Although it may be difficult to orient your entire school or course toward students saving the world, there is one simple move you can make to push yourself a little closer: create a real-world audience for student work.
One major difference between schools that create innovative problem solvers and those stuck training students to be competitive regurgitators is that the former contextualize learning in the real world. Students create products that matter to someone other than their teacher.
Try one of these simple strategies in your upcoming unit. Have students:

  • Write letters to elected officials or professionals in a relevant field. They can pose questions, make suggestions, or argue for a change.
  • Design murals or other public displays to show their learning.
  • Create blogs or videos that convey their ideas and use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to market their sites.
  • Ask professionals to come into the classroom to judge student presentations or proposals. Or publish student work on the internet and ask professionals to judge or comment on it.
  • Pair up with another class or school and have students conduct a “teach-in” to inform each other about relevant issues they are studying.

I’m sure you can think of plenty of other ideas — the principle is simple: creating work with real-world value is more motivating and relevant than classroom exercises. Think about how you can showcase students’ learning beyond the school walls!