The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA

Sixth Graders Write Letters For Change

The Letters for Change project is a highlight of the sixth grade spring term. Students explore the genre of persuasive writing by identifying a real-world problem that they want to solve and crafting a letter to someone with the power to help. This assignment encourages students to channel their passion into a piece of writing that is sincere, well-researched, compelling, and in a tone that could elicit a thoughtful response. “The goal of this assignment is for students to think about a problem, how complicated solutions can be, and to propose something that could be viable,” says sixth grade writing teacher Lara Gleason. “It’s a powerful but fun exercise because the students feel invested in the topic and are actually sending their letter to someone, so in that way, it’s a very authentic assessment of their writing skills.” 

The project challenges students in several ways. Unlike most projects where the task is clearly defined, the letter for change requires the sixth graders to identify their topic, research and find relevant data, and locate the right person who could help them with the change they are proposing. With Lara’s guidance, each student manages their project and is encouraged to create checkpoints for themselves along the way to stay on track. Students can find navigating the labyrinth of corporate and government websites frustrating as they look for the information they need. Sometimes, they’ll spend significant time researching their idea only to find something similar already exists, requiring them to rethink their proposal completely. “This is great real-world learning,” says Lara. “It encourages students to develop their critical thinking skills.” 

Students are motivated to work through any bumps along the road by their genuine passion for the topic they chose. For example, one student who loves baseball is sending a letter to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball arguing that bamboo bats should be permitted in the MLB. Another student with family in India wants to do something about the level of air pollution that they experience. Several students have been inspired by activism around the Black Lives Matter movement and Stop Asian Hate and want to advocate against racism. Another student is building on her speech topic from earlier this year to look at gender inequality between the WNBA and NBA. “These are topics that are very personal to the students,” says Lara. “This project gives them an outlet to explore those ideas, helps them to feel they can do something, and provides an incredible sense of empowerment.”

Every year, a few students are lucky enough to receive a response to their letter, but even those who don’t can draw plenty of positive lessons from the experience. Danny Warner ‘24 wrote to Governor Charlie Baker about the problem of littering in Massachusetts. Reflecting on the project, he wrote, “The most rewarding part was writing the conclusion because I realized that Governor Baker might listen to what I say, and I realized how hard I had worked.” Emily Morgan ‘24 wrote to the Director of Foster Care Support for DCF, advocating for changes that would increase the number of foster homes available for children in need. The most rewarding aspect of the project for Emily was “that we got to choose a topic that we believe needed to change and we could have our voice be heard even though we are only sixth graders.”