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Eight Grade Humanities: Social Action Project

In eighth grade, students find themselves in a fascinating transitional period. All at once they are leaders among their Middle School peers.

At the same time, they are consumed with thinking and planning for their next step, high school. It is a time to encourage reflection and to access a key component of their developmental stage, which is a desire for fairness and a heightened awareness of inequality and injustice in the world.

The eighth-grade Social Action Project is designed to elicit deep thinking about topics that students are passionate about changing in our local and global communities. Components of this assignment are explained below and exemplified by a sample of student writing.

Social Action Project (Our first Project of the Year!)

Our planet is full of incredible diversity, mystery and natural wonder. We humans are one of those fascinating and complicated inhabitants of this world, and as we all know, living harmoniously with ourselves and our environment offers serious challenges. Have you ever found aspects of the human world to be unfair? Unjust? Unimaginative? Ever noticed a problem that could use a new solution? More attention? More action? If so, this project is for you!

What is this?

This is a project where you pick the topic to research, write about and present. You also choose whom you will present this information to. Will you write a letter to the President about gun control, your congressional representative about a teenager’s right to vote, a San Francisco city council member about affordable housing? Will you publish a report in the Presidio Post about improving recycling and composting at Presidio Hill, or offer a design for more efficient passing periods? How about a blog that proposes four-day school weeks? What matters most to you?


Your Challenge is to…

  • Choose an idea, issue or problem that you feel passionate about sharing and changing
  • Design an essential question that will guide your work
  • Narrow your focus so that your research is manageable
  • Select a presentation format through which to share your work
  • Execute a final product that details a problem and offers solutions for change
  • Present your work to your classmates, teachers and the world beyond these walls

How much time do I have?

  • You will have a total of four weeks to plan, research, write and present
  • You will have a total of three class periods per week to plan, write and research


What are the requirements?

• Minimum 1-page (12pt., Times New Roman, 1.5 line spacing) typed report that includes your research topic, your essential question, your findings, and a bibliography. All drafts will be sent to James in a Google Doc titled, “Social Action.”

• 3–5 minute Visual and/or Oral Presentation (This may include a GoogleSlides presentation, blog share when others can comment, news article, or you may choose to simply read your letter to your classmates)

• List of sources in correct format—two websites minimum                                                                           
You may also use a book, magazine or news article as one of your sources. We will practice putting sources in correct formats during class.

What are my Presentation Options?

A Newspaper Article—Combine your research and writing in the format of a news page. This should include headlines, pictures, and the tone of a newspaper article.

A Blog—Combine your research and writing in the format of a blog. The blog page should encourage your readers to form opinions about topics they may be unfamiliar with, while asking them to publish their own thoughts about the topic you have chosen.

A Letter—Combine your research and writing in the format of a formal letter that can be sent to your intended audience.

A Google Slides Presentation—Combine your research and writing in the format of a digital slideshow that can be shared with your intended audience. (You can also use Prezi, or another format for digital presentation)

*If you have an alternative way that you would like to present your work, please talk to the teacher.*


How do I get started?

Begin by identifying a problem that you feel passionate about changing. Think big, think small, think about what matters most to you. I choose: Voting Age

Design an Essential Question: This will help to guide your research. If I wanted to challenge the current U.S. voting age of 18, my Essential Question might be:
How can America’s young citizens fully participate in our country’s democracy?

Research details about the existing laws. When did the congress pass a law that allowed 18-year-olds to vote? Why was 18 the magic number? What arguments do lawmakers make about why children shouldn’t vote? Who else is disallowed from voting? Why? My research should respond to the question: What is the problem with the current system?

Solutions should include counter-arguments and a plan for change—in my case, to create a more reasonable system that includes everyone in the democratic process. My solution should respond to the question: What can be done to improve the existing systems/laws/practices?


Student Sample:

It’s official, fossil fuels are doomed to extinction. Sustainable power is on a steady climb to dominance. Sustainable power is getting more efficient, cheap and popular. In our advanced and sophisticated world that is shifting to a bright future, we shun the other fossil fuel using part of our earth out of our minds. Fossil fuels are dominating our world, and people are working hard to find a reliable answer to our unsustainable energy problem. Developing countries are still relying on traditional forms of energy and polluting themselves because of it. My invention will stop this in its tracks.

Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are the world's biggest energy resources. They are made over the course of millions of years. Deep underground pockets of pure oil lay dormant; this oil should not be touched, but mankind still has their drills sucking out the precious resource. Fossil fuels are the main and only large scale source of energy in the United States; we use them for practically everything. We live and breathe fossil fuels. These sources of energy are slowly running out and are constantly polluting the environment. Fossil fuels are creating a giant insulating blanket of doom in our planet's atmosphere, killing plants, and driving animals out of their habitats. Our modern world can sense the doom of fossil fuels coming for us in 2052, when the wells will run out. Windmills and solar farms are getting cheaper, more efficient, and more popular by the day. We are starting the long process of transitioning to a clean future that slows the process of global warming. (bloomberg.com; renewable energy world.com)

In most developing countries, people only need power for cooking and making heat for their homes. In many small villages and towns, everybody has a coal stove and a fireplace. Specifically this occurs in Idgir, Bangladesh, in India, as it does in many other small cities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In the evenings and in the mornings, the villagers of Igdir keep their stoves running with coal and wood. All of the 100–200 houses in the village are emitting large columns of smoke and ash into the sky. Everyday in these large, rural villages, inhabitants will step outside and immediately choke and wheeze, because they are inhaling nothing but pure floating ash and smoke. People in these villages often wear masks, shawls and bandanas wrapped around their heads and mouths. Even with the face protection, over time the smoke and harsh ash will inflame the villagers’ mouths and eyes. Often this leads to disease and will kill crops and livestock. The people in these countries and provinces need a solution. (aquin.org; energy.gov)

There are potentially many different ways to solve the pollution problems around the world. My solution uses sustainable power to stop their pollution. My solution is making a cheap, small, portable and efficient windmill that can be shipped into the remote cities to transfer their habits of cooking and heat-making away from dependence on fossil fuels. The windmill will be compact. It will have a folding body and folding blades. When folded, it will be 2-feet long by around 9-inches thick, but when it is unfolded it will be 4-feet long in order to reach for higher wind streams, and the propeller will unfold to be 3-feet long. The energy the mill generates will be sent into a rechargeable battery for future use. My windmill will be placed on the roofs and fields of the villages; you can also place it on any elevated platform to get more power. The price and size of my windmill allow it to be shipped and put in markets and squares, where they will be bought by locals. If the villagers don't have enough money, there will be a one-to-one program, so for every one windmill bought in the United States, a windmill will be given away in a town like this. If multiple villagers have windmills, they can strategically place them and make a small wind farm power grid. (aquin.org; bloomberg.com; energy.gov)

Fossil fuels are controlling the earth. Concerned countries are finding a solution. Less-developed regions are still relying on fossil fuels, and they are contaminating themselves and the rest of the globe. My solution will improve their health and the health of the earth. Our world needs to look ahead into the future and see what's in store. With fossil fuels running out and global warming taking effect, we need to prepare. Innovations like this one will give us a large leap into a bright, clean future.