Tapestry of Faith: Sing to the Power: A Social Justice Program for Children Grades 4-5

Session 12: Activity 3: Create a Petition

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Handout 1, How to Write a Good Petition
  • Optional: Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Optional: Computer with Internet access and large monitor or digital projector

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide whether you will have time for the group to choose a topic for the petition. If not, choose a topic for the group. The topic would logically be related to immigration in your particular area, but if your congregation or RE program is involved in a social justice project on another topic, you might wish to create a petition that aligns with work your congregation is already doing.
  • Copy Handout 1, How to Write a Good Petition, for all participants.
  • Consider how you will deliver the signed petition(s) to the proper target. You may wish to have the children deliver the signatures during a future session or social justice activity. You may want to design the petition so it can be delivered electronically or to a group within your congregation.
  • Optional: Post blank newsprint where participants can gather around it.
  • Optional: Set up the computer, test Internet connection, and preview the page for creating a petition on The Petition Site.

Description of Activity

The Side with Love campaign (then known as Standing on the Side of Love) used the power of social media to collect over 4000 signatures on a petition to prevent Raύl Cardenas from being deported. Invite the children to create their own petition and figure out how to best gather signatures.

If you have time, allow the group to brainstorm about issues that matter to them, recording all ideas on newsprint. Then, have the group vote on an issue about which to create a petition. However, in order for the activity to work within the allotted time you will most likely need to choose a topic for your petition. Present the topic to the group.

Distribute Handout 1, How to Write a Good Petition. If you have a larger group you may wish to ask if there are two or three people who would like to work together to create the wording for your petition. This work group can use the computer to create the petition that you will post online.

Invite the rest of the group to consider how you will get people to sign your petition. Do members of the group use a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter? Do they have family members who are active on social media and could help them invite people to sign? What help can the group ask of congregational leadership such as the minister, religious educator, or board of trustees? Could leaders help the children invite members of the congregation, or a wider group, to promote the petition through social media? How could the children get their schools involved? Create a plan to get as many signatures as possible on the petition.

Don’t ignore the old-fashioned method: paper. While “going viral” is a social media concept, circulating a paper petition also expands outreach, allowing a few people to engage with many. Also, children practice advocacy skills with in-person conversations. You might consider deploying children in pairs or triads to invite signatures at your congregation’s coffee hour.

Next, invite the group to decide to whom and how you will deliver the signatures. If you have a plan, share it with the group. Given limited session time, a leader or other volunteer may need to finish creating the petition, begin its circulation, and take care of delivering the signatures. Be sure to communicate back to the children everything that happens after they create their petition!

Invite all participants to reflect on the project with questions such as:

  • Do you believe creating or signing petitions is an effective way to make change? Why or why not?
  • What can a petition accomplish, besides changing the mind of the person who receives the signatures?
  • What are some other ways of using the power of "going viral" to create change?

Including All Participants

This project may appeal especially to verbal or intellectual participants. If the group is highly active and participants have difficulty staying focused on activities that involve a lot of talking or processing, you may wish to spend more time on the active games in this session and shorten this activity by creating a petition in advance.