George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Tired of disheartened girls thinking they didn't match up to the divas on teen beauty magazines, Grace Miner started Real Girls Matter. The group has a state-wide conference in Rhode Island next year.

When six-year-old Joshua Williams wanted to give ten dollars to a homeless man, his young eyes opened to the plight of the hungry. Joshua, now 13, runs Joshua's Heart to feed the hungry in Miami. On his website, Joshua says: "Whenever I work, I will give some of my money to help."

And the stories go on. Whether it is wells in Africa or standing against genocide, today's students are more than willing to tackle big problems. Their social media prowess and passion can make them an unstoppable force -- when they want to be. (Can you say Ice Bucket Challenge?)

How can we unleash more social entrepreneurs? How can we empower more students to make a difference?

Aaron Maurer's students in Bettendorf, Iowa created a dream team to act on their heartbreaks.

1. Encourage Each Student to Map Their Heartbreak

Each child has a strength and talent -- a "genius," if you will -- that he or she can add to make the world a better place. Empower social entrepreneurs by sharing stories of students taking action, and then encourage students to find their own passion. Angela Maiers, educator and founder of the burgeoning Choose2Matter movement says:

DO NOT follow your heart to find your passion and purpose. Instead follow your heartbreak . . . Finding your passion; surrendering to your heartbreak is really about finding what really moves you.

Ask students to share what upsets them and makes them angry. Draw it. Write it. Speak it. But by all means share it! Aaron Maurer‘s students created heartbreak maps.

Social Entrepreneurship Tip: Ask students to create a heartbreak map.

2. Help Students Find Their Voice

Zak Malamed and friends began chatting with educators using the #edchat hashtag and inadvertently started the #stuvoice movement.

I first met Zak Malamed, the bright-eyed founder of Student Voice, in 2012 at ISTE in San Diego, while he was still in high school. The year before, Zak and some friends converged on the #edchat hashtag speaking out for students. Soon #stuvoice -- a weekly chat about student views on education -- emerged.

Fast forward to ISTE 2014. Student Voice’s nonprofit status was approved as several of us drove with Zak to dinner. A movement started up when he spoke up!

Social Entrepreneurship Tip: Encourage students to converse with a wider audience.

3. Empower Social Media Sharing

Since the path from hashtagging your heartbreak to nonprofit status seems faster than ever, digital citizenship is part of any social entrepreneurship movement. Writing is more important than ever, but it isn't your old five-paragraph, third-person essay. Social entrepreneurs need to create impassioned, first-person, hyperlinked calls to action.

Students need blogs, websites, and YouTube channels to share with the world and research skills to vet truth from fiction. Savvy schools create these platforms and have empowering conversations with students about digital citizenship.

Social Entrepreneurship Tip: Empower social entrepreneurs with social media and digital citizenship savvy.

4. Encourage Students to Tell Their Story to a Wider Audience

But not all students need a movement. Michael just wanted other students to understand his autism. Teacher John Lozano worked with Michael to tell his story in the video My Name is Michael. John says, "If he told the story [to just his class] it would only be the people in the class who got to see it. So that's when the idea of the video happened."

Social Entrepreneurship Tip: Help students craft and edit video to tell their stories.

5. Foster Student Generosity

The students at Clarkstown Central School District were afire. Their cry on Facebook? "Every woman needs a voice, especially one with so much to say." Led by teacher Jennifer Cronk, students raised over $5,000 overnight for their classmate Lanie, a student with cerebral palsy who needed a new mobile eye tracking device to help her speak again. Jennifer worked with Lanie's mom to set up a Facebook donation button so Lanie’s fans could donate. As the students proclaimed, "Vikings take care of their own."

Social Entrepreneurship Tip: When you see students rally behind a cause, set up donation platforms to let them contribute and help make it happen.

6. Connect Students to Powerful Role Models for Change

Desire is not enough. Students need a plan. Olympic bobsledder Steve Mesler helps students connect with Olympic and Paralympic athletes in training through his Classroom Champions program. Students need practical guidance on goal setting, persistence, and action to make dreams happen. "They [students] have discovered that dreams come true through perseverance and determination," says Robyn Thiessen, an upper elementary teacher in British Columbia, about Classroom Champions.

Social Entrepreneurship Tip: Help students create a plan.

The Classroom Champions videos (like this one from Paralympic athlete Jerome Singleton, Jr.) are some of my all-time favorites because they are from Olympic athletes who are training right now.

7. Integrate Social Entrepreneurship Into Your Curriculum

Pauline Roberts developed a new course for fifth graders. Entitled Sciracy, the action-centric course combines science, literacy, and sustainability. Her Detroit students work with businesses to understand their needs and promote eco-friendly sustainability practices. This award-winning program is being scaled up school-wide, as it integrates social studies and literacy standards while empowering positive change (and engagement).

Social Entrepreneurship Tip: Integrate social entrepreneurship into core curriculum.

Social Change Starts Here

We inherit the future we inspire today. Do we want helpless handwringing when hard problems emerge, or do we want impassioned leaders to stand up and take action? Social entrepreneurship is not an extra -- it is an essential.

Perhaps students don't like to write because we're not unleashing their heartbreak. Perhaps they don't like math because the numbers they're working with don't add up in a meaningful way. When students are passionate, they are engaged. When students are empowered, they are unstoppable. Unleash our students to change the world, and we might just see the change we want in education happen at the same time.

How have your students taken action? Tell their story, empower us all, and let's start a powerful resource right here in the comments of this blog post!

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Meriwynn Mansori's picture

What a fabulous blog post, Vicki! Using social entrepreneurship based on "mapping heartbreak" is such a powerful tool to engage students in global challenges. As a curriculum writer, I am always looking for ways to make learning relevant and meaningful for students. In fact, next week I'm presenting at ACTFL about this topic with a 7th grade teacher who is using this curriculum, which combines social entrepreneurship with global studies and language learning for middle-school immersion students. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

Angela Ribo's picture
Angela Ribo
Bilingual/ESL/Pre-K Program Specialist

This is right on! I see a correlation between "mapping heartbreak' and my sister, June McBride's work in her Path to Scholarships books and workshops.

Pauline Roberts's picture

Thanks for the mention Vicki! With a focus on sustainability,we kicked off Sciracy this year by asking the kids to think about and finish the statement, " I think our community needs..." They have developed and supported their claim with research, including interviews with local experts,surveys, and data collection.They have addressed potential counter claims and when they have completed final drafts of their persuasive essays they present them to our principal for approval. I am looking forward to seeing how math and geography comes into play as they put together and implement their plans for improving our community. Projects in the making include building a greenhouse from used soda bottles, growing organic vegetables for the school cafeteria and persuading restaurants to buy produce from local farmers.So much fun and so much learning!

Zachary Ramsey's picture

This is an AMAZING post! I learned so much and am so inspired to challenge my students to map their heartbreaks and start making a difference. I can't wait to apply this information in my classroom. Thank you, Vicki!

Patrick Abraham's picture

What a great idea and concept you are promoting in supporting students through your social entrenprenership! Helping students become empowered through learning and self-advocating for the many talents will lead students to better outcomes both academically and social-emotionally! You are not only connecting with your students and showing them that they matter and are relevant, but you are promoting social justice in the process. All students deserve nothing less than to feel relevant and important. I love this idea and the fact that you are incorporating technology in this digital age in teaching students to engage in entrepreneurship through social media and connect to the global world is fantastic. Thanks for your creativity and supporting students.

Sugar Bay Holiday Camp's picture

Great article Vicki! We assist students in completing Service Learning Projects here in South Africa and you provided some helpful examples that show kids really can make a difference. We'll be sharing these stories with our next set of students to excite and inspire, thanks!

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