Bending the Arc

Final Project: Bending the Arc*

Jim Crow & Civil Rights, Fall 2017


“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” - Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, Australia 1970s


“What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.” - Maya Angelou


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." - Martin Luther King, Jr.


"Sometimes change comes not in the first round, but at the second, third or fourth. Change starts with one person questioning, challenging, speaking up and doing something to make a difference. We can each make a difference…because each of us is already part of the community where racism exists and thrives." --Paul Kivel, 1993


“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” - MLK Jr., echoing Unitarian minister Theodore Parker.


Project Goals

  • To gain real-life experience in project creation, research, management, and implementation.
  • To create a stronger, better world, step by step.
  • To relate the lessons of US black history to current issues.
  • To understand the stories and perspectives of others.
  • To overcome frustrations, interpersonal conflict, and obstacles to achieve a common goal in collaboration with a group of your peers.


History teaches us that all too often, we give up our rights and sense of justice as they are slowly - or perhaps swiftly - eroded. Looking at the most somber times in our past also shows us, however, that there are always people who work to improve the lives of others.


Facing the hardest moments in our history does not mean we have to bow to them. Rather, looking unflinchingly at the times that human beings least lived up to ideals of justice and compassion can prompt us to be more reflective, honest, and empathetic, and to remember that kindness is often delivered in small but potent doses.


For this project (the project overview), you and a team of your classmates will brainstorm, propose, plan, and implement a social justice or human rights-centered project that seeks to positively impact other people. As with all schoolwork, the success of the project will depend largely on the thought, effort and time your group puts into it. Unlike other schoolwork, though, whether or not the project succeeds may also depend on factors outside of your control. The key will be to remain strategic, flexible, and resilient, and to remember the most important goals of the project when forced to compromise.


Project Requirements

The project your group designs needs to:

  • Seek to either:

    • bring awareness to a current (local, US, or international) human rights or social justice issue


    • seek to help alleviate such an issue

      • The project must seek to have a positive impact on others in some way.

      • It also must require your active participation in learning more about the issue and taking action to improve it. For example, simply collecting canned food, while a noble action, would not suffice (be enough) for this project.

  • Be achievable within the time given (see calendar)

  • Speak to and be convincing to a wide audience

  • Involve direct community engagement

  • Be agreed to by all members of your team (the team will vote and then, unless there is near unanimity, have a run-off vote of the top 2 ideas for projects)


Examples of Projects

Activism Projects

  1. Students lobbied a school administration to increase the fresh produce available at lunches. They researched recommended nutrition, the nutrition of the meals offered at their school, and then created a proposal for adding produce to its offerings that they presented to administrators.

  2. Students raised money to send in support of aid being given to Darfur refugees by “pieing” selected students (who had volunteered) when a certain amount was raised. At the fundraiser, students then explained the crisis occurring in Darfur to also increase the school’s awareness.

  3. Students wanted to bring a community garden to their school. They researched the benefits of a school garden and created a proposal that they delivered to the school board and the school administration. In the research stage, students also contacted local community members involved in gardening and requested their advice in bringing a garden to the school.


Service Projects

  1. Students had heard about a local nursing home where many residents did not have visitors. Students organized an oral history project and went to record their stories and created a repository of the recordings, as well as created a 15-minute radio-style show of the interviews that the school listened to at an assembly.

  2. One group of students realized that they all had musical talents. They organized, scheduled, and planned a concert at a local nursing home, taking care of all of the logistics, including transportation, speakers, rehearsals, and making programs.


Awareness and Education Projects

  1. Students researched inequality in public K-12 schools in the US today. Students then created a map to show funding inequities among those schools and a display board in the school to inform the community of educational inequity.

  2. Students wanted to paint the ceiling tiles of their classroom with anti-bias messages. Students proposed their plan to the administration and then the school board to receive permission. Students also designed the ceiling tiles with the guidance of art students and teachers.

  3. Students realized that most of the peers did not know anything about the candidates for governor running that year beyond what they’d heard in sound bites. The students researched each candidate’s policy positions and record and created a video that explained those positions in an entertaining way. They then distributed the video to advisories.


Rough Overview of the Process

  1. Get into a group of peers interested in (somewhat) similar issues

  2. Research other groups or individuals, local or global, doing work to deal with those issues. Write up what inspires you from your research and at least 3 ideas for what your group could do.

  3. Share your ideas for projects with each other. Work together to compromise and develop a proposal for a project.

  4. Get feedback from Ms. Olesen

  5. Refine ideas

  6. Revise project proposal and give to Ms. Olesen.

  7. Create different roles for work (coordinator, PR, fact checker, etc.).

  8. Implement plan

    1. Regular meetings each week with the project group.

    2. Think through next steps each class, revising plan as needed

    3. Check in each week with Ms. Olesen

    4. Evaluate your own participation and effort on certain days.

  9. Present about your project to the rest of the class.

→ As you go, your group will be completing a Ten Questions reflection sheet.



Formal Proposal: Bending the Arc Project  (Interated with the Ten Questions)


EVERYONE needs to make her/his own copy of the formal proposal and submit it by the end of class.

  • Questions that should have the SAME answers for EVERYONE in your group: 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13

  • Questions that SHOULD have DIFFERENT answers from everyone in your group: 4, 5

  • Questions that COULD have the same OR different answers for everyone in your group:  6, 7, 11

DUE Monday, December 11th by the end of class.


Project Proposal


You type here

1.Who is in your group?


2. What were the top 2 ideas your group had for your project?


3. Describe your project - Who, what, when, where, and why


List the steps you will need to take (to the best of your ability) to do the project.


















4. Why does the issue (your refined topic) your project addresses matter to you?


5. How much of your own life and stories and experiences do you want to share in this project?


6. How do you make the issue about more than yourselves? (How do you make the issue relatable for other people?)


7. How can your team make the project easy and engaging for others to join in?


8. Are you pursuing voice or influence or both?


9. What will you need to find out to be able to do your project (such as researching the topic to be able to spread awareness or talking to an expert, etc.)?


10. How can you find allies?


Who will you need to work with or request help or support from (examples: administration, technological help from a peer skilled in video editing, etc.)?


Is there anyone from whom you will need permission of some sort (besides Ms. Olesen’s feedback)?


11. What challenges and obstacles do you anticipate? E.g., How will you handle the downside of crowds?


How can you already imagine overcoming those obstacles?


12. If your project does not end up panning out for logistical or other kinds of reasons, what is your group’s back-up plan? What’s an alternative version of your project, or a different project, your group could do?


13. Schedule out important dates for your project on the calendar below. Highlight  YOUR PROJECT items in a different color than the other text on the calendar.


Elizabeth Olesen/Innovation Academy Charter School 

* The original post is Example 3: Bending the Arc (History)