Mix It Up

This activity, inspired by the free Teaching Tolerance film The Children's March, provides ideas and tools to help break the walls of division in your school and community.
Grade Level


At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

• identify the social boundaries of their own school and community.

• act to cross boundaries and borders.


Essential Questions
  • Why do many students stay within one social group?
  • How can crossing boundaries between groups break the walls of division in your school and community?
  • Enduring Understandings
    • Giving people labels—such as ‘jocks’ and ‘nerds’—is as old and familiar as schooling itself. New labels appear with each new school year. Unfortunately, crossing boundaries between groups is a difficult task to accomplish for many students. It’s just “safer” to stay with one’s own group.
    • Crossing boundaries between groups can create opportunities for students to meet people, make new friends, and strengthen their relationships with classmates.
  • Mix It Up materials— activities, posters, clip art—are available free as downloads 


activism [ak-ti-viz-uhm] (noun) intentional actions geared toward creating change

boundary [boun-duh-ree] (noun) a dividing line or area

impede [im-peed] (verb) to slow down progress


Suggested Procedure

1. Have students list the different kinds of groupings that exist in school. Explain that you’d like them to do this without commenting on the group or judging it. In other words, “Be kind.”

2. Ask students the following questions and discuss:

  • What group you fit in? Do you fit in more than one group?
  • Do groups have soft boundaries (meaning you can move from group to group) or do they have hard boundaries (meaning you can’t move from group to group)?
  • Can some people move from group to group and others can’t? Why do you think this is so? What do they have that allows them to move?
  • Where do you most often see groups pool together, e.g., cafeteria, after-school events, etc.?
  • Why do people pool together?

3. Explore boundary-crossing with students:

  • What benefit is there in crossing boundaries from one group to another?
  • What opportunities are there to cross boundaries at your school?
  • Do you want to cross boundaries? Why or why not?
  • Why might it be important to learn the skill of crossing boundaries now? How might it help you in the future?
  • Who do you know personally that crosses boundaries well? How do they do it? What can you learn from them?

4. Introduce Mix It Up, a nationwide program that believes in the power of youth to create and sustain real change. This program provides ideas and tools to help break the walls of division in your school and community. National Mix It Up at Lunch Day, held in the fall, encourages individuals to swap seats in their cafeteria for a single day and meet new people. Explore these action possibilities with students and support their efforts to implement the program.

Alignment to Common Core State Standards/ College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards CCSS SL.1, SL.4, W.1


Extension Activity

This follow-up activity aids students in having complete ownership of the project.

Focusing on the interaction between students and adults, ask the following question: “What do adults do that impedes or helps you?”

Choose one of two approaches: Either have students discuss this in small groups and then come together to share their discussion with the whole group—or have them do a quick-write first and then share.

You may use the following list of student comments and requests to help get the conversation started:

  • Sometimes adults see us as weak when we are strong and reliable.
  • We want adults to share openly with us about power and how it operates.
  • Respect us.
  • Don’t do things FOR us; do them WITH us.
  • Admit it when you make a mistake, be open.
  • Trust us to be powerful.
  • Listen to us—don’t just lecture to us.
  • Don’t co-opt our ideas.
  • Be flexible.

After your students have generated a list of ways adults can help them, why not take a marker and sign it in front of them, making it a binding contract? Invite your students to write about how adults help—or impede—their activism.