Second graders were treated to a virtual visit from Upper Schoolers this week, continuing a months-long unit about people making a positive difference in the world. The entire second grade is studying "Changemakers": what people have inside to keep going when faced with challenges, their guides to new ideas, and the motivation to effect change.
“It can be hard for kids to see themselves as heroes or to identify with the stories of heroes they read about,” Lower School Community Engagement Coordinator Kristen Haferbecker said. “So instead, we focus on people whose actions are an outpouring of the wide variety of character traits they carry inside of them—boldness, thoughtfulness, curiosity, selflessness, and all the rest.”
On Tuesday, juniors Nanati F. and Sarah L. gave a short presentation about their climate change activism, answering questions from Haferbecker and students.
“My favorite thing about teaching was answering the different types of questions students asked which were really impressive,” Nanati said. “They were very curious, and seeing them make connections to what they knew before and what we were teaching was so interesting.”
Noted Haferbecker: “It is so impactful for our second graders to see Upper School students and hear about their work because it emphasizes the truth that anyone can be a changemaker, even now, as kids. Changemakers don't need to be famous—they are around us every day, right here in our own school.”
Second graders have also read and heard many stories of changemakers of all different types through picture book biographies. Students are asked to read and listen critically to find evidence of change-making and to express their thoughts through discussion and writing, developing learning skills while simultaneously gaining a stronger sense of their agency as makers of change.
"It's really helpful to be able to see where OES can take you and how it can help you connect with something you care about," Sarah said. "I think it was also really helpful to have someone to look up to and ask questions when I was in lower school, so it's really fun to be that person younger kids can look up to now. I also think seeing what people in your close community are doing can show you how much of an impact you can have, and what you can do with your knowledge and power for good."
Students will select a change-making trait about which to write and express what it means to them, build creative projects that will teach others about the importance of their trait, and develop a plan to use their trait for a positive change. In May, students will share their thinking, projects, and discoveries during a video presentation for parents.
“The language around the Changemakers unit has allowed us to include many stories of people who are advocates or who work toward inclusivity like Dr. Patricia Bath, or Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah,” Haferbecker said. “We want to highlight the two sides of the unit’s title: Changemakers are people who make change in big and small ways, and anyone can be a change maker, starting right where you are, right now.”