply for a Blue Apple Scholarship, and we will review the application against available scholarships and grants. Remember, if classrooms across the country channel their knowledge into meaningful change, there’s no limit to what we can achieve. Who knows? The future may be much closer than we ever believed.

For more free educational resources, or ideas on how to promote healthy SEL, simply follow this link!