By teaching our students to think, care, and act, we empower them to build a peaceful future.

Welcome to Think, Care, Act, where teachers and students can find rationales and resources to infuse required curricula with peace, character, global, and multicultural concepts throughout the year.

To act in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care. Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can work effectively and conscientiously to solve problems big and small, global and local.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


“We overwhelm children with all the suffering and evil in the world, but do we enable them to act?”  

Educator Sister Joan Magnetti

“I learned that you can change the world in small doses, one at a time.” 
Sixth Grade Girl
To act in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of 
critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care.  Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can act effectively and conscientiously 
to solve problems big and small, global and local.
Susan Gelber Cannon

“Change the world.  Details coming soon.”

At national and international conferences, I introduce teachers to Think-Care-Act Projects, designed to empower students to take informed social action. The workshops help teachers incorporate social-action projects in history classes and school culture.  I invite teachers to include real-world action in their classes at my presentation in Philadelphia at the national Association for Middle Level Educators [AMLE] conference.  Participants learn a manageable Freirean model of social action that incorporates critical and creative thinking, compassionate local and global care, and informed and effective social action.  The resources in this blog enable teachers to help students think, care, and act regarding local and global problems in pragmatic, age-appropriate ways that empower rather than overwhelm them.  
Handouts are linked below. My website features numerous resources to promote critical thinking, compassion, and action. These and other links are provided to get teachers started on think-care-act projects with students.
·               Think-Care-Act Project steps include critically thinking about local and global issues that affect people, animals, and the environment; evaluating personal passions, talents, and signature strengths to select the most cared about issues; formulating and implementing effective action plans with achievable goals; communicating actions taken; and evaluating effectiveness.

Sixth Graders Change the World with Think-Care-Act Projects An timeline of classroom projects
To make a difference in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care.  Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can act effectively and conscientiously to solve problems big and small, global and local.  Sixth graders showed they are ready to tackle problems of all sizes with their Think-Care-Act Projects.
Here's how we've done it at my school, The Episcopal Academy.  Just before spring break, sixth grade history teachers pique their students’ curiosity with a seemingly simple homework assignment: “Change the world.  Details coming soon.”
In my classes, via role-plays, games and videos, I introduce students to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to such activists as Nobel Peace Prize laureates.  We visit websites like PeaceJam and Roots and Shoots, and I show students photos and brochures of previous Think-Care-Act Projects

For several weeks, under their teachers’ guidance, sixth graders think deeply about their unique talents, hobbies, qualities, and values they can employ in changing the world for the better.  Helpfully, we have worked on identifying and using our signature strengths all year, inspired by the work of Martin Seligman and the Values in Action team.
Having considered their signature strengths, they next consider the problems involving people, animals, and the environment that draw them to action.  Many students involve their families in discussions of worthy causes and action.  Some students opt to involve themselves in family causes.  Eventually, students combine their unique skill-sets with their passions for service as they embark on research and social-action projects that culminate with each student making a difference at school and in the community.
In 2004 I had introduced the project to my sixth grade history students calling it the Citizenship Action Project.  Character educator Dr. Usha Balamore, adopted the project for the entire fifth grade at The Shipley School, changing the name in honor of my book title and the steps of the project.  Thus, in 2014 (the ten-year anniversary) our history-class final project at EA became the Think-Care-Act Project or TCAP.  The name stuck, and it now involves our school’s entire sixth grade with the guidance of my fellow history teachers.
Why does a social action project belong in a history class curriculum?  Said a former student, “All year we’ve been studying people who made history.  Finally we get to make history ourselves.”

Making history ourselves
Projects have been as varied as the students themselves.  Students have worked alone and in small groups, researching issues, learning about root causes, contacting organizations active in solutions, taking hands-on action, and preparing to teach their peers about their topics.  Introduced in March, the culminating event is the Think-Care-Act Fair held in Middle School in May.  At this event, sixth grade “experts” teach Lower and Middle School visitors, teachers, and family members how they, too, can change the world.  
Melanie and Skylar researched the problems of poverty in the local community.  Their research led them to an organization called Our Closet that provides clothing to people who cannot afford to buy clothing.  “I cared about Our Closet because it allows people to look nice for jobs and to support their families,” says Melanie.  She and Skylar spoke to twelve Lower School classes about the organization, collected bags of clothing at school, and collected a truckload of clothing at an off-campus site.  “I care personally about this problem because I realized how many clothes I have and how little others have,” Skylar reflected.
Aiden advocated for the Gift of Life Donor Program, educating classmates and adults about the need for organ and tissue donors.  He participated in a 5K Donor Dash and used social media, including a blog.  “I was able to spread my message to people in Africa, Bermuda, and all over the United States.  I realize I may just be a kid, but anyone can make a difference,” said Aiden.
Adam and Emily sang at a senior center, employing their love of music to bring joy to others.  An audience member told Adam, “Son, you made me smile today.”  Adam realized, “It made me feel good to know that by doing something that makes me happy I could affect others as well.”
Matthew knows someone who uses a Seeing-Eye dog, and of course, he knows Einstein, one of our school’s own Seeing-Eye-puppies.  He combined his love of animals with his love for people as he and Mrs. Fran McLaughlin took Einstein to visit residents of a retirement home.  He also taught his peers about the Seeing Eye training process.  In another animal project, Torrie and Paige created a slogan, “Unleash joy with a homemade toy,” as they created hand-made toys for the dogs and cats at the local SPCA. 
Intrepid gardeners Will and Drew taught composting and gardening, impressing their peers with organic lettuce they raised in backyard gardens.  That TCAP project led Will to oversee composting in his household for the next three years.  He was quite proud that it reduced the family's trash output to one bag a week.  

Grace researched the issue of e-waste.  “Electronic waste is bad for the environment because when e-waste is put in landfills or incinerators it releases certain toxins into the air” and wastes useful materials.  She learned about our school’s e-waste policies and taught her classmates about community recycling programs.  “I care about this problem because of my passion for technology and my love of the Earth,” reflected Grace on her project choice.  

Other environmentally focused projects included Justin’s work to monitor water quality in fishing streams and the efforts of Natalie and Katie to educate neighbors and peers about the importance of protecting bats by building bat houses.  “Bats are important to the world,” states Katie.  “They eat pounds and pounds of mosquitoes and other insects.”  Natalie concurs, “This prevents some diseases from spreading to humans.”

Projects ranged from teaching how to save a life in an emergency, to how to prevent bullying, to how to train a dog, to how to adopt an animal from a shelter, to how many calories are in chicken patty lunch—and why it matters.

A new twist: middle school students teach college students

At NCSS in 2014, I met Dr. Elizabeth O. Crawford, an education professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington.  We began a partnership that involved my middle school "veterans" of TCAPs teaching her pre-service elementary education teachers how to conduct TCAPs themselves.  Through video sessions between our classrooms in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, students shared projects, teaching ideas, and advice.  

(See videos of our teaching sessions below, and read about our efforts and her students' projects in my July 2015 and July 2016 guest post series.)

Educator Sister Joan Magnetti asked, “We overwhelm children with all the suffering and evil in the world, but do we enable them to act?”  The Sixth Grade Think-Care-Act Project does just that. 
--Susan Gelber Cannon
November 2014, November 2016, & November 2017

1. Kids Change the World: Local and Global Think-Care-Act Projects, Workshop HANDOUT with SLIDES: Session 1346, Association for Middle Level Educators [#AMLE2017], Philadelphia, PA, November 2017, Monday, November 6, 2:30 PM


3. CHANGE THE WORLD: SUE CANNON'S NCSS WORKSHOP HANDOUT : Classroom handouts for Nobel Peace Prize Bingo, Human Rights Role Plays, and Think-Care-Act Project directions (including student sample work), as well as slides for #NCSS2014 Session 493.
4. TEACH FOR PEACE WEBSITE-Resources for teaching students to think, care, and act for the greater good
5. PeaceJam-How to Start video Good 2-minute intro to the process of informed action
6. Do Something: Causes Website  Selection of various arenas in which to take action
7. Susan Cannon's middle school students teach Dr. Elizabeth Crawford's pre-service teaching class how to do Think-Care-Act Projects Video introduces peace education, human rights, and social action concepts, featuring middle school student activists and future teachers collaborating and learning from each other.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


 The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life,
by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, Penguin Books, 2002

“So the practices presented in this book are not about making incremental changes that lead to new ways of doing things based on old beliefs, and they are not about self-improvement.  
They are geared instead toward causing a total shift of posture, perceptions, beliefs, and thought processes.  They are about transforming your entire world.
(Rosamund and Benjamin Zander)

The Art of Possibility is a book that has been on my shelf for years, but this was the summer it spoke to me.  In it, Rosamund Zander, a family therapist, and her husband Benjamin Zander, an orchestra conductor, offer twelve practices for transforming professional and personal life.  They suggest ways to revise the perceived expectations of the world and rewrite one’s life narrative to one of purpose and possibility.  Four of their practices struck me as imminently transformative as we approach the new school year.  The others are valuable also, and can be found in the book and in the summary links below.

“Giving an A”

Let’s first consider this question the Zanders ask, “What were to happen if one were to hand an A to every student from the start?”

To combat students’ anxiety over grades and performance, Ben Zander made this announcement to his Conservatory students on the first day of class: “Each student in this class will get an A for the course.”  There was one requirement.  Students had to write him a detailed letter, dated in the spring—months away—in which they detailed “the story of what will have happened to you by next May that is in line with this extraordinary grade….”

I can already hear naysayers offering downsides to this optimistic plan.  Yet, I see the wisdom of this transformative offer.  Might it allow students and teachers to discover how to work as teammates, rather than perceived adversaries?  Could teachers brainstorm with students collectively and individually, inviting them to share strategies for success from past classes?  Did they study for assessments?  How? Did they do their homework?  Where? Did they care about their classes?  Why? How did they motivate themselves if they did not find the material interesting?  Did they proofread?  Did they do more work than was expected?  Did they see the teacher for extra help?  Did they ask questions?  Did they overcome problems at home to succeed at school? How?

Can we teachers start the year by inviting our students to recognize and employ their signature strengths to earn that “A?”  Can we help them assess whether they see themselves as being loyal, honest, generous, friendly, determined, creative, detail-oriented, big-picture-oriented, out-going, or introverted?  Can we help them see how their perseverance, honesty, loyalty, love of learning, love of people, and other qualities can help them succeed in their school lives?

Is offering the “A” an idea we should try this September?

“Leading from Any Chair”

 Here is another practice from the Zanders.  “A leader does not need a podium.  She can be sitting quietly on the edge of any chair, listening passionately and with commitment, fully prepared to take up the baton….”  Ben Zander reflects on members of an orchestra as he wonders, “Who am I being that they are not shining?”

As teachers, we might well ask the same question about our students.  Who can we be so that our children are shining?  This practice reminds me to pay careful attention to each student in my care—not only the shining academic “stars,” but also the quiet, gritty, “perseverers” and the seemingly disengaged.  What are they really engaged in?  How can that transform our class experience together?  What does each student have to teach their peers and teacher about leadership?

Over the course of the year, I frequently ask my students for feedback in various forms.  They know I mean it when I tell them I need their feedback to be a better teacher.  In quick classroom discussions, in private conversations, on anonymous 3x5 cards, and via electronic programs, I seek and take to heart their suggestions.  Students appreciate being part of the evaluation and learning process and being recognized for the various ways in which they lead. 

“It’s all Invented”

 The Zanders begin with this premise: Let’s realize “It’s all invented.” Ask yourself this question, the Zanders suggest:
“What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making,
That gives me what I see?”

And the next question is:
“What might I now invent,
That I haven’t yet invented,
That would give me other choices?”

Our school worlds and lives are riddled with assumptions about “the way we’ve always done things,” or “the way those students behave,” and on and on.  How can we approach this year with new eyes, ready to see the possibility in beginning our classes more mindfully than we have done in the past?  Can we invent ways to overcome our biases towards and against students of various backgrounds?  See resources below to help in this lifelong process.

“Being a Contribution”

“Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why.”  Ben and Roz Zander offer this practice to help us overcome self-judgement and the judgement of others.  Rather, they suggest we can see ourselves as contributors who make a difference in the lives of those around us.  No matter how small the difference—or how large or long-lasting—we make an impact, and this purposefulness is healthy and growth oriented. 

One of my peace education mentors, Irwin Abrams, recharged my batteries when I doubted my ability to make a difference. “What do I answer those who criticize peace education as being too slow to be effective?” I asked. “What do I tell myself?” is what I really wondered.
Swinging his ninety-plus frame swiftly around, Irwin didn't miss a beat, “We work for the unseen harvest. There are consequences” of the work we do.   
There are consequences of our every interaction with our students and colleagues.  We can make a positive difference for each one of them.  September is coming.  Let it be a time of transformation and possibility!
Susan Gelber Cannon, August 2017

Read more about the authors:
·      Rosamund Zander:
·      Benjamin Zander:  

Good summaries of the book are available at the links below: 
·      James Clear’s short summary:
·      Vishnu’s Virtue’s longer summary, with quotes:

For more on growth mindset, read
·      Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (

For more on quiet people as leaders, read
·      Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (

For more on developing purpose, read
·      William Damon’s The Path to Purpose: How Young People Can Find Their Calling in Life (  
·      and Martin Seligman’s Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (

For more on bias and anti-bias strategies, read
·      Mazarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald’s Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (
·      and my blog summary with classroom strategies:

For more on inviting student evaluation of your teaching, read
·      Susan Gelber Cannon’s Think, Care, Act: Teaching for a Peaceful Future (

For more on transforming perceptions, read
·      Pema Chodron’s Practicing Peace in Times of War (
·      and Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (