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Researching a Local Community Issue | ELA Community Activism PBL (Lesson 3 of 6) | 6-8, 9-10, 11-12

Student Objective

Students will be able to:
1. identify at least 3 reputable sources relating to their community activism issue or topic.
2. synthesize their research findings to create an original product whose form is most appropriate for their community stakeholder.


Materials Needed: 


This instructional idea is the third in a six-part set that provides 6-12 ELA teachers with sample procedures and resources for implementing a community activism project-based learning project addressing the ISTE Student Standards. Throughout these six instructional ideas, students will identify a local community issue and community stakeholders, conduct research, synthesize and publish their research for an authentic audience, and seek feedback on their final product. 

In this part (3 of 6) of the project, students will conduct research to examine the history and impact of their selected activist issue. Students will locate this information using criteria for reliable online sources. This lesson builds off of work done in parts 1 and 2 of this instructional idea set.  

Step 1: Own It 

  • Do a  Think-Pair-Share on the following questions:
    • How do you know information is true on the internet? 
    • What methods of evaluation do you use when determining if a source is credible? 
    • How good do you think you are at spotting fake news? 
  • Optional Extension: 
    • Ask students to complete the Factitious online quiz to evaluate their ability to spot fake news. 
      • Reflect: Were you surprised by your results? Why or why not? 
      • What do your results convey about your ability to identify fake news and information online? 

Step 2: Learn It

  • Introduce students to the concept of critical media literacy
  • Say: “Critical media literacy is important when conducting research online in order to identify accurate and unbiased information. When looking specifically at websites for academic research, you should be aware of the following source types: 
    • government or military (.gov or .mil) – Government or military websites end in .gov or .mil, and in general are reliable sources on the web. However, beware of political sites used to sway public opinion.
    • university (.edu) – University web sites end in .edu, and are usually reliable. Use these sites with caution, checking for credibility and authority.
    • company website (.com) – Company web sites generally end in .com. These sites are great for information about a particular company. However be aware that company websites are used to promote the companies themselves, so be sure the information is unbiased.
    • special interest (.org) – While many professional organizations end in .org, there are also many .orgs that are biased and promote a specific agenda.”
  • Optional Extension: 
Good Sources Bad Sources
Websites ending in:

.edu & .gov


Reputable News Websites:

New York Times

BBC News

Washington Post


The Atlantic

Bloomberg Businessweek

Associated Press (AP)

The Los Angeles Times



Cites without authors




Social Media Posts


Websites with bad or unprofessional design

Be Careful With Not sure if it’s a fact?
.com – owned by a company

.org – owned by an organization



Step 3: Conduct Research 

  • Ask students to find at least THREE sources related to their research topic that fit the criteria for a reputable source above. Students should select sources that help answer the following questions: 
    • Why is your community issue/topic important? Who does it affect? How does it affect them? 
    • What is the history of your community issue/topic in your local community?
    • What activism has occurred around this issue/topic in your local community in the past?
    • If a solution or intervention does not occur for this community issue/topic, what will happen? Why does this matter? 
  • Optional Scaffold: 
    • If students need more scaffolding to record information while researching, consider providing them with a Fact Sheet organizer to record their information for each source. 

Step 4: Share-It

  • After students have completed their research, ask students to reflect: 
    • What was one fact you learned from your search that surprised you? 
    • Describe your experience conducting research with the criteria for reliable sources. How did using this criteria impact how you found information? 




This instructional idea requires students to research information related to a local community issue and synthesize their research to create an original product to present to a community stakeholder.

EdTech used in this activity:

Google Docs

Alternative Ed Tech you could use:

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