Lesson #1: What is Your Social Impact?

This is the first lesson in the SING THE HEART OF THE MAGIC: A Jennifer L. Nelson Story teaching guide. Click here for more information.


Student Outcomes

(What will the students be able to do during and/or after this lesson?)

  • Students will consider the definition of social impact and identify the ways that Jennifer L. Nelson demonstrated this concept throughout her life.
  • Students will reflect on their own individual experiences and interests and predict the ways they hope to socially impact their own communities throughout their lives.
  • Students will identify the ways others have demonstrated social impact during their lives and the ways that others have acknowledged them.


(Vocabulary words you should define for students prior to viewing the documentary)

 “It’s critical to clearly differentiate between the broad term of ‘impact’ and a more deliberate definition of social impact. Impact on its own implies an influence or effect on virtually anything, given its context. Social impact, however, is grounded in the effect it has on a pressing social challenge.” (Definition of Social Impact)


SOCIAL IMPACT                 COMMUNITY                        THEATER

THEATRE                             NON-EQUITY ACTOR        EQUITY ACTOR

 Focus Questions

(Questions that can be answered through a class discussion, short essay, a video, visual art (i.e. collage, drawing, digital print, etc.)

 (Grades 6-8)

 1.      Jennifer L. Nelson had a social impact on the different arts communities she lived within. What were the specific ways that she made an impact on her community and how was the impact evident?

 (Grades 9-12)

 2.      What do you consider Jennifer L. Nelson’s singular most important contribution to the DC theater arts scene and why?

3.      What type of social impact would you like to leave behind once you retire from your chosen career? How would you know that you’ve made the impact?


Main Lesson Activity

 Materials: Paper, pencil or computer | Smart phone or video camera

 Estimated Time: 45 minutes to 2 hours

 (Allow students ample time to create and share their videos when giving them the following directions)

 The documentary film, Sing the Heart of the Magic: A Jennifer L. Nelson Story, opens with the following passage:

 “There's a quote from the Dalai Lama about ripples just as they spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water the actions of individuals have far-reaching effects. The far-reaching effects of Jennifer L. Nelson, playwright, actor, director, art administrator and producer are still rippling through the dc theater scene.”

Who are the people who have demonstrated social impact in your life and lives of people around you? How are these people acknowledged by others who they have positively impacted?

 Create a 60-120 second video responding to this prompt using the term “social impact” appropriately.


Facilitation Guide for Teacher:

1.    Bring students together in a common area where all students can watch the documentary Sing the Heart of Magic in a common area, whether virtually or in-person.

2.    Focusing Student Attention: Ask students who are the people they think about when they think about people who are actors or singers. Many of them will say “Beyonce” or “Michael Jackson” or name pop artists on an international level. Tell them that there are people who make music, or tell stories through theater that live nearby to them. Let them know that you are going to introduce them to someone who has made music and theater her entire life and helped others along the way. Before watching you may want to give them their vocabulary words so they can take notes during the film. Preface the film by explaining the reason why you are introducing the film to them and why Jennifer L. Nelson is an important figure in the arts world.

3.    Introductory and Developmental Conversation: Before watching the film, you may want to introduce the students to the idea of social impact and engage in some of the focus questions first. Use your judgment on what makes sense—focus questions before or after the film.

4.    Content-Based Reading: Make a hand-out or write on the board the definition of social impact so that they can see it while it is being discussed. Make sure that they have a copy of the definition for their later activity.

5.    Content-based art opportunity: The learning activity can first be introduced as a group brainstorm that students can do as a Think-Pair-Share before they go home to do the activity on their own.

6.    Closing assessment Activity: Have students share their videos and allow for discussion and processing.