Be the change, being a student, being a teacher, projects

The 2030 UN Challenge – A Social Advocacy Project

In my district we are well aware of our demographics.  How we mostly teach one demographic students, and while these students span an enormous socioeconomic range, they look a lot like each other.  How sometimes our world can seem protected with only the biggest stories slipping through.  I also teach 7th grade where the rest of the world tends to slip away as the students are focused on their own social development and their own place in the world, rather than the world that surrounds them.  Yet, we try.  We constantly try to engage the students in projects that will bring the rest of the world in, start conversations, and ultimately lead to change.

When AJ Juliani first posted about the 2030 UN Challenge I didn’t much notice it.  He has a lot of great idea but this one slipped by until my awesome colleague , Reidun Bures, brought it up to me again.  We decided that this was the perfect opportunity to collaborate between our classes, but more importantly to simply make our students more aware of the major challenges that faces our world.

So for the past 3 weeks, we have combined classes and worked on the 2030 UN Challenge.  Students watched the video listing the 17 goals that the UN has set for the next 15 years (it came out in 2015) and then decided which goal they would focus their project on.


Once their “lens” had been chosen, they had to narrow their scope.  Where in the world would they focus their research knowing that they had to present their information in an infographic to the rest of the class.  Some chose to focus locally in our very county or state, while others went to far-flung regions that sought their attention.  Students then spent five 90-minute blocks, every other day, researching  their “problem.”  Examples were racial inequity in Dane County, water quality in the United States, gender inequity in education in Pakistan, the extinction of sharks due to shark fin soup, the gender pay gap in the United States and so many other projects.  We were blown away by the passion they had for their problem.

But we didn’t just want to them to become aware, we wanted them to realize that they could make a difference.  So part of their project became an advocacy piece as well; either highlight a group that is already working to solve the problem such as Black Lives Matter, the Water Project, or Second Harvest Food Bank, or come up with actual things that your fellow students can do.  It was amazing.

On the final day of the project, students had to present their infographic and their advocacy piece to the class.  As one student said, “Can I present more than once because I really want people to hear this.”  It was clear that many students were passionate about their project, wanted others to hear them, and wanted to make a difference.  But even more importantly the knowledge that crept into the consciousness of the minds of our students was unmatched.  They may not all go on to change the world but at least they have heard what some of the major challenges that affect us as a human race are.  At least they have had a window opened once again to the world, supporting what our other amazing teachers try to do, hopefully inspiring them become more aware.  It was more than once that a pair of students called us over to share a fact with us, disbelieving that it was true.

So why share?  Because this small projet has made a difference and has made an impact on us that we were not expecting.  So we hope you will take the pledge; do the 2030 UN Challenge in whichever way suits your kids and open up the world more.  Go here for more information or check out the original post from AJ Juliani.

Part of one student’s infographic.

Also if you are looking for another small global project, join the 1 School 1 World project on February 22nd, where classrooms around the world will share a picture of what their learning environment looks like using the hashtag #1S1W – for more information and to sign up, go here.

To see more of the how-to of what we did, go here.



4 thoughts on “The 2030 UN Challenge – A Social Advocacy Project”

  1. Thanks for sharing your process. Our fifth grade team followed a very similar process in the fall, and it still resonates within my classroom. I, too, have high hopes that it will mean a permanent shift toward a more global perspective. As an added bonus, it was one chunk of the year when the resources, ideas, and inspiration were more plentiful than I could even take advantage of.

  2. Wow. Mind=blown. I just keep taking notes over here! Also, following AJ Juliani now, and I can immediately use an article he linked to about teenagers and social media. Thanks again!

  3. Hi there Pernille,
    A friend just shared your post with me. Was so excited to read it! Do you have a link to the video listing the 17 goals?
    Thank you,

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