Using Free Youth Activism Activities to Teach Children about Social and Environmental Issues
By: Mindy Scirri
What is activism? The term, especially in these times, can bring about a multitude of emotions, but it simply refers to any action designed to bring about change. Activism for kids has many benefits. It is a way for children and teens to learn important concepts while helping someone or something in the world. Youth activists begin to develop leadership and collaboration skills while opening their minds and providing them with purpose. Adults involved in the activism are made aware of new youth perspectives, and the world benefits from their efforts.
Students can get involved in issues like diversity and racism, environmentalism and sustainability, and social justice through social media, petitions, peaceful protests, letters to public officials, and other methods. Homeschooled children and teens may have the time for activism that kids in school may not have. Access this guide to student activism and check out some of the activities below to get your young activist started:
General Activism for Kids Websites
If you just want to help your child get active, but you are not sure of the issues that may be of interest, here are some general youth activism websites to start the process:
“The Games for Change Student Challenge invites students to make video games about real-world issues and community impact themes.” It is the “leading national game design program that combines students’ passion for games with digital learning and civic engagement.”
“You want to do something about the problems facing your community and our world – social justice, pollution, climate change, and more – we provide the support, resources, tools and leadership training to empower you to take action and lead change in your community. Being a part of Roots & Shoots means standing up and taking action to solve problems in your community.” Learn about a variety of ways to take action, from a 1-click action to a world changing project.
Activism for Kids Who Are Animal Lovers
Does your child love animals? Do you see veterinary medicine or zoology in his or her future? Youth activism should build on what is naturally motivating to children. Help your child direct a love for animals toward activism to protect animal welfare or join with animals to benefit the world. Here are some ways your young animal lover can get active:
This group is “working to end the slaughter of harp seals in Canada.” Learn the truth about the annual Atlantic Canadian harp seal slaughter and how you can help.
Like dogs? See how you can support the National Disaster Search Foundation’s mission “to strengthen disaster response in America by rescuing and recruiting dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters.”
PATH International “promotes equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) for individuals with special needs. Volunteer your time and get involved by presenting or helping directly with care and training of the horses or assisting with client sessions.
PETA is an animal rights group, and this site has been designed specifically for kids. Learn how to protect animals through animal facts, games, videos, quizzes, photos, activities, comics, and more.
Activism for Kids on Environmental Issues
Does your child love hiking in the woods or watching the stars? Does he or she remind you to recycle or save materials to reuse? Build on that care for the environment and help your child become active about environmental and sustainability issues. Here are some places to start:
Take personal action to improve the environment and make this world a better place for humans and nature. Find resources for young ecologists and for parents and teachers. The International Young Eco-Hero Awards recognize “youth activists ages 8 to 16 solving the world’s most critical environmental problems by taking personal action for nature.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency shows kids what they can do to protect our precious resources and keep air and water pure. You can find lesson plans, community service and science fair project ideas, homework resources, games, quizzes, videos, and more.
“Youth filed this constitutional climate lawsuit…. Their complaint asserts that, through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.” Read about this case and get motivated to change the world!
“The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is America’s conservation corps. Our members protect and restore national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks and community green spaces in all 50 states.” Choose a program to get involved in any way because “because serving the planet is serving the planet.”
Worried about the electric power crisis, rolling blackouts? Here are some things kids can do to help conserve energy. “Tomorrow’s Engineers Energy Quest is a free school program that encourages young people (aged 11-14) to find out all about sustainable energy and learn about associated engineering careers.” This site is based in the United Kingdom, but there are good resources and activities to help you learn about energy conservation.
Climate change is happening, and human activity is a large part. This group is trying to “limit and mitigate the magnitude and impacts of climate change by empowering youth.” Find lessons for developing an action plan and turning ideas into action and browse some youth action groups you can join. See Climate Basics for Kids to learn more about climate change.
Activism for Kids on Social Issues
Many kids are concerned with the people around them, but some find themselves caring for others more frequently or standing up for those who don’t stand up for themselves. These kids are likely to be interested in social issues, and there are plenty of avenues to get them involved. Here are activism resources for your child who is interested in social issues:
“Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people – no matter who they are or where they are.” Some priority human rights issues include gun violence, refuge and migrant rights, death penalty, national security, deadly force and police accountability, gender issues, climate change, and technology. “Since our beginning, youth activism has been at the heart of our work.” Get involved!
Learn about the lives, struggles, hardships and dangers of working children. Use the resources provided to learn and take action to make a difference!
Are you about to turn 18 but know that college and career and military are not the right choices for you? Consider joining the Peace Corps to live abroad and work on a wide range of projects. “The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.”
“Everyone has the power to ignite world change, no matter how big or small you are! Students Helping Students (SHS) is our global youth network of changemakers committed to ending global illiteracy, improving access to education so that all students can reach their full potential. Students, educators, and parents across 30 countries have mobilized to raise both awareness and funds to improve access to quality education for all. Join our Students Helping Students movement!”
Get involved in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to start your child helping other children around the world.
What are human rights and how can homeschoolers help support them? “The purpose of YHRI is to teach youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and inspire them to become advocates for tolerance and peace. YHRI has now grown into a global movement, including hundreds of groups, clubs and chapters around the world.”
Do you have more ideas on how to get children standing up for things they believe in? Let us know in the comments below!