When interacting with the world, elementary school students need to be able to judge what is fair and what is not, and then try to do something to fix what is unfair. Life is about more than just figuring out what is best for oneself, it is about making sure that everyone has a fighting chance at happiness and a successful life. These activities will introduce students to the concept of social justice and how they can make a larger impact on the world and their community.
1. Do Something
This popular website has hundreds if not thousands of ways people can contribute to society, using an issue they care about. Have students explore the website and find a cause they want to support, or find one that the whole class can focus on, allowing them to make connections with people.
Learn More: Do Something
2. Little Justice Leaders
This organization makes monthly subscription boxes for teaching little ones about social justice. Each box includes a digital resource, book, art activity, and a guide for adults on how to talk to the kids about the monthly theme like racial stereotypes.
Learn More: Little Justice Leaders
This blog post contains three simple activities to engage elementary school students in learning about social justice. One such activity that they are sure to giggle at while they learn is describing fruit. Students will talk about the fruit from the outside, then peel it and talk about the inside. The goal is for students to realize that peoples’ outsides do not always match their insides.
Learn More: The ED Advocate
4. Milo’s Museum
This activity has students talk about the importance of representation in everyday life. They read a story and then make their own museum that shows off parts of their identity.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
5. Active Voice
In this now viral post about using grammar to teach about social justice, this teacher has students practice writing in an active voice to talk about issues. It is common for news outlets to sensationalize stories, but reframing them as subjects and objects helps students understand divisive topics.
Learn More: Facebook
6. The Skin You Live In
Students need to learn that in spite of each others’ differences, they need to accept and appreciate one another. This activity teaches kids to learn about others’ identities- accepting each other into friend groups, and both honoring and respecting people’s different identities.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
7. Social Justice Project
Once students know about social justice, have them brainstorm how they can better their community through a social justice project. Students can work in small groups on different projects, or create a classroom-wide collaborative project. In the end, they can present what their project is, and how they helped others and brought awareness about issues.
Learn More: Dr. Lorifriesen
8. Macaroni Social Justice
Teach kids about fractions while they learn about economic inequality. This activity was created by a teacher to help students learn about fractions and bar graphs, while also showing the reality of economic inequality and having kids discuss what they think it should look like.
Learn More: Rethinking Schools
9. Peaceful Protesting
Play this video for your students so they can see how peaceful protests are organized and run, and what the purpose behind them is. Discuss with students what they saw and learned, and how they might use this in their own lives.
Learn More: CBS DFW
10. Showing Up For Racial Justice
This animated video talks to students about the injustices that people from different races face in their everyday lives. After the video, create follow-up discussion questions to ask students what they can do to show up for racial justice.
Learn More: Saladin Allah
11. Be An Upstander
This website contains resources for students to explore how they can stand up for others, and stand against injustice. They will be able to pick an issue that resonates with them, learn more about it, and figure out what they can do to contribute to fighting the good fight.
Learn More: Human Rights
12. Freedom Medley
Use this activity for students to learn about popular freedom songs used during the Civil Rights movement. They can listen to the songs, then talk about how they relate to the struggles of the time.
Learn More: Carnegie Hall
Learn About Others and Themselves
13. Global Storytelling
This organization tells the stories of people from cultures all over the world, with the goal of educating students about people from different walks of life. Encourage students to explore the website and listen to or read stories from others- having them think about the similarities and differences between their lives and the life of the protagonist.
Learn More: Global Oneness Project
14. Podcast Learning
Greg Curran is an elementary school teacher who creates this podcast series about different issues related to social justice, featuring some interesting guests. Sort through these podcasts and find one (or more) that students would find engaging and then play it for the class.
Learn More: Pushing The Edge
Pick one of these books for a read-aloud in your classroom in order to teach kids more about thinking about the world at large. It is important for students to understand that people do not look like them in other parts of the world.
Learn More: Bookshop
16. Leaving Home
Immigration is a divisive topic in this country, but it is still important for students to understand what it is like for people to leave their country, dreaming of a better place. This activity allows students to have a generative conversation based on a famous painting about what it must be like for people to leave their homes.
Learn More: Teaching Central America
17. Residential Schools
Have students explore this timeline of the residential schools in Canada that were used to control their Indigenous population. Students can talk about how this was discriminatory, and draw parallels between similar happenings in the United States.
Learn More: The Canadian Encyclopedia
18. Make A Video
This organization encourages students to make videos about their lives and what experiences have shaped them. Pair students up and have them record a video about something that has impacted them – they will need a pair so that one person can speak and the other one can film, before switching roles.
Learn More: EVC.org
19. Communication Skills
Part of working on social justice is learning how to communicate, especially with those with differing opinions and perspectives. This activity has students practicing their communication skills in a way that is peaceful, yet gets their point across.
Learn More: Share My Lesson
This read-aloud is for younger students and centers around stomping out bullying. The book talks about the dangers of it and what strategies kids can use to resolve their problems in a healthy way that honors everyone.
Learn More: Teach Resistance
21. Environmental Justice
Another often-overlooked topic is that environmental concerns disproportionately affect people from marginalized backgrounds. This lesson plan teaches students about counteracting this issue by keeping their community clean.
Learn More: Share My Lesson
22. Back To Basics
This lesson plan sets the stage for learning about social justice by starting at the beginning. Students will learn about identities, what social justice is, and how they can identify injustices in their own lives.
Learn More: Study.com
23. Transgender And Non-Binary
Although people tend to think about this issue as one to discuss with older children, this lesson plan does a great job adapting it for younger audiences. Students will talk about gender identities and come up with ways that they can support people no matter what gender they identify with.
Learn More: Google Docs
24. Setting Up For Success
This blog post helps teachers prepare for teaching social justice in their classrooms. It is important that students feel safe and included in their classroom, especially before discussing bigger issues that may not all agree on.
Learn More: Resilient Educator
25. Advance Social Justice
While this list might be written at a higher level, there are ways to adapt it for your classroom. Kids can talk about how they can use social media, volunteer in their communities, and donate some of their unused things to positively impact others.
Learn More: Education Online