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In this activity, students brainstorm what issues in the world matter to them and what moves them emotionally. 


KEY QUESTION ADDRESSED: What do I care about?

GOAL: To help students think about issues in the world that move them and initiate a thought process around what they can do about them.

MATERIALS NEEDED:  Pen + Wayfinder Notebook, selection of newspapers, articles, magazines (from your students)


“Digging Deep” is the first activity in the sequence that is dedicated to getting students to start mapping out the things in the world that move them emotionally. Up to this point we have focused on guiding students to understand themselves and how they fit into and are a product of the world around them. “Digging Deep” builds upon this awareness by asking students to identify issues or problems they have seen in the world that concern, frustrate, sadden or anger them. From here we can move to a place of thoughtful action.

In designing this activity it was really important to encourage students to frame these “problem statements” in terms of how they made them feel, moving them away from a cerebral response to suffering in the world and towards a more embodied, empathetic one. The metaphor we use for this activity is meant to reiterate this emphasis on embodiment. Each statement (from “it frustrates me...” close to the top of the earth, to “it breaks my heart...” deep down into the depths of earth) is meant to progressively move students towards a deeper and more embodied response to suffering they have observed in the world.

It is also important that students here be as specific as possible. For example, saying “I care about climate change,” is much different for a student that lives near the water or ocean (like X% of the American population) to say, “It frustrates me that my city will be underwater in a few decades and a lot of my neighbors may have to move, and no adults in my city seem to be really addressing the issue.” We want to move from the general - “climate change” - to the specific - “rising sea level in their city” - because then this is more emotional and immediate, AND it is also more actionable and points in the direction of a possible future project that could be developed. For example, a student with the above problem statement could join the city’s “Climate Change Preparedness” committee as a youth advocacy member. Or they could create a youth movement in address sea-level rise and how it will impact their neighborhood.

The second part of the activity gets students to start deconstructing the problem statements they identified in part one by asking them:

  • WHY DOES IT FEEL PERSONAL? This question emphasizes the importance of self-awareness in understanding what you care about it in the world. Why is it this topic in particular that you respond to emotionally? What experiences have you had that might make this issue particularly salient to you?

  • HOW CAN YOU LEARN MORE? This question emphasizes the importance of world-awareness in understanding what you care about in the world. How can you expand your knowledge about this topic? Who is already working in this area? Who might you be able to talk to who knows about this topic? How can you use empathy to deepen your understanding of what is going on?

  • WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT? This question emphasizes the importance of purposeful-action in approaching what you care about in the world. It is not enough just to have an emotional response towards something and to learn about it, what are you actually going to do about it? Even if just a very small way, how can you be part of the change?

As you can see from these questions, “Digging Deep” wants to emphasize that it is important to have a combination of an outward focus, an authentic and empathetic understanding of human needs, AND a desire to take on impactful work.

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