The Learning Accelerator Blog/Empowering Students to Take Action on Global Issues: The Facing Difference Challenge from Students Rebuild

diversity, equity, and inclusion social-emotional learning student-centered learning

Empowering Students to Take Action on Global Issues: The Facing Difference Challenge from Students Rebuild

by Leonetta Elaiho, Students Rebuild on November 29 2017

One of the values of blended learning is ensuring that every child has an engaging and effective education that is just right for them. An engaging education not only meets students where they are, but also connects learning to the world around them. Making the learning personalized is not just about the learning approach, but also tapping into the unique passions and agency of students through meaningful classroom experiences.

With the help of technology and media, students’ understanding of global issues is greater than ever. When processing the daily headlines of news related to issues of injustice, intolerance, or violence all around the world, students often wonder how they can make a difference and how what they are doing in the classroom connects to the broader world.

That’s why Students Rebuild exists: to support educators worldwide to help young people connect, learn, and take action on critical global issues. Through annual social justice-focused Challenges, young people are invited to learn and engage around a critical global issue. Students then take action by creating a simple, symbolic art piece that the Bezos Family Foundation matches with funding.

This fall, Students Rebuild has launched the Facing Difference Challenge in partnership with CARE, Global Nomads Group, and Search for Common Ground. The Challenge is designed to help educators empower young people to reflect and take action towards building understanding, empathy, and peace. Learn more about this free program below and how it can support you to engage students in meaningful and personalized ways.


So what do we mean by “facing difference” and why it is so important to students? There are over 7.5 billion people in the world all with unique backgrounds, personalities, and experiences. How we think, how we learn, and what we believe are often not the same. When we choose to avoid or ignore our differences, understanding can be replaced by division. This is happening in ways big and small, from bullying in our schools and clashes in our communities to civil wars around the globe. But engaging with people who are different from us—sharing stories and learning about their experiences—broadens our own perspectives and makes us more creative, innovative, and aware.

Participation in the Facing Difference Challenge is simple and meaningful: Connect, learn, and take action.

  • Connect: The Challenge asks that teachers register a group of students for free. Within 72 hours, your team will be added to our interactive map of participating teams across the world. Teams have already joined from over 16 countries!
  • Learn: Teachers are then able to choose their learning resources and customize how each team participates in the Challenge. Whether you have one hour or a whole school year, you can build your engagement to meet your team’s needs. To make your journey easy, the Challenge offers recommended roadmaps for teachers to follow, but teachers can also build their own experience using videos and lesson plans as a starting point for exploring how facing difference can build peace in local communities and around the world. In collaboration with the Buck Institute for Education, this year we have developed two Project-Based Learning units that explore student agency in peace-building.
  • Take Action: By joining the Challenge, teachers and their students will create a self-portrait that reflects their sense of identity. Teachers and students can submit their pieces by mail or digitally. Each portrait submitted generates funding from the Bezos Family Foundation—up to $600,000—to support programs run by CARE and Search for Common Ground, helping youth on different sides of conflict build peace in the South Caucasus region, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria.

Learn more and register for this year's Facing Difference Challenge. You can join the Challenge now through May 4, 2018.

About Students Rebuild

Students Rebuild works with educators worldwide to support students to take action on critical global issues. Our Challenges invite students to learn about an issue, connect with peers from all over the world, and create a simple, symbolic art piece which the Bezos Family Foundation matches with funding.

Created in January 2010 in response to the devastating Haiti earthquake, Students Rebuild has mobilized hundreds of thousands of students in nearly 80 countries and all 50 states. The efforts of these students have raised more than $4 million in matching funds for projects like rebuilding schools in Haiti, aiding disaster recovery efforts in Asia, supporting livelihoods in Africa, helping Syrian youth from conflict areas recover from crisis, and supporting empowerment opportunities for youth impacted by poverty.

Take the Students Rebuild Facing Difference Challenge!

Opinions presented in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent TLA's opinion, nor should be considered an endorsement by TLA of any organization or product.

About the Author

Leonetta Elaiho works with the Bezos Family Foundation as the Senior Manager of Students Rebuild.