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Harry Waters — Cultivating young change makers — talk given at the IATEFL Young Learners conference, January 2023

These are notes I took from Harry Waters’ keynote while attending the IATEFL Young Learners Special Interest Group conference, 2023.

See Harry Water’s website:

HW defines a ‘changemaker’ as someone who is taking creative action to solve a problem.

They are:

  • Tenacious about the greater good
  • Deeply connected
  • Team players
  • Intentional about solving a problem
  • Motivated to act
  • Creative

Changemakers are not born, but need to be developed/ supported, following the three e’s:

  • Engage
  • Empower
  • Enact

A great place to start is the Sustainable Development Goals. These can be linked to many lessons we teach. These can provide an interest, and we can link out to people in the world who are engaging in various relevant activities.

Look for influencers who the students might relate to, for example:


You might also explore stories like:

Greta and the giants — Zoe Tucker

Here we are — Oliver Jeffers

Think also about ‘proximity’. Consider: 

  • Local issues — What is happening in your local neighbourhood — take pictures from around the school and the local area. Find local environmental or social issues
  • Issues in the school, e.g. Bullying, children missing school, children not eating before they come to school, etc.
  •  Local flora and fauna

Think about ‘connection’. Is the topic interesting for the students, does it try to include all of them, how important a topic is it? Good things in life aren’t just about making money.

Ideas should be student led, but teacher (school) supported, e.g. refillable glue sticks, biodegradable flower pots; refillable water bottles. Meat free Mondays — the idea comes from the students, but the teacher presents it to other staff, or the head teacher.

Project ideas can be presented to others via public speaking, or making videos about the topic. These could be presented at assemblies, or parent teacher meetings as ‘good news stories’.

Set the children a homework of finding TikTok videos about deforestation. This helps them do something meaningful with social media, helps to reset their algorithm.

Set up an Eco club and clean up the local park, area surrounding the school, etc. Litter picking is always a good starter activity.

Listen to what the students say to you about their lives and make suggestions back about what they can do.

Encourage students to tell others about what they are doing in different ways, give a presentation, make a video, write a blog post, make art, write poetry.

Go on protests with your students.

Clothes swap/ present swap/ letter writing campaigns/ invite in the local councillor.