Who Are the Activists in My Community?

This lesson gives students a chance to reflect on activists in their communities and think about the importance of leadership skills.
Grade Level


Students will be able to:  

  • define activists and identify strong leaders in their communities and discuss why they are activists. 
  • discuss and list a variety of characteristics and actions that make someone a leader. 
  • describe a leader in their community.
Essential Questions
  • What is an activist? What does an activist do?  
  • What makes someone a strong and effective leader or activist?
  • Enduring Understandings:
    • An activist is a person who works to change a community, aiming to make it a better place.  
    • To be a strong effective leader or activist, a person should be able to lead others, be dedicated to a cause and be able to convince or influence others in a community to believe in the cause.

Distribute copies of a graphic organizer to aide students while they discuss the attributes of a leader. 


Art and Activism is a series of 12 mini-lessons in which students look at, think about and make art together. Each lesson prompts children to examine how art relates to community, leadership, and activism. Note: These mini-lessons can be used individually or together, and are not dependent on sequence.This is Lesson Two of Art and Activism. In it, students will develop an understanding of community and consider what attributes make someone a community leader or activist. Activism can take place in every community in various ways, but it is often unacknowledged or unrecognized. Children will be better able to see themselves as activists and leaders when they understand the process behind activism and how it can be meaningful. Students will identify leadership qualities using art and writing to describe leaders and activists in their own life. This lesson gives students a chance to reflect on activists in their communities and think about the importance of leadership skills.



activism [ ak-tuh-viz-uh m ] (noun) energetic action or involvement in a movement to get something changed or achieved. Activities may include participating in (or leading of) demonstrations, protests, or passive resistance. 

influence [ in-floo-uh ns ] (noun) the ability to affect the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.   

leadership [ lee-der-ship ] (noun) the ability, position or function of a person who guides or directs others.


Suggested Procedure

1.  Share a personal story of someone who exemplifies leadership. Describe, for example, a member of your family, community or school, or someone students have learned about from history. 

2.  Ask: “What makes that person a strong leader? What kinds of qualities do you think she has?” Chart students’ responses until you have come up with a list of attributes or leadership qualities (Examples: honesty, vision, competence, ability to inspire, intelligence, persistence, charisma, passion, emotional intelligence, curiosity and creativity). 

3.  Encourage students to share examples of people in their families, neighborhoods, school, religious organizations, or other communities that exemplify some of these traits. You can also have students work in pairs. Circulate to listen to group discussions and to generate a chart based on what you hear. 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 potentially local and even very micro nature of activism, including children who are activists if this idea comes up. 

4.  Ask students to choose 1–3 qualities from your collective brainstorm and think of a person in their community who exemplifies these traits/qualities. Allow students to discuss their ideas with a partner, sharing who they will focus on and why. Then give everyone paper and oil pastels (or a different drawing material if they prefer) and have them draw a picture of this person in a scenario where he or she is demonstrating the trait. For instance, if a student feels that his grandmother exemplifies bravery, he might draw her standing up to someone who is being unfair. If someone thinks his youth group leader exemplifies determination, he might draw her working really hard to finish painting a floor on time. Students can get abstract with their representation if they prefer, by using symbols, colors or shapes that they feel represent what they are trying to show.

Common Core State Standards: ELA-Literacy. CCRA. W.2; W.4; W.5; SL.1; SL.2; SL.3; SL.4; L.1; L.2; L.4


Extension Activity

When students finish their drawing, ask them to write 1–6 sentences describing what they have drawn. Their writing should show who the person is, what trait(s) they are exemplifying (Note: For more advanced writers, encourage students to show why this trait makes their person a leader or activist in their community). Give students a chance to share their drawing and writing with the rest of the group and ask one another questions. When everyone has shared, ask students if their classmates’ work has made them view the question of what makes an activist in a different way.

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