Purpose: Helping Students Explore How to Impact the World Around Them

Purpose is the overlap between the things we love and are skilled at and a need in the world. Here’s a quick 15-minute activity you can do with your students to support them in uncovering and defining their purpose.

By iThrive Games
January 21, 2021

The riot at the Capital and other events over the past two weeks have made many who wish to uphold democracy think, "I wish there was something more I could do." Meaningful changes happen in this world when people combine their unique passions and skills into collective actions. 

At iThrive, we make tools to help high school educators create civics-centered contexts for teens to practice social and emotional skills, preparing them for meaningful and transformative civic engagement in three primary areas: self, community, and the world. Last week, we shared a tool for presencing feelings in the classroom to help teachers support students in cultivating emotional awareness in times of crisis. This week, we are thinking about tools for the community and the world. We have found that exploring purpose can help high school students begin to navigate how they are best suited to contribute to their community and to the world.

Seeking to define a purpose — where things we love and are skilled at overlap with a need in the world — is an important developmental step for teens and one that contributes to greater well-being. Teens shouldn't be rushed to choose a purpose, but they do need plenty of opportunities to consider and experiment with what resonates deeply with them and motivates them to give their best.

Activity: The World 

For educators, giving students an opportunity to tap into their sense of purpose may be one antidote to the difficulties our society is facing. Try opening your next class with this brief set of prompts that students can journal about or discuss in pairs:

  1. What's an issue or challenge in the world I care a lot about? What makes me say, "I wish I could do something?" (e.g. preserving democracy, achieving racial justice, eradicating poverty, ensuring animal welfare, etc.)
  2. What's my vision for the world in 10 years, as it relates to this issue? 
  3. What unique ability, strength, talent, or skill do I have that I can start contributing to this vision? 
  4. What's one small step I can take in the next week to use my skills in the service of this vision?
Taking it Forward

At iThrive, we believe that since civics is social and emotional, we should teach it that way. We hope this tool is helpful for assisting students in exploring how they might engage in civics from a place of purpose, now and in the future.  Learn how we're using play, SEL and tech to prepare high school students for transformative civic engagement.