Marieke van Woerkom
Seeing our capacity to effect change and working with others to make it can be a powerful self-help strategy. Here are some ways to support students in acting on the issues they care about.
Students watch and discuss a short video about the history of Juneteenth and research their questions about the holiday.
Students need a chance to share their thoughts and feelings about the coronavirus—even if our classes have gone online. Here are some guidelines for creating a supportive space for this conversation.
Facebook's announcement that it would not fact check political ads touched off a controversy over social media and the First Amendment, among other things. In this lesson, students examine and discuss multiple points of view on the issue.
During the last few weeks of school, we and our students often struggle to stay focused. And yet there is still work to be done. Try these steps to keep students engaged (and yourself sane) as summer approaches.
Senior trainer Marieke van Woerkom offers a collection of strategies, from bringing plants into the classroom to mindful breathing, to help us and our students cope with the pressures of testing season.
A Courtside Confrontation and Its Aftermath
This is Part 1 of a two-part lesson that has students consider a confrontation between NBA player Russell Westbrook and a white fan and the public discussion that ensued about racism in the NBA and society at large. Part two of the lesson has students discuss an essay stemming from the controversy, by white NBA player Kyle Korver, which focuses on white privilege.
An Essay about White Privilege
This is Part 2 of a lesson that has students consider a confrontation between Russell Westbrook (a Black NBA player) and a white fan, its aftermath, and the public discussion that ensued about racism in the NBA and society at large. This lesson, part two of the series, has students read and discuss an essay stemming from the controversy, by white NBA player Kyle Korver, which focuses on white privilege.
Young people across the country are taking legal action to defend their right to a stable climate and healthy environment. In this activity students learn about the pioneering lawsuit Juliana v. United States, and discuss a short documentary about youth climate activists.
Three simple steps to help us calm our brains — and our classrooms.
Now might be a good time to review what has happened over the past year,both in our lives and the wider world. In this activity, students share reflections with the help of a short video and consider a next step.
The holidays can be a stressful time. Here are some simple steps to help us and our students handle heightened emotions - now or any time.
Students share their thoughts and feelings in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, view and discuss a video about hate crimes, and hear the voices of religious and community leaders who are standing up against hate.
By examining and discussing text, tweets, and images, students consider why a caravan of people are leaving their homes in Central America and heading north.
Students read one high school senior’s perspective on what teenagers are learning from the Kavanaugh hearings, and share their own perspectives.
Students consider the term "Ubuntu," and the ways in which we are all connected, then discuss some of the news this summer (via tweets), and how these events affect us.
Students discuss Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul," listen to her recording of the song "Respect," and consider how to ensure that everyone is respected in the classroom.
A restorative conversation can turn a student’s problematic behavior into a teachable moment.
In communicating with students, focus on the behavior you want to see and encourage, not the off-task or disruptive behavior you want to stop.
Students view and discuss the viral video of two black men being handcuffed and walked out of a Philadelphia Starbucks by six police officers in April 2018. Students consider the accounts of eyewitnesses, as well as an account by the two men who were arrested, and discuss what "racial profiling" means.
Edna Chavez, a 17-year-old senior from South Los Angeles, made an impassioned speech about gun violence at the student led March for Our Lives in March 2018. In this lesson, students learn some background about South L.A. and consider Chavez's speech, which puts gun violence in a larger societal context.
How can activists - including young people who are organizing against gun violence - sustain themselves for the long haul? In this activity, students consider quotes from activists of all ages about their self care strategies.
In small and large groups, students read media quotes and reflect on some of the successes that young people have booked in building a movement to end gun violence.
In this activity, structured as a circle, students reflect on memories, quotes, and photos from the massive student-led March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24, 2018.
Students explore the connections between young people in Florida campaigning for gun reform and youth leaders in Black Lives Matter – and consider why the media has focused so much less attention on the latter.
In this activity, students construct a timeline of youth activism, and consider how the students who are organizing against gun violence in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are part of a long history of youth organizing for justice, including for civil rights and immigrant rights.
After 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, FL, students turned their grief over the loss of their classmates into actions that galvanized the nation. In this activity, participants hear the voices of the Parkland students, and consider the variety of ways they are trying to make change.
Students learn about a few of the thousands of people who have fled Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. In small groups, students discuss their stories and consider how they may be feeling about what has happened. This companion lesson has students explore the climate refugee crisis worldwide.
This activity uses a circle format to engage students in sharing their thoughts and reactions to the Weinstein case, using tweets from a variety of sources. A backgrounder and optional student reading helps inform the discussion.
Students hear the performance of Lin–Manuel Miranda's song "Almost Like Praying," a benefit for the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Students discuss the song, see a video about how others have responded to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico, and consider how they might use their own talents and strengths to help.
In this activity, students watch a video about responses to the Trump administration’s decision to roll back this Obama–era program, which has allowed young undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. Students then read and discuss a variety of opinions about the decision.
This lesson begins with activities aimed at creating a sense of community among your students at the beginning of the school year. It also includes an exploration of issues in the news over the summer, and helps students consider how these issues are connected to their own lives and community.
Students continue the exploration they began in Part 1 of what happened after a mosque in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was defaced. In Part 2, students learn about and discuss the aftermath of the event, which included an informal restorative process. The lesson is based on this New York Times story by Sabrina Tavernise.
In this activity, students consider what happened after a mosque in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was defaced. They explore the personal stories of people in the community, including those targeted by the attack, through information gleaned from this New York Times story by Sabrina Tavernise about the incident and its aftermath. In Part 2 of this series, students learn about and discuss the aftermath of the event, which included an informal restorative process.
Following the violent rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville, this activity has students read, consider and discuss quotes about the presence of white supremacist symbols across our country, what the symbols represent, and what we should do about them.
After upsetting events like those in Charlottesville, it's important for people to be able to share their feelings, talk, and be heard, in a supportive environment. This activity, which includes a backgrounder for the teacher, has students share their reflections in a circle.
Students reflect on the way their advisory or class has worked together and consider the values that are most important to them as a group now and going forward.
Recently in a circle, we had a very “heavy” sharing. I was struggling to balance respectfully listening and appreciating participants' sharing and reflections. Then it got even heavier. When the talking piece got back to me, I acknowledged the heaviness in the room and suggested that we reflect on the hopes and expectations and the positive values/gifts they added to the centerpiece earlier. Do you have any other ideas?
Students consider their own identities and hear the voices of transgender people discussing their different identities, as well as challenges they face.
Students learn the definition of "transgender," discuss the controversy over ensuring safe access to bathrooms for transgender people, and consider ways they can be allies or upstanders for transgender students.
Our country is roiling over whether we welcome the refugees and immigrants who arrive at our door. The following activity may help open up discussion of this sensitive issue in your classroom. It invites students’ empathy and understanding by helping them to connect their own family's story to the experience of current immigrants and refugees.
We've been doing circles at my school as a study skills course since the start of the year. It's been challenging when students act out, not respecting the talking piece. It impacts the rest of the group and their willingness to share. Do you have any suggestions of how to handle disruptive behavior of this kind?
This lesson plan has material for two classroom sessions or circles. In part one, students share their own experiences of bias or harassment, learn a few facts about Muslims, then hear and reflect on statements from young Muslims about the impact of the 2016 election on their lives. In part two, students watch a video about efforts to combat the targeting of Muslim students at one school, consider what actions they might take to counter anti-Muslim bias and harassment, and prepare to take those actions.
When I was in Ohio a few weeks back, I visited four different middle schools that recently started implementing circles. I had been asked to do some modeling, so that teachers and counselors who were expected to run circles with their students could get a sense of what a well facilitated circle process looks like. I wasn't making any promises about what these circles would achieve, because I didn't have a relationship with any of the students and there's only so much that's possible in a first-time circle.
We've been doing circles at my school as a study skills course since the start of the year. It's been challenging when students pass, pass, and pass again. This passing seems to get contagious at times. Do you think it would work to tell students that they can't pass for more than a go round or two? How can we get some of those students to talk?
Our students do circles once a week on our special Friday schedule. I haven't run any of them because I am teaching at that time. I've seen them done very well, but in some circles students simply cannot be managed. We also have "responsibility time," when we can request to speak with a child after school and follow up with behavior. We have a set of questions that we’ve been told to use with students to reflect on their behavior. This works with some, not so much with others. Do you have any suggestions?
We've experimented with different circle sizes, and I believe there is such a thing as too big a circle. What do you think is an ideal size for circles?
This is our third year using circles as part of our middle school after-school program. We've had some powerful experiences in circles and it's really helped strengthen our community. But I've found that students sometimes get impatient with the talking piece going around in order. Do you think it's always necessary to have the talking piece go around the whole circle?
NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has added momentum to a remarkable wave of protests by athletes against racial injustice and police killings. Students discuss tweets about the protests, consider multiple points of view about them, and construct a timeline of events.
Many educators come to our Restore360 trainings interested in new ways to handle disciplinary issues in school. They may have found the punitive approach doesn’t work particularly well and want to limit suspensions, which can be harmful to our young people. They’ve been told that restorative circles are the answer. This might be true in a larger sense but I tell people off the bat: “You can’t restore what you haven’t built.”
This first of three lessons on the Black Lives Matter movement serves as an introduction. Students learn about the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement through tweets, quotes, and discussion of the movement's principles.
Restorative circles have transformative power: They can create community where none existed before. They can connect students to each other and to the rest of the school community in meaningful ways. They can create safe, welcoming spaces to build trust and hone our skills. They can help us take on thorny issues, from discipline problems and conflict to implicit bias and inequity.
Note: This is the final post in a 3-part series on Trusting the Process. The series describes a four-day training session on restorative circles with a group of around 20 school staff members, some of whom had reservations about the training and the circle process. We hope it will be useful for circle keepers, especially those who are encountering resistance from circle participants. See Part 1 and Part 2.
Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part blogpost. The series describes a 4-day training session on restorative circles with a group of around 20 staff members from a school, some of whom had reservations about the training and the circle process. See Part 1 here.
In the wake of recent anti-Muslim attacks by Trump and others, students read and discuss profiles of diverse Muslim Americans, consider how they may be feeling about recent events, and read a letter to "Non-Muslim Allies" about ways to stand up for those who are being targeted.
This classroom activity uses Halloween as a taking off point for students to share their experiences of being fearful, explore how fear is a normal part of life, and share ways we can handle our fear. The activity is structured as a circle, but can be adapted for other formats. For an introduction to the circle process, click here.
Students share their thoughts and feelings about the experience of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old boy, a Muslim, who was arrested when school staff feared that the clock he had constructed and brought to school was a bomb. Students read and discuss tweets from #IStandwithAhmed and view a brief video about stereotypes and bias against Muslims.
This classroom activity helps build community in your classroom at the start of the school year, and encourages students to reflect on some of the big issues in the news over the summer. It can be a stand-alone circle, or it can be used to jumpstart a longer term project in advisory, social studies, humanities, or history on one of these issues.
Circles are a powerful way for people to come together, share their thoughts and feelings, be heard, mourn and heal together. Below are suggestions for a circle to help students share their thoughts and feelings following the massacre of nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, on June 17, 2015. For guidelines on conducting circles, see our introduction to the process here.
Students consider a wide range of statements in response to the killing of NYC police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. In guided discussion, students consider the statements, what the speaker intended to achieve, and whether they feel the statement was helpful.
After a siege in a Sydney, Australia cafe by a self-described Islamic cleric, Australian Muslims feared a backlash. But Australians of all backgrounds responded instead with an act of solidarity through Twitter. Students learn about the news and the response, and consider how they might stand up for someone being targeted.
In small and large group reading and discussion, students consider the U.S. response to Ebola and the need to develop a sense of our interconnectness and responsibility to each other in the face of such global challenges. Extension activities include a video, slideshow, and additional readings.
This lesson provides factual information to students about Ebola. Providing accurate information about the disease may help prevent misinformed students from targeting classmates who are from Africa (or thought to be from Africa), which has happened in some schools. If students have been targeted at your school because of Ebola fears, please see these guidelines and resources for addressing this challenge.
In this lesson, posted in October 2012, students learn about Pakistan and about Malala's campaign for the education of girls, which made her the target of a Taliban assassination attempt in October 2012. The lesson has students read and discuss Malala's blog from her earlier days in Pakistan.
In this activity, timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day, students learn about what it means to "pass" (as straight, as white, as Christian...) and consider what the pressure to "pass" costs individuals and society. The activity is structured as a circle, but can be adapted for use in a conventional classroom.
For the 100 days following April 7, people around the globe will be marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, which killed as many as one million people. Through a project called Kwibuka20 (Remember20), Rwandans have asked "the world to come together to support the survivors of the genocide, and to ensure that such an atrocity can never happen again - in Rwanda or elsewhere." In this activity, students learn about and consider the lessons from Rwanda’s remarkable efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation in the two decades since the genocide.
Two lessons use a Championship Game conflict between the Seahawks' Richard Sherman and 49ers player Michael Crabtree as a taking off point. In Lesson 1, students consider emotional triggers and how to handle them. In Lesson 2, students look critically at how the public and the media reacted to the incident.
The students in Mr. Van Nort's senior English class had their last Circle in mid-June. Mr. Van Nort asked everyone to reflect on their experience together at the Green School, a public high school in Brooklyn. Then he passed the group's talking piece (a pink and purple stuffed dog) around the Circle.
This lesson focuses on a less well-known part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, but one that is extremely relevant today: the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. King led over 40 years ago. The lesson links this campaign to current struggles to combat poverty in the US, including efforts by workers at fast food restaurants, Wal-Mart, and others to substantially increase their wages and those of millions of other Americans by raising the federal minimum wage.
Students consider facts, myths and perspectives about Thanksgiving Day, including Native American perspectives.
In this Circle activity, students consider what "bullying" means, learn about the controversy over bullying in the Miami Dolphins, respond to a variety of statements about this controversy, and consider how we can stand up to bullying.
Students think about the idea of "home" and what it means to be a refugee, learn about the refugee crisis in Syria, and hear the voices of Syrian refugees.
Students think about how to create a kind, caring classroom using an interactive poem and a drawing activity.
An introductory circle invites participants to consider values that are important to them and the group.
Using a Circle process, students learn a little about high-stakes testing, hear about how these tests have raised stress levels for some students and educators, and consider some steps they might take to lower any stress they are experiencing.
Circles use a highly structured process to create a safe space where people can share their feelings and experiences. Since 2011, Morningside Center has partnered with the NYC Department of Education to introduce circles into schools around New York City. Here, Morningside Center trainer Marieke van Woerkom outlines the basic elements of Circles.
Students discuss Dr. King’s views about alliance-building; consider these in light of Obama’s inauguration; learn about the alliance-building work of Ai-jen Poo, founder of Domestic Workers United; and think about things in their own lives that they might want to build alliances to change.
Students consider the debate over such issues as access to contraception, abortion, and equal pay in the 2012 presidential election and discuss their own perspectives on these issues.
This activity aims to help your class get the school year off to a good start. Students share their names and a high point of their summer; learn a little about their similarities and differences; and begin considering what kind of community they want to create in their classroom.
In this lesson about a complex issue, students read a description of the current crisis in the European Union and conflicting views about how to address it, including the debate over "austerity" vs. "stimulus." Then they participate in "fishbowl" discussion of the issue.
Five activities use different methodologies to help you and your students reflect on the year and look ahead to next year.
Students work in groups to come up with a definition of 'democracy,' then read and discuss an article on Occupy Wall Street's decision-making process.
Students explore the question of taxes, Obama's recent 'Buffett Rule' proposal, and Republican charges of 'class warfare.'
In the wake of the execution of Troy Davis on September 21, students consider the death penalty through a web, a social barometer activity, readings and videos.
In this interactive workshop, students explore what escalates and deescalates conflict, consider nonviolent action as an assertive response to conflict, and learn about Occupy Wall Street's use of nonviolence as a strategy.
With the help of a short video clip, students explore the 'life cycle' of a plastic bag and develop a 'reduce, reuse, recycle' action plan.
After viewing a short video clip, students consider the effect all our waste has on the environment and develop a 'reduce, reuse, recyle' action plan.
Students will: consider different natural disasters look at events in Japan since the massive earthquake on March 11, 2011 read and discuss quotes from Japanese people and others about the disaster make cranes and create messages for the people of Japan
In this high school level lesson, students share their reactions to bin Laden's death, read and discuss background information, and then consider a range of responses to the killing. Includes guidelines for discussing this sensitive issue.
High school students consider concepts of "environmental racism" and "environmental (in)justice" and view and discuss an online clip about the dumping of electronics. Homework assignments suggest further study of this issue and the Gulf Spill anniversary.
Elementary students consider how much water we consume and what impact it has by hearing some facts and discussing the story of one girl's water consumption.
Students discuss their own experiences of helping others, then view and discuss a brief video about Japanese children who are working together to help their community in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.
Students learn about the youth-led movement and consider what it takes to act assertively to organize for change. They view and discuss a video relating Martin Luther King Jr.'s statements to events in Egypt.
High school students read and discuss an article describing the role of the youth movement and consider quotes from Gandhi on the power of nonviolence.
"Students consider four different views of what should motivate US policy toward Egypt, then have a dialogue about it. (For more on Egypt, see War, Peace, Terrorism & Other Global Issues below.)"
Students read two news stories about the protests in Egypt and consider the players and their roles.
Students create a "peace web,"consider the situation in Sudan through discussion and a video clip, then reconsider what it takes to achieve peace.
This usually happy season may also bring up negative feelings for some students--perhaps because of family tensions or divisions, health problems or financial stress. It's important to take this into consideration as we talk about the holidays in the classroom. This classroom activity is aimed at raising students' sensitivity and providing some encouragement for those who may be facing hardship during this holiday season.
In the wake of the suicides of six gay teens who had been bullied or cyberbullied, this lesson helps high school students consider the issue of cyberbullying and how we can make cyberspace -- and all space -- safe for everyone, including LGBTQ students.
This lesson asks children to watch and discuss three public service announcements by the Council on American Islamic Relations featuring Muslims who were part of the 9/11 rescue effort; consider the news about the controversy over the Cordoba Project ("Ground Zero Mosque"), and discuss a Niemoller poem that relates to standing up for the rights of others.
Marieke van Woerkom's activity helps younger students consider how Haitians are faring now that the news media has largely moved on.
Help your students learn about the earthquake and Haiti's history, and brainstorm about how they can help Haitians now and in the long run.
Students consider our 10% unemployment rate from a numerical, social and emotional perspective, including through photos from the Great Depression.
Marieke van Woerkom uses an engaging game with M&Ms to help students see how insurance works and to touch off discussion on the current reform debate.
Educator Marieke van Woerkom provides timeless guidelines for opening up discussion on difficult issues--like the current economic recession--with your elementary and middle school students. Also included: links to resources on the economic crisis to inform the class discussion.