Preparation Before the Practice
- Explore the Giraffe Heroes Project site, and select two or three stories that inspire you and that would be appropriate to share with your students.
- Also review the program It’s Up to Us, selecting portions to use as resources for the service learning project you will facilitate.
Session 1: Hear the Story, Tell the Story
- Tell the stories of at least two Giraffes from the Giraffe Heroes Project website.
- Spark a class discussion about the Giraffes, the risks they took, and the common good that their actions served. Tell students that “Giraffe” heroes stick their necks out for others.
- In groups, have students research heroes that inspire them in books, in the media, and in their own community—and have them tell the stories of the heroes they have selected.
Session 2: Be the Story: Select a Project
- Challenge the students to make a list of three problems they are concerned about. Some prompts:
- What do you think could be better?
- Are there people in your community who don’t have enough food or who have no shelter?
- Are there racial or religious prejudices that turn people in your community against each other?
- Are there too many fights in your school, too many kids abusing drugs, getting pregnant, or dropping out?
- Is the air where you live fit to breathe and the water fit to drink?
- Are there global issues that concern you—environmental or human rights issues?
- Have each student read their choices, while another student records them on the board or large sheet of paper.
- Have students discuss the issues that have been proposed, combining those that are similar. Give students who feel strongly about an issue the opportunity to speak up for it.
- If there is group consensus, then proceed to the next bullet point. If not, decide whether to take on more than one issue with available resources, or just choose one issue.
- To choose an issue, have students do several rounds of voting, eliminating the lowest vote-getting idea in each round until only one idea is left.
- If there are many issues to choose from, eliminate the least popular two or three issues with each vote.
- Once a problem is chosen, gather enough basic information about the problem so that you and your students get a clearer picture of it. For example: Who are the stakeholders? Has anyone tackled this, and with what result? Are there potential allies you could work with?
Additional Sessions: Service Learning Project
- Next, have students sharpen their focus by creating a service project that addresses the issue.
- How big a project are you willing to take on? Steer away from projects that take more time than is available–but don’t settle for something that won’t be a stretch.
- Utilizing whatever is appropriate for the project from the It’s Up To Us program, begin the service learning project.
- As the project develops, take advantage of the resources given in the guide, stories to support the process, and answers to questions you and the students may have.
- The program guide provides support with:
- helping the group create a vision
- working together as a team
- inspiring courage and risk-taking
- dealing with group issues and conflicts
- encouraging and developing leadership
- enlisting allies in the community
- getting the message out
- learning that failure is part of the process
- Be sure to celebrate at the end of the project!
- As part of the closing and celebration, discuss with students:
- What did you learn?
- How did you feel about the process?
- What was accomplished?
- Close with an acknowledgement of students’ courage and caring.
Giraffe Heroes Project honors compassionate risk-takers who are largely unknown, people who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good, in the U.S. and around the world. When we tell their stories over social media, in our talks, and in our books, others are moved to stick their necks out too, helping solve significant public problems important to them. As long as there are Giraffe Heroes, there’s hope.
Telling the series of heroes may be the oldest strategy in the world for motivating people into brave, compassionate action—and it works. See www.giraffe.org for books, blogs, curricula, speeches and trainings that can help your school succeed in inspiring students to courageous and compassionate action. Two full curricula, on for K-2, one for young teens, can be downloaded here. Both were created by the Giraffe Heroes Project.