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Children and Activism: Fostering Leadership In Our Youth

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

My previous post was a gateway to a larger conversation around activism. What happens after we teach children about loud, systemic, and institutionalized racism? How do we maintain their safety and innocence, all the while cultivating the next generation of leaders and allies? The thought of any child being among large crowds protesting for justice and equity makes my heart drop. However, I am overcome with joy when thinking about the positive impact that these smart young people can have on our world! Here's how we can safely encourage children to be activists through our important work as parents and teachers.

1. Assess Prior Knowledge and Teach Essential Vocabulary

We don't want to assume that children do not have any knowledge about this topic. Now that we've taught them about racism and its detrimental effects on people of color, ask them what they know about activism and leadership. For younger children, consider asking them what character traits describe a good leader. Teach them the vocabulary words below. They can be written on paper, flash cards, sticky notes, etc. Lastly, explain to them that today they will be learning about different ways to be an activist.

  • Ally: Someone who helps groups other than their own by standing up for them.

  • Privilege: Specific treatment and advantages due to belonging to a certain group. Privilege may be earned or unearned.

  • Social Justice: Ending forms of oppression that actually give some groups more leverage, but adversely affect their peers who belong to other groups.

  • Inequity: Lack of fairness or justice. The presence of the same opportunities, but an uneven playing field.

  • Activism: An effort to cause social or political change.

  • Identity: The qualities and characteristics that describe a person.

2. Video and Text Deep Dive

Students in grades K-5:

Students in grades 5-8:

Newsela Article
Download PDF • 3.26MB

Students in grades 8-12:

3. Video and Text Analysis

After children finish watching the videos and reading the texts above, have them complete the activity below. For younger children, you can complete the activity as they follow along.

Youth Activism Activity
Download PDF • 278KB

4. Associated Texts and Links for Purchase

Little Leaders:

Little Legends:

A is for Activist:

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