Justice-Related Service-Learning Toolkit

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Civil Rights
Service Project
Service Learning
Service Plan
Social Justice
Lesson Plans and Service-Learning Project Ideas Related to Justice, Civil Rights and Advocacy: This step-by-step guide helps teachers to teach background of justice and advocacy, provides local and online community resources, and sparks ideas for actions related to advocacy, justice, and civil rights.

Photo credit above: Mar 02 (161) by Jessica Lucia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The best service-learning projects are related to classroom instruction, involve student voice and choice, address a researched need, and work with local resources.

Photo Credit:  Protest against France's immigration laws by looking4poetry is licensed under CC by 2.0

Lesson Plans

Teach Learning to Give lessons to connect service with academic subjects, provide background on issues, and build philanthropy knowledge and skills. 

  • Stand and Deliver for Justice and Diversity (High School lesson plan) Learners explore and share attitudes related to diversity, justice and kindness. The learners seek to promote the common good by taking action to reduce stereotyping, intolerance, discrimination, and prejudice.
  • Power to the People (High School lesson plan) Learn about leaders who used the nonprofit sector as a power structure to make positive changes in society.
  • Women of the Industrial Era (Middle School unit) Compare today's movements to the historical models of women suffragettes and activists
  • Citizen Participation (High School lesson plan) Learn about political parties and interest groups, as well as philanthropy as a way for citizens to act.

Click the green button to find additional justice-related lesson plans: modify the search by your grade span and subject area:




Background Papers

Introduction to Philanthropy and Skill-Building

Four Short Videos

  1. What is Philanthropy? Defines, describes, and provides examples of philanthropy and service-learning
  2. Connecting Skills and Interests to Community Needs: Defining the interests and skills that can be used in meeting community needs
  3. Understanding Advocacy and Action: Examples of the power of advocacy and action.
  4. Stages of Service-Learning: Steps in the process are outlined here 

Lessons and Activities

Introduction to Philanthropy Lessons at Each Grade Level

Not sure which issue to pursue? Try the Blue Sky Envisioning Activity

Need to indentify community assets? Try building a Community Map. Locate local nonprofits via GuideStar.org 

Teach Advocacy Skills

Grade Level

Lesson Title




History in Action

Film Activity Guide

Includes 4-minute video of various movements

Grades 9-12

Advocacy and Activism Introduction

Lesson Plan

Learn from Martin Luther King, Jr. About the tools of advocacy

Middle/High School

Characteristics of Good Advocates


Describes 8 characteristics


Determining Advocacy Style

Conduct a Survey

No right/wrong answers; helps to identify personal advocacy style; pair with “Characteristics” handout


Spoken Word Poetry for Justice

Spoken Word

Mini-course for teachers: examples, tips to teach Spoken Word poetry

Middle School

Telling Our Stories of Giving

Lesson Plan

Unit of 3 lessons; students learn about and practice Newspaper writing; personal narrative and persuasive writing

Grades 9-12

Writers as Activists

Four Lesson Plans

Look at writers Rachel Carson, Mary Terell, and Alice Walker; 4th lesson is a writing exercise for writing to newspaper or lawmaker.  If time-limited, recommend lessons 3 and 4

And bring community awareness to your students' work by using this step-by-step media and timeline guide.

Types of Service Projects

Research local hot issues and contact nonprofits to determine needs. Student action may be direct, indirect, advocacy, research, or a combination of these. Examples:

Project Ideas

Host a civil rights forum 

Coordinate with the school administration to host a civil rights forum or discussion. Have students research the history and current climate of civil rights in their community. Invite students, teachers, community members and families to be a part of the forum. The goals should be to increase dialogue around the issues and to learn from each other. Photo Credit: Melvin at Eliot Hine Middle School by NASA HQ Photo by CC by 4.0 

Partner with local advocates and activists

Have your students research local civil rights advocates and activists. Invite them to your classroom for a discussion around justice and civil rights. Ask them how your students can support their efforts and work on a campaign, project or rally together!

Promote tolerance and raise awareness

Investigate the civil rights issues of today, such as LGBT rights or mental illness, and create a campaign to raise awareness and promote tolerance. Look at civil rights models from the past and current media to learn about effective communication and persuasion techniques. Photo Credit: mark_carson_protest_DSC_0131 by Michael Fleshman is licensed under CC by 4.0

I have a dream...

Show your students videos and transcripts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have A Dream speech. Have a discussion about the message and importance of this speech. Ask your students to write their own I Have A Dream speeches that are inspired by the original text. Have them share their speeches in front of the school or community. 

More Ideas:

  • Create PSA videos for civil rights issues. Show them at school or on local tv stations. 
  • Recreate courtroom scenes from famous cases on justice issues. 
  • Have your students create a civil rights or LGBTQ alliance student group at school. 
  • Write and perform skits that are based on justice, advocacy and civil rights issues. 
  • Interview civil rights and LGBTQ leaders in the community. Have them tell their stories to students and how students can get involved. 
  • Research and recreate famous speeches by leaders and advocates for justice such as Harvey Milk, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Temple Grandin and others. 
  • Read books to your students about Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, and other leaders of justice. 
  • Students could create a survey for the school or community on their opinions of the most pressing civil rights issues in the community. Compare, contrast and present the findings. 
  • Advocate for fairness and justice by writing a letter, calling or emailing a public official, or speaking at a public meeting. Photo Credit: Civil Rights Tour March 2008- Montgomery, AL by Greg Hoke is licensed under CC by 4.0 

National Civil Rights Organizations with Good Web Resources

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition of 200+ organizations. The complete list can be found @ https://civilrights.org/about-us/coalition-members-leadership-conference-civil-human-rights/   Find links to the following member organizations well known for advocacy in their respective areas:

  • AARP [age discrimination]
  • American Association of People with Disabilities 
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice 
  • American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
  • Human Rights Campaign [LGBTQ]
  • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (worker rights)
  • League of Women Voters of The United States (voting rights)
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 
  • National Congress of American Indians 
  • National Women’s Law Center 
  • UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza—Latino rights)

Local Organizations

Many national organizations have state-level affiliates; some of the more well-established local civil rights groups include:

Links & Attachments