Power of One: Seventh graders kick off another year of positive change

Each year, students on the Seven Green Team at Middlebrook look for ways in which they can make a positive impact on their community and the world at large through the Power of One project.

Cynthia Beck-Moore, social studies teacher for 16 years, said she started the Power of One unit several years ago “as a way to encourage students to see the world around them as a place [where] they can actively make a difference.”

From this concept, she said, the yearlong unit was created.

“At first, it was strictly run through social studies classes  — the curriculum is World Geography/Global Studies — but over the years, it has become a fully embraced team unit,” said Ms. Beck-Moore.

“As a middle school, we have a focus on teams and teaming. To that end, we try to incorporate as many interdisciplinary opportunities as we can.”

Since finding solutions to issues is a major focus of the project, said Ms. Beck-Moore, it was easy for all the Seven Green Team classes to join in.

“The issues are wide-ranging — from social issues to environmental to health, so science has an easy connection as well,” she said. “It truly has been a great team unit that we can all easily support.”

Ms. Beck-Moore said all the Green Team teachers want to empower students to feel they can make a difference in an authentic way.

“Our goal is for students to find their passion for something happening in the world and to embrace the opportunity to bring about change,” she said.

“Since many of the issues are dramatic issues, we are challenged to find both age-appropriate and level-appropriate material, so a lot of time goes into selecting the resources we use.”

As students are learning and researching issues for the project, Ms. Beck-Moore said, she and other teachers constantly emphasize that the goal of the project is to empower change and bring about a positive outcome.

“We are challenged to keep the spirit of the students positive and not negative,” she said. “We don’t want them to feel the world is full of doom and gloom, but we want them to see that they can make changes if they feel moved to do so.”

Students are encouraged to bring about change in different ways, said Ms. Beck-Moore — from telling someone else about what’s happening or taking it further, like a group of four girls who pursued having water bottle filling stations installed at Middlebrook to combat water bottle waste last year.

“Sometimes the results are direct, such as the water filling stations, while some are indirect — students choose to participate outside of school in already established nonprofits to give back that way,” said Ms. Beck-Moore.

“Indirectly, in the past, we have had students take on things, such as students reading to or teaching younger students in other towns, students joining Teach for America and even participating in clubs outside of school.”

Process

Each year, the Green Team starts the Power of One project by sharing examples of people who have made a difference, said Ms. Beck-Moore, starting with famous individuals like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.

“Then we bring in local individuals from many walks of life to share their stories with the students in mini-workshops,” said Ms. Beck-Moore.

“We ask the presenters to share how they found their passion and the road they took to make a difference, in hopes that these role models will help our students take that first step [of] finding something to care deeply about.”

This year’s Seven Green Team kicked off its Power of One unit last week in the school’s media center, where representatives from seven different organizations came to speak about how their organizations help others.

“This year, we had local organizations such as the WISE group at the high school, and more well-known organizations, such as Make-A-Wish Foundation,” said Ms. Beck-Moore.

“From here, the students are exposed to a wide range of activities and topics through a series of stations over several days before picking an issue, researching it, and presenting it to classmates.”

In the spring, students start to “take action,” said Ms. Beck-Moore, including creating public service announcements, before presenting their work to other Middlebrook students, staff and parents at the end of the school year.

Adjustments

The Power of One project has changed in a number of ways over the years.

“It has taken on a longer time period, from part of an academic quarter to a yearlong unit,” said Ms. Beck-Moore.

“That change was mainly to allow for students to really explore topics fully and make a genuine connection to an issue.”

Another change has been the incorporation of technology.

“When Dr. T.J. Leonard joined the team two years ago, he brought the idea of the public service announcement,” she said. “That naturally lent itself to the ‘teach-in,’ where students share their ideas with their classmates as they have from the beginning.”

A more recent change took place last year, when the Power of One exposition was opened to the entire school rather than just the seventh grade.

“I honestly believe units must change yearly to reflect the student population of that year. Therefore, there will definitely be changes,” Ms. Beck-Moore said.

“At the moment, since we are in the middle of it, I’m not sure what the changes will be, but I hope each year it gets better and better.”