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Design for Change: One Idea! One Week!

Elementary, Middle


Design for Change outlines a process by which students identify a problem and collectively design and execute a plan to remedy the problem. The process,as outlined, involves four steps - feel, imagine, do and share.

The four steps are realized through seven lesson plans, spread over a week of instruction. The students assume ownership of the task and the lesson plan provides the teacher with directions that help the students move effectively through the steps involved.

With the help of case studies, videos and testimonials by successful change agents, students are encouraged identify a problem/issue meaningful to their own experience and 'create change', whether that be in their own lives, their school, or their community.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

Students will have an opportunity to practice the skills associated with leadership, effective communication, teamwork, critical and creative thinking.


The lesson plans reflect the strengths of experiential learning. Students learn by doing; by exploring an issue that has relevance for them and by undertaking a plan that will right a perceived wrong or meet an identified need. 

The resource has the additional strength of inviting students to become part of a larger initiative with other students in designing change.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

Design for Change is generic in terms of content and therefore may have application in a number of subject areas where students are asked to identify and respond to an issue but it would have greatest relevance for those courses that deal with citizenship education.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Active citizenship contributes to the vitality of communities that can promote pluralism among diverse people in a democratic society
        • Exploring connections strengthens our understandings of relationships to help us make meaning of the world
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Active citizenship contributes to the vitality of communities that can promote pluralism among diverse people in a democratic society.
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Democracy: Action and Participation: Citizens Participatiing in Decision Making
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Communities of the World: Connecting with Canadians
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People & Places in the World: Global Quality of Life
  • New Brunswick
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • My Province, Exploration, History of the Atlantic Region: Civics
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Cultures
        • Empowerment: Economics
        • Atlantic Canada and the World:
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Communities of the World:Connecting with Canadians
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 3: Peoples
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 6: World Issues
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Connecting With the World: Citizenship
        • Connecting With the World: Global Connections
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People and Environments: Political and Physical Regions of Canada
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People and Environments: The Role of Government and Responsble Citizenship
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • The Individual in Canadian Society: Resources & Wealth

Themes Addressed

Citizenship (2)

  • Community-Building and Participation
  • General Guide to Taking Action

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

Design for Change outlines a process that allows students to identify and address an issue. The generic nature of the process ensures that no particular perspective is favored. All students are encouraged to participate and have their voices heard.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Part of the process outlined in having students visualize success requires that they IMAGINE what success will look like. Students are encouraged to generate and evaluate their ideas. In drawing out their ideas and explaining these to others something of the complexity of the problem may be expected to emerge as well as the potential consequences or implications of any solution proposed.     

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good
Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Very Good

Design for Change is intended to unleash the students "I Can" power. It assumes that students have the potential to change their world and outlines a format that will help them be effective change agents.  

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

In Stage 2 (Feel;Reaching the Real Challenge) and Stage 3 (Imagine; Visualize Success), students are asked to decide on one situation they would like to change. In making that decision, students must put forth and defend their particular ideas of the situation they would like the class to tackle. Such a discussion implicitly, if not explicitly, will reveal the values inherent in arguing for addressing one situation rather than another.    

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Satisfactory

The resource outlines a process for student action and therefore the extent to which stewardship or empathy and respect for humans is enhanced will depend upon the issue they choose to address and the action they undertake. The examples provided of actions taken by other students, however, are illustrative of their concern for the earth and their fellow humans. 

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good

In deciding on what needs changing and how they may undertake that change, students are asked to consider what they would like to change in their personal life, their school, or their community. 

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

As agents of change, students are asked to consider what in the present circumstances could be changed for the better and to imagine what the future will look like once that change has been affected. 

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The resource outlines a process to guide students in becoming change agents. Students choose the issue to address, decide on a course of action, execute their plan of action and share their experience with others. Ownership resides with the students.  

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

The resource is essentially a guide for active citizenship. The planning and execution involved will determine what information and skills are required but it can be expected that the line between subject areas will be blurred.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Very Good

The teacher's role in Design for Change is to assist rather than direct students. Responsibility for undertaking the steps involved for bringing about needed change resides with the students. Student learning occurs as they struggle with gathering the knowledge  required for effective action, devising an action plan, and implementing that plan.    

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Good

The many tasks involved in carrying out a change plan allows for students to assume those roles and responsibilities that reflect their particular strengths as learners.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good

Design for Change:One Idea!One Week! adopts the principles of experiential learning. Students select a real problem, devise a strategy to  address what they consider the major cause of the problem, draw up a plan of action, establish a time line, delegate responsibility, and implement their plan of action. They learn by doing.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Good

The focus of Design for Change is on process rather than content. The process as outlined is such that students need to cooperate if the task undertaken is to have a successful conclusion. Student cooperation  must be an essential part of both the planning and implementation if their goal to affect change is to be realized.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

Steps 5 and 6 (Do; Make Change Happen) requires that students document their action by taking note of their feelings, how people were changed by the process and how the community was changed. Step 7 (Share; I Can;Now You Can Too!) asks students to share their experience through appropriate presentations. Both of these exercises present opportunities for students to assess what they learned or accomplished, what worked and why. 

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

Step 7 (Share; I Can;Now You Can Too!) suggests that students communicate their experience in a Circle of Sharing and that they make a presentation of their story of change at a morning assembly.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

The resource employs a case study approach - students focus on a particular problem - in order to illustrate an effective strategy for designing change in general.  

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Very Good

Design for Change allows students to choose the change they wish to affect, to devise a strategy for bringing about the desired change, to implement that strategy,to assess the success's of their plan and to share their story with others.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.