Identifying the Need for Activism

This lesson gives students a chance to reflect on activists in their own communities and to begin thinking about the leadership attributes they most admire and appreciate in these activists.
Grade Level


Students will:

  • determine the importance of activism and change within their own and other communities through peer-to-peer or small-group dialogue.
  • begin to identify what determines action is needed in a community through a facilitated large-group dialogue.
  • use dialogue to identify and describe issues within their own and other communities.
Essential Questions
  • Who or what determines the need for activism? How does that play a role in predicting the success of the activism?
  • What makes someone a strong and effective leader or activist?
  • Why might a community need leaders?
  • Notebook for creating an Art and Activism Notebook
  • Pencil


What’s the big deal about activism? Is activism really needed in order for change to occur? Activism is something that happens in every community in many different ways, yet it often goes unacknowledged or unrecognized. Young people can better see themselves as activists and leaders when they understand the attainability of these concepts and how activism can be meaningful on a local level. This lesson gives students a chance to reflect on activists in their own communities and to begin thinking about the leadership attributes they most admire and appreciate in these activists.



  1. Do Now: Ask students who did the extension activity in Lesson 1 (at bottom of page) to briefly share the observations they wrote in their Art and Activism Notebooks related to community and activism. Then ask students to answer the following in their Notebooks: “What makes someone a strong leader? What makes someone an activist in a community?” (Note: Offer a few suggestions, to get the ideas flowing. Example: President Obama.). Look for words that may be stereotypical as well as unique, non-stereotypical words that can describe leaders.
  2. Break students up into three or four small groups, depending on the class size. Ask the students to share their answers in their groups.
  3. After the small-group discussions, ask students to share their group responses with the class. Chart their responses until you have come up with a list of leadership qualities. Encourage students to share examples of people in their families, neighborhoods, schools, faith-based organizations or other communities that exemplify these traits. Students who have trouble thinking of people might be inspired by classmates’ stories of what makes people in their own lives activists. Draw attention to the local and even very micro nature of activism, including the idea that students can be activists.
  4. If the topic of student activists comes up, ask students: “What qualifies students to make such a decision that another student is an activist?” “How might some students feel uncomfortable with being deemed ‘activists’ or ‘change agents’?” “Who determines the need for activism and leaders?” “Can anyone make such a determination?” “How does this predict the success of activism?”
  5. End the discussion with a reflective question: “What happens to a community when there is an absence of leadership and activism?”
  6. As an out-of-school task, have students ask a few friends or family members the question: “Who do you most admire within your community?” Students should record the answers in their notebooks and bring them to the next class.


Extension Activity

This lesson asks students to participate in thoughtful and meaningful discussions regarding important issues within their communities about leadership and who determines that leadership. Ask students to have a brief discussion with someone within their family about what issues are of most concern within their local or microlocal community.

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