Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-12, students play Activate, a game in which they take on the role of citizens making positive changes in their communities. After selecting an issue, they train their staff, then build a campaign that grows into a national effort.


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Simulate the roles of organizers and other citizens taking action to resolve issues at the local, state, and national levels.
  2. Demonstrate ways that individuals and groups can influence government and society.
  3. Recognize the value and effect of various civic engagement activities.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


This lesson plan features a game called Activate developed by our partner,  iCivics. In this game, students play the role of an active citizen making positive change beginning  with local activities and eventually running a national campaign. Along the way, they must manage resources and volunteers while tracking campaign effectiveness.

Review the Activate Game Guide for step by step directions on how to play the game. Then, preview and play Activate to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. 

For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game and for specific prompts to provide students with during game play, read Activate: Additional Features for My BrainPOP.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Gandhi, Malala, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rachel Carson, Wangari Maathai, and Brown Vs. Board of Education.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Begin the lesson by asking students showing a BrainPOP movie to the whole class (or more than one movie depending on your time) featuring an activist, such as Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Gandhi, Malala, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rachel Carson, Wangari Maathai, and Brown Vs. Board of Education.
  2. After the movie(s), ask students how the featured person made a difference in their community, country, or world.
  3. On the whiteboard, create a 3-column table. Title the left column “Problem,” the middle column “What” and the right column “Who”. Next prompt students to brainstorm problems or issues in their community. If necessary, you can share a few ideas to get them started, such as air pollution and bullying. Jot their responses in the “Problem” column. Now ask What they can do to solve each problem. Note their ideas in the “What” column next to the related problem. And finally, ask who can help them solve the problem. Jot these ideas in the “Who” column.
  4. Now display the game Activate on the whiteboard. Tell students that in this game, they will make a positive change by first selecting an issue, then training staff and finally building a campaign that grows into a national effort.
  5. Have students play the game individually (or in pairs if limited access to computers). Encourage them to choose issues that they care about, and while playing to think about how their actions in the game could be carried out in real life in an effort to make positive change.
  6. The game takes about 20-30 minutes to play. Circulate and observe students’ progress as they play, making sure that everyone is on track and answer questions as needed. Remind students to keep the volunteers busy with task so that you can reach their goal more quickly, and to have the volunteers learn new tasks. Also, suggest that students assign volunteers to the task of raising money so the campaign doesn’t run out.
  7. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots during the game and after. Review Activate: Additional Features for My BrainPOP for suggested prompts.
  8. After students finish playing, come together for a whole class discussion.Ask the following questions:
    • What did you do first in the game to solve the problem? How did this help solve the problem?
    • What steps did you do later in the game to solve the problem? Why do you think the game wouldn't let you start with these steps?
    • What are the advantages of doing the personal tasks before you got volunteers to help you?
    • How can kids, who aren’t old enough to vote, solve problems in their communities?

Extension Activities:

Have students complete the Students' Engage Lesson Plan created by iCivics.