At my preschool, we often take children down the street to a local university where the campus provides large expanses of green space where they can run and play. We have to cross a busy street to get there.
A few years ago, one of the children asked why the cars didn’t stop for us to cross. We started talking about busy streets and safety and the rules for when drivers have to stop for pedestrians. This led to a discussion about crosswalks, and my preschoolers wanted to know why there was no crosswalk where we crossed. We noticed that many other people crossed at the same place.
I asked the group if they wanted to let city officials know that we need a crosswalk. Yes! They were excited about taking action. They drew pictures of the proposed crosswalk, of cars, and of themselves, then they dictated letters to me which I mailed, along with their pictures, to the mayor’s office.
Enabling your child to become a change agent takes mindfulness more than effort.
As you go about your daily routine, notice minor problems in your community that would be relatively easy to fix, and talk about those problems with your child. If your city or town plants public trees, perhaps your street could use one. Maybe a crack in the sidewalk poses a problem for people in wheelchairs or those pushing strollers. Or the fence around your local playground has broken, leaving a potential hazard.
Then ask your child or students if they want to do something about it. Like my preschoolers, they can dictate letters and draw pictures.
Few government officials or company representatives will fail to respond to inquiries from children. Even if they can’t fix the problem, for whatever reason, they will likely send back a letter. In itself, receiving this letter feels thrilling to a young child and helps her see herself as a person with an important voice in the community.
We never got our crosswalk due to a technical issue, but we received a lovely and encouraging letter from the mayor’s office and had an alderman visit us and walk with us to look at the place where we cross. Even without the result they wanted, the children felt empowered.