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Daniel Learned that He Had Power Yesterday.

Try this:  Go to Google.  Type in "natural sugar versus added sugar."  

Really.  Do it.

Here's what you will find.

See the fifth post down?  The one with #sugarkills in the title?  The one just behind the post from Harvard and the post from The Food Network?

It was written by Daniel -- an eighth grader at my school and a leader of a pretty motivated group of middle schoolers who are out to change the world. They have been working to raise awareness about the sugar in the foods that we eat on a regular basis for the last two years.  There are 113 posts on their blog -- all ungraded work generated during lunch time.  In less than two years, they've gotten over 20,000 page views from 117 different countries and all 50 states.

Not bad for kids, right?

Daniel was in my room yesterday during a school-wide enrichment period.  While poking around our site stats, he noticed that "natural versus added sugar" was a search term that often brings people to our blog.  He wanted to know how high his post would be listed in Google's search results.

When he saw that it was fifth -- FIFTH out of 21 MILLION results -- he was completely blown away.  Knowing that HIS content -- his approachable description of the difference between natural and added sugars -- is ranked just two slots lower than a bit from HARVARD opened his eyes, I think, to just how influential he could be.

Ask him, though, and you'll find out that blogging doesn't motivate Daniel.  In fact, he MIGHT not even realize that he's a blogger.  I'm not sure I've ever used that term with the kids in our club.  They just think we've got a great website with a funny web address.

(Seriously.  It's funny.  Read it as if it were three separate words:

Knowing that others are learning from HIM motivates Daniel.  Knowing that HIS voice can help others to live a healthier life motivates Daniel.  Knowing that HE really does have power and that he really CAN drive change motivates Daniel.


THAT's what I love about cause-driven learning experiences, y'all -- and THAT's why I want to find ways to get MORE kids involved in opportunities to drive REAL change in the world beyond our classroom.

No offense to the entire universe, but I'm not trying to prepare kids for colleges and careers.  I'm preparing kids for colleges, careers and COMMUNITIES.  I want my students to take an action orientation towards the world that they live in.  I want them to see problems and know that THEY can be the solvers even if they aren't old enough to drive.

Gimmie a keyboard and an internet connection and I'll show kids how they can change the world.  You can too.



Related Radical Reads:

Interview with the #SUGARKILLS Gang

My Kids, a Cause and Our Classroom Blog

Technology Gives Kids Power


Anonymous commented on August 22, 2014 at 5:39pm:

Very eye opening!!

Very eye opening!!

Ana Muro commented on August 22, 2014 at 5:43pm:

Love this =) This blog

Love this =) This blog supports the lessons that my 2nd graders are learning about. I love how Daniel is fighting for a cause...awareness! There is no age limit in making a difference. Daniel is using his voice to bring awareness to something he truly believes in. Great job Daniel and thank you for fighting for a cause! ¡Si se puede! 

Jennifer commented on October 11, 2014 at 10:32pm:

It's #2 on the Google search

It's #2 on the Google search list now. :) That is fantastic!

Brianna Crowley commented on October 13, 2014 at 1:08pm:


Woah, I REALLY loved this post. It's as inspirational as those viral Kid President posts, but with (dare I say it?!) more substance for learning. 

My husband just started blogging with his 4th graders and nearly instantly has seen the way it is changing how his students "see" writing. 

I'm starting a class blog this week. Your story couldn't have been more perfectly timed. Thanks so much for sharing it! 

Now I have a quick question. As I wrote about this week, I've started using social media in my classroom--having students tweet out or post instagram pictures/videos about our work. My understanding about Twitter informed how I set up my class Twitter account. I spent a few hours reaching out to educators on Twitter--asking them to RT my request for connection or asking them to connect with us to have an audience. I sought out other class accounts and followed them in hopes of generating some dialogue and collaboration with other students. That has resulted in about 80 followers which is enough to have some great interactions with the "outside/real" world. I'm thrilled! 

But part of my intentionality in diving into social media with my classroom was predicated on the work I had done in building up my own network and getting some of those connections to seed and transfer audience to this brand new account. I know that you tweet and blog about this amazing SugarKills blog (I've checked it out many times because you have!). How much of this young man's success in the Google stats is because of the collaboaration you offered him with your own years of networking and building an audience who listens? I only ask this because I think it's a crucial question for those of us who are looking to offer our students that same audience. 

Audiences aren't just passively waiting for content to be thrown their way. They are built--like anything--through time, effort, and intentionality. You have guided me to understanding that time and time again. Audiences = relationships built on shared ideas, authentic questions, and mutual support. This young man was so fortunate to have you as his teacher. A connected educator with authentic audiences ready for Daniel's incredible work. 

So my question again is this: How do we help students understand what it takes not just to craft that incredible message, but also how to build an audience for that message to have impact? How do we help educators who want to become connected understand the time, effort, and strategy to connecting themselves and their classrooms? 

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