Change Starts with YOU!

Developed by Mary Palazzolo, PCM Play Intensive 2021
(FOCUS: Visual & Performance Arts, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Civics & Culture)


“Change Starts with YOU!”

Do you ever look around and think, “I wish the world was more ____________”? Well, here is your chance to do something about it!

In this lesson, students will read a selection of texts (both fiction and nonfiction) about changemakers, identify the thought process those people underwent in order to make changes in their communities, then design their own item that will enact change in the world.


Copies of the following texts – can be substituted as needed with other texts involving themes of individuals enacting change within their communities:


The following materials can be adapted based on availability, though some suggested materials are listed below:

  • Crayola Air Dry clay (or similar sculpting putty)
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Straws
  • Paper plates
  • Dixie/Solo cups
  • Construction paper (assorted colors)
  • Crayons/markers/colored pencils
  • Paint (any variety)
  • Yarn or other string
  • Safety scissors
  • Glue sticks and/or liquid glue
  • Scotch tape
  • Stapler
  • Recycled/household items:
  • Empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls
  • Newspaper
  • Empty plastic water bottles
  • Cardboard boxes (various sizes)

Set Up

For interactive read-aloud of mentor texts:

  • Central area, such as reading rug, where students can easily see and hear the text being read aloud by the teacher (option to have the text projected via document camera, listen to audiobook, or other form of shared reading in which students can follow along with the text individually as it is read aloud.

For project work time:

  • Desks/work surfaces cleared of other materials
  • Desks arranged in collaborative groupings (e.g. tables of 3-4 student desks facing each other)
  • Option to prepare one centralized materials station with all materials for students to come up and retrieve as needed (if you choose this option, make sure to discuss expectations for materials usage and retrieval/return beforehand!), OR distribute an equal number materials per student table grouping to be shared among the group

Student’s Job

What is something you would change about your community? Design an object or a work of art that you think would help solve a problem and make the world around you a better place!


Instructions for Getting Started

  1. Think about what the word “community” means to you. Talk with your classmates and create a definition you can all agree on.
  2. Listen to your teacher read aloud the story. While you listen, make a list of the PROBLEMS you notice in the story and the SOLUTIONS the characters come up with to help fix them.
  3. Ask yourself: what did the main character see in his or her community that needed to change?
  4. Now ask yourself: what did he or she DO to make a positive change in their community and make the world around them a better, more beautiful place?
  5. Think of something in your community that you think could be improved. It could be something about your home, your neighborhood, your school, or your city. What about it would you change so that people in your community can live well and have happy, healthy lives? What is something YOU could do to make it better? WHY do you think the change you want to make will be an improvement?
  6. Draw a sketch of an object or idea that would improve your community. What would it look like? What would it do or be used for? What materials would it be made out of? Share your sketch with a partner and ask them what they like about your idea and what they would change.
  7. Listen as your teacher shows everyone the materials that are available to you. Which ones would work the best for building your item?
  8. Start building! (Note for teachers: Consider setting a time constraint for students as well as guidelines for the number of materials that can be used. Post these constraints on the whiteboard or in another easily visible location for students to refer back to)

Further Challenges:

  1. Listen to the song “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. Notice how he sings about looking within himself to figure out how to change the world. Try writing your own song lyrics about how you would change the world! You can even put the words to music and try performing for your classmates…
  2. Design a protest poster/lawn sign! Look at these examples of protest slogans, then create your own example of a protest poster that you would use to get attention for an issue in your community.
  3. Write a letter to your elected officials! Describe an issue facing your community and ask for their help in resolving it.
  4. Design a presentation where you showcase your solutions to community issues throughout the school! Share with them your observations about things that could be changed around the school and how you propose to do it. Allow time for audience participation – let others share their ideas for problems and solutions, too!

Teacher’s Job

Align this lesson to the standards.

This lesson is connected to Rhode Island K-12 Grade Span Expectations in Engineering & Technology


Component 1: ET 2: Effective design through engineering and technology is the outcome of a problem-solving process involving the application of content knowledge, acquired skills, and creativity.

  • Learning Goal 1.a: Students demonstrate an understanding of the attributes of a design process by defining a problem that addresses a scenario with given criteria & constraints
  • Learning Goal 1.b: Selecting an appropriate design solution for a given scenario or task.

Learning Goal ET 2.3: Students demonstrate an understanding of effective design of products and systems by:

  • 3a. given a process, with criteria & constraints, solve a real-world problem.
  • 3b. using materials provided to construct a working model for a given task.



  • By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


  • Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.


  • Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
Prepare/Background Info

It may be helpful for students to have already been introduced to the concept of community. This could take place in the context of a social studies lesson in which students brainstorm where they have heard the word and then identify commonalities in the situations where they’ve heard it. They can then work to create a definition of community together.

Effective Facilitation Strategies

If students are struggling to think of something that they would change about their community, or something they could do to make the world a better place, encourage them to think of things that frustrate them as they go about their days (at school, at home, with friends, etc). If you could do anything to make that frustrating thing go away, what would it be? How would it help?
Offer students access to periodicals such as Time for Kids and Newsweek Kids, articles in Newsela, and in order to identify other examples of fellow kids changing the world.

Play to Notice (Learning Framework)

Teacher should observe the following play standards:

  • Child-centered: The lesson supports children’s independence by letting them lead and feel empowered to make decisions (e.g what object to create, what materials to use, what the object will be used for)
  • Choice: The lesson is open-ended, there are different approaches and various solutions, as well as multiple entry points (e.g. students can create any object they want, without a particular teacher end-goal in mind)
  • Challenge: The lesson offers various levels of challenge (e.g. optional extension activities, as well as varying objects students choose to create), and it provides children with opportunities to challenge themselves and take healthy risks.
  • Active: The lesson provides opportunities for children to participate, communicate, create, and make decisions
  • Social support: The lesson supports solitary, parallel, collaborative, multi-age, and multi- generational forms of play and exploration (e.g. students can choose to create an object independently or can collaborate with their peers if they wish)
  • Familiar and unexpected: The lesson builds on children’s past experiences and makes connections to their lives outside of the classroom (e.g. students may wish to connect their created object with knowledge they have of life in areas of their identity beyond the classroom)
  • Make learning visible: The lesson encourages children to express their ideas and independently reflect (e.g. when brainstorming their ideas for objects to create, students have the opportunity to reflect on what defines community and ways that individuals throughout history have enacted change)
Content Matter to Notice

This lesson, and the activities leading up to/following it, specifically address content standards relating to engineering and the engineering design process, as well as social studies concepts (the definition of community and how individuals contribute to their community; how individuals work to enact change in society) and literacy standards (comprehending fictional and informational text and identifying theme and character traits)

SEL to Notice

CASEL Competencies:


  • Exhibiting self-discipline and self motivation

Relationship Skills

  • Practicing teamwork and collaborative problem-solving
    Resolving conflicts constructively


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