What would you do if you could change the world?

Do you ever wish you were eleven again?

Melbourne film maker Genevieve Bailey looks back fondly on that age as a time of simplicity and hope. So much so, that she chose to interview eleven year old children on her travels around the world and make a documentary. We saw the film yesterday with Year 6 students (mostly aged 11) and loved it.

I Am Eleven – trailer from I Am Eleven on Vimeo.

What would you do if you could change the world?

This was my favourite of the questions Year 6 teachers asked the students to consider before seeing the film. It was one of a series of questions Genevieve asked all kinds of eleven year olds she encountered in fifteen countries over a period of several years.

Responses from Year 6 at my school…

  • The first thing I would do if I could change the world is distribute money evenly to all the countries so no one would be in poverty.
  • The thing I would do to change the world is to give everyone a house and an education or occupation. I would also put a cheap supermarket near every village or city.
  • Make sure that every one got on with each other.
  • Give everyone the same rights.
  • Make everything free!
  • I would stop homelessness and build wells so people could have clean water.
  • I would ban cigarettes but do it in a way that nobody will get angry or sad.
  • If I could change the world I would have world peace and there would be no war.
  • Make Australian footy a world wide sport.
  • Other questions included ‘What do you like most and least about being eleven?’, ‘What do you worry about?’, ‘Would you rather be clever or good looking?’ How could we take better care of the environment?’ and ‘What do you think will happen in the future?’ (You can see the remaining questions and responses here on their blog.)

    After the showing, the students met Genevieive for a Q and A session. She seemed delighted to have an eleven year old audience share their wonderings about the eleven year olds in her film. As a non eleven year old in the audience, I was taken with both the thoughtfulness of the questions and the unaffected enthusiasm of Genevieve’s answers.

    Back at school, the students reflected on the film…

    ‘I was really was blown away when the girl in India said that if she could have anything she would want money to build a house, and then the girl in the USA said she would want a four day weekend’.

    ‘People may look and sound different but we always have something in common…People who have more want more but people who don’t have a lot want everyone to be happy. People who don’t have as much as me still think the same as me.’

    ‘I now think that how you feel at a certain age depends on where you live and who you are. I think that someone who lives in an orphanage at 11 and someone who live in America or Australia with a family and a big house will think differently.’

    ‘People with a lot of things don’t think about what they have they just want more while people with nothing only want what they need to survive. I think that we should be grateful for what we have and not always wanting more. I think that the orphans enjoyed there life the same as the people with stuff’.

    When I was eleven, I doubt I had the capacity to express my thinking in this way. If I thought at all about important issues, it certainly didn’t happen at school. Learning about the world consisted of knowing the names of capital cities and recognising flags. I remember learning historical ‘facts’ by heart without evaluating their truth or considering different perspectives. And I don’t recall ever being encouraged to think about changing the world…

    I am often struck by the depth of thinking witnessed in many of our students today. Is it because through concept driven learning and an inquiry approach, students engage with big ideas from a young age? Watching, and thinking deeply about, this film is just the beginning for these students, about to explore the notion of inequity for their PYP exhibition unit.

    Their central idea is: Developing an awareness and understanding of inequity empowers us to act. Thinking about who you are, your place in the world and what you’d like to change seems like an excellent start.

    9 thoughts on “What would you do if you could change the world?

    1. Jenny Ellwood

      Thank you for bringing my attention to this film – I hadn’t heard of it before. These kind of productions are so important in the way they show how different yet at the same time how similar we all all! I agree with your comment about how you probably couldn’t have expressed your thoughts in the way your students were able to. I was thinking just the same! Although I am now virtually out of the UK education scene, your blog is one of the few that I still subscribe to; your entries are always written with such positivity and care that they fill me with hope for the future! Thank you!

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    2. Lacie Brothers

      I am an EDM 310 student at the University of South Alabama and am required to comment on your blog as an assignment. This blog post is truly inspiring! It makes me think of what I would do if I could make an impact on the world. But then I thought why can’t I? What’s stopping me from trying? Your blog really shows how passionate you are about life and helping others, and it’s nice to know that people like you still exist in a world like today!

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    3. Angyl White

      My name is Angyl White and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. Being an elementary education major I was truly inspired by your blog post. That video was a wonderful look into the views of not just 11 year olds in America, but everywhere. It really shows how different, but alike a lot of 11 year olds are. I visited the blog of the other students with the other questions that were asked. When I read these responses I was immediately convicted because I realized that I may be one of the adults that several of them referred to saying that they were underestimated.
      This was a great post for me! Thanks

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    4. Dale Cope

      I will have to agree with you. I don’t think I had similar awareness of global issues when I was 11 as those kids who answered those questions. I wonder how much education or prompting was required to change their thinking to be more aware of communities different from their own.

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    5. Rebekah Madrid

      I mentioned this on Twitter, but this question is going to be how I introduce humanities to my grade 6 students (also age 11). What’s the point of learning about the world, if you can’t change it. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    6. Pingback: My #soccon13 presentation | Teaching the Teacher

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