LESSON

Sustainability

This lesson encourages students to interview local community activists. An effective way to show students how to interview is for the teacher to model it and do an actual interview in front of the students. Invite a person who is an activist as a guest to your class, and interview her or him in front of the class. Then use the lesson steps to help students conduct their own interviews. (Note: Question and answer activity based on "The Children's March." Download the Teacher's Guide here.) 
Grade Level

Objectives

At the end of the lesson, students will be able to: 

  • describe the concept of sustainability. 
  • develop interview skills
Essential Questions
  • What is sustainability? 
  • Why is it important to ask open-ended questions when conducting an interview?
  • Enduring Understandings:
    • “Sustainability” is the ability to keep going, to continue for a long time.   
    • Open-ended questions give people answering a question more flexibility and range to expand on their responses. Open-ended questions often generate anecdotes, personal revelations, and expressions of attitudes.
Materials
  • notebook (one per student) 
  • pen

Vocabulary

  • activism [ak-ti-viz-uhm] (noun)  intentional actions geared toward creating change  
  • sustainability [suh-stey-nuh-bil-i-tee] (noun) the ability to last for a long time

 

Suggested Procedure

Note: As mentioned above, this lesson encourages students to interview local community activists, so a good first step would be for the teacher to conduct a model interview in the classroom for the children to observe. This will give students helpful insight into the process they are being asked to manage. Next, use the following steps to help students prepare to conduct their own interviews. 

1. Ask the class what “sustain” means (to hold up; to maintain; to keep going; to support the life of).  Explain that sustainability is the ability to continue on, even in the face of difficulties. Discuss the following questions as a class: What keeps people going even when their struggle seems totally uphill? What keeps people from becoming so discouraged that they decide not to act at all? How do activists face disappointment and keep moving forward? 

2. Tell students that this lesson will give them an opportunity to interview local community activists. Have students decide whom they want to interview. Ask: “Do you know someone who is doing social justice work in your family or community? Who is involved in something that you are interested in doing?” Tell students that if they are interested in environmentalism, for instance, then they might want to interview an environmentalist or someone actively involved in the issue. 

3. Explain that people are often delighted to be asked about their lives, and that many people feel it’s a kind of public service to talk with students. Tell students not to be nervous about calling or asking a busy person for some of her time. Give students the following tips for arranging the interview: “When you introduce yourself to arrange the interview, give a short description of your project. Keep in mind that the person you are interviewing is donating his time to you. Be sure to call ahead and arrange a specific time for the interview. Be on time. Bring all your materials and express thanks when the interview is over.” 

4. Tell students to prepare questions in advance. Explain that they should take care in composing their questions because good questions are the key to a successful interview. Remind students that open-ended questions give the respondents range and flexibility and are best for generating anecdotes, personal revelations and expressions of attitudes. Give them the following examples: 

  • I wonder if you would take a few minutes to tell me something about your early days in the movement of (social justice issue)? I’d be interested to hear about how you got started in the movement, what your aspirations were, what problems you have faced and how you deal with those problems. 
  • Tell me about a time you were                (name an emotion, such as fear or surprise). 
  • What did you do when                (name an event) happened? 

Explain that the best questions allow the subject to talk freely, and that once in a while, they may want to pose a question to clarify the conversation. Give students these examples: “Let me see if I have this right,” or “Am I correct in saying that you felt . . .?” 

5. Tell students to take notes during the interview. Explain: “Your goal is to gather information and record a few good quotations and anecdotes. It is really important that you listen carefully, so don’t let taking notes distract you. Jot down a few quotations, key words and phrases to jog your memory later. How someone says something may be as important as what they say. Notice the textures of gesture, physical appearance, verbal inflection, facial expression, dress, hairstyle, body language and anything else that makes the person an individual.” 

6. Stress to your students that in the moments after they finish the interview, they need to find a quiet place to reflect on it and review their notes. Explain that there is so much happening during the interview that this reflection time is important. Tell students to spend at least a half hour adding to their notes. Have them consider the following, and include their answers to these questions at the end of their interview notes: 

  • What did you learn? 
  • What surprised you most? 
  • How did the interview change your attitude or understanding about the person or place? 
  • How would you summarize your main impressions of the person? 
  • How did this interview influence your plans to interview others or to re-interview this person? 
  • What do you want to learn from your next interviews? 

7. Ask students to present to the class what they learned from their interview. 

Common Core State Standards: CCSS W.2, W.7, SL.1, SL.2, SL.3, SL.4 

 

Extension Activity

After hearing all of the presentations, have students brainstorm social activism ideas they could put into action as a whole class. Ask them to choose one or more of their ideas as a social justice project in their school or community. Afterward, have students discuss their experience and what they learned.

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