Social studies teachers play a crucial role in empowering students to make a difference in the world. Sifting through all the names, dates, places and events that make up our content at the bottom of it we find people. Every act great, or small, was done by someone like you, like me, and like our students. And like everyone else who has ever lived, we all leave our mark on the world for better or worse, so why not aim to make it for the better?

Global Giving provides an excellent resource for teachers who want to inspire students to make a difference. It lists hundreds of projects from all over the world. Two I supported recently are about teaching sustainable agriculture in the Congo and preserving the Tanzanian rainforest. The cool thing is it shows exactly what you get for your money, i.e., “$10 provides four watering cans for families.” My bent is environmental, but they have every type of project; good governance, women and children, HIV, and more. You can sort them by location or project type, providing a perfect tie-in to geography or any current event since you can probably find a project in the area you are studying addressing the problem you are studying.

One of the challenges of teaching geography getting students to understand why issues and problems in far away places matter to us. It usually requires a lot of heavy hitting; genocide, the HIV epidemic, environmental devastation or the effects of severe poverty can be really jarring and emotional. It’s nice to show students that there is hope. The world doesn’t suck. And they can be part of the solution!

Here are some ways I have used Global Giving. Students don’t actually donate in class (unless they want to), but they do put awareness of problems we face and provide tangible solutions.

1.) As part of a larger project on a country/region. In their assigned country/region, students find a project they like and explain why they would want to support it. This is my introduction to Global Giving for 6th graders.

2.) Global Giving “Shark Tank”. Students choose a project to support and present it to the class looking for “investors”. The class evaluates the presentations and decides which project will have the greatest impact. 

3.) As a place to find solutions for current issues we have studied, like the Malaria or HIV epidemic. Students evaluate two or three relevant projects and argue which one they think has the best solution.

I’m sure there are a 1,000 other uses. Check it out, and spread the word.