How we brought social action into the classroom

Jessica Tait explains how her school made social action a core part of its ethos and curriculum

Hilden Grange prep takes part in school social action

Today it feels more important than ever to give young people the opportunity to make a difference to the causes they care about.

Social action can be hugely beneficial for children and at Hilden Grange Prep we’re working hard to make it part of our thinking and embed it across our curriculum.

As a school, we’ve always raised money for lots of different charities, but recently we’ve been thinking more deeply about how we approach fundraising, introducing a more considered approach that extends beyond the classroom.

Charitable action in school is often led by adults, but it’s more meaningful for children when they have a sense of agency. So, one of the first steps we’ve taken is to focus on activities that pupils can get involved with, such as collecting toys for local families during our Two Weeks of Christmas Giving, visiting the elderly or taking groceries to the foodbank. We also spend time learning about why this is needed, to give the action meaning.

“Charitable action in school is often led by adults.”

Encouraging our pupils to think outside of themselves feels really important, and we’ve been working with a charity called Empathy Action, who run immersive workshops about world problems. Recently, our Year 7 pupils took part in Desperate Journeys, a refugee crisis simulation tracking the journey of a family forced from their home. The children were very moved by the experience, so we looked at ways to extend their learning. From persuasive letter writing in English to reading about the Israelites in religious studies, we were able to find curriculum links and deepen their understanding in a meaningful way.

Bringing philanthropy into the classroom is something we’re really keen on and we’ve started using a website called SuperKind to tie everything together. SuperKind is an all-in-one platform for fundraising and teaching about social action. It includes lesson plans and resources, such as videos about young changemakers, which are really inspiring.

We’re working towards the SuperKind Social Impact Schools Award, which will formally recognise our work in this area. Our pupils can earn online badges every time they engage in a social action such as making a poster or raising money and these all count towards the Award. It’s great to be able to reward the children for doing good, and the platform gives them ideas for charitable activities too.

“Our Year 7 pupils took part in a refugee crisis simulation.”

Moving knowledge into action is important to us and we’re using SuperKind to help our pupils organise their drive to do good in a meaningful way. The children are very motivated by green issues and the website has helped them to see how activities such as litter-picking can contribute to change on a larger scale.

During COP26, the children were inspired to write persuasive letters to the Prime Minister, and we delivered special lessons on climate change in geography, science and as part of our forest school. We’ve recently been working with the Eco Schools programme to embed green action and were delighted to receive a prestigious Green Flag award in recognition of pupils’ efforts.

“Kids feel good when they do good.”

Taking a more holistic approach has helped us to see that social action has a place beyond extracurricular activities and fundraising. It can exist in the classroom too. We no longer see social action as something separate and try to integrate into our teaching wherever we can.

Kids feel good when they do good and we’ve definitely seen increased wellbeing as a result. We’ve also found that when they do something kind for others, that they want to do more.

Children are naturally passionate and driven, and as teachers it’s a real privilege to be able to channel this in a purposeful way. We hope that by engaging our pupils in meaningful social action and fundraising from a young age – and linking it to learning- that we’re creating kind habits to last a lifetime.