Action, Service Learning and TEDx in Schools

In 2013 after two long years of research, Jeff Hoffart, Adam Bourret and I were published in the IB Journal of Teaching Practice. The purpose of the study was to examine authentic student-generated action within an IB school. We explored and reflected on action as part of the planned, taught and assessed curricula. Our findings led to the creation of an Action Curriculum Framework for Service Learning from Early Learning to Grade 6.

“We envision embedding the action phase document into the school culture and making sustained action a more inherent part of the curricula throughout grade levels, in order to shift the perspective of action from primarily an organic by-product of learning to more of an empowered state of mind. ”
Jeff and I had already been contemplating co-founding an educational start-up. We had developed some ideas for a mascot, Eddie. The curriculum framework document is a time capsule insight into our fledgeling company’s first motto, ‘Learning with Eddie’. It is a testament to our strengths as teachers, our growing ethos of service and social entrepreneurship, as well as our early fumbling with branding and business.

But for a school, not to mention any one teacher, to adopt an entire curriculum framework requires a whole lot of time dedicated to unpacking the concepts and shifting cultures of thinking. As responsive action-researchers, we listened to the feedback from the teachers who told us that a children’s book would place the learning back in the hands of kids. A is for Action: The ABCs of Taking Action was written and illustrated within a few months.

Being teachers, we were also dedicated to providing lots of free supplementary content to complement the book. As such, we created an action journal with resource pack for teachers and students, a website to house videos and resources, and a community for inspirations and the sharing of #youthchangemakers stories.

Provided with a story to guide, a journal to organize, and resources to inspire, our students began to do amazing things. They started a student driven, managed and propagated website full of inclusive games, books they had written, solutions to poverty, education and bullying. It was impressive what they had done, but we wanted to support them in having a global forum to share their ideas. In 2011, 2012, 2013, and finally in 2014, TEDxYouth@BIS explored how small ideas develop into forces of action. Inspired from our research we began to to ask, is a singular action enough? How can we span generations, and create change for more of the globe? How can our ideas have a greater impact and extend beyond the individual? How can we implement systems so our ideas grow into sustained action?

Watch one of our early TEDxYouth@BIS events with Kaitlyn Fox discussing her plan to end bullying below.

What we found from this two year project was contained in one statement:

“Action is a state of mind, rather than a product, that requires a set of explicitly taught skills, modeled behaviors, and scaffolded plans in order for it to be sustainable.”

To date, we are proud to have placed A is for Action in thousands of children’s hands. Adam Bourret moved on to Beijing and now organizes TEDxYouth@WAB. I moved on to Bangkok and organize TEDxYouth@NIST. Jeff is working with amazing social enterprises in Canada. But lately I’ve started to wonder…

I wonder how those students continue to take action? I wonder how exponential the impact was from sharing their ideas on the TEDx stage? I wonder if any of the teachers utilize the resources, action packs, curriculum and websites; both teacher and student created? I wonder if action is still celebrated in the front lobby of the school? I wonder if the children still play the inclusive games their peers made? I wonder if we made an impact that was more than just a fleeting moment? I wonder how sustained our action was?

I see another research paper on my horizon.

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