Kids as Catalyst: children leading local community change

A six-month creative leadership and resilience program, igniting upper primary students to become catalysts for positive change in their local communities.

Kids Thrive Kids as Catalyst (formerly InSchools Philanthropy) from Kids Thrive on Vimeo.

The philosophy

Children can thrive when we acknowledge their capacity to lead local change.

Program overview

Kids as Catalyst (formerly InSchools Philanthropy) is an innovative child-led social change program activating children as positive contributors to and creators of community.

Delivered throughout Victoria, and linked to AusVELS and Victorian Curriculum, this program equips upper primary children with the skills to identify and solve real problems facing their community through creative and collaborative projects.

Building skills for life

Kids as Catalyst calls for early engagement, new ideas, respectful community partnerships, and recognises children as vibrant catalysts for positive change. We ask children to reflect on their personal values, and teach them how to conceive, design and implement real-life, philanthropic projects.

The skills developed by children in the program go beyond numeracy and literacy bench-marking to introduce project management, leadership and communication skills. Participants forge partnerships with local volunteers, charities and community organisations; ‘pitch’ community projects to a formidable panel of local community leaders; develop budgets and manage finances; and then deliver their unique community projects.

Young students build deep community connections and deliver tangible, real world results of which they are justifiably proud. Kids as Catalyst activates and inspires children to take an ongoing interest in community action and social justice.

Leadership and resilience

Kids Thrive collaborates with children as active members of their community, unearthing the issues they care about, and supporting them to make a real impact. Kids as Catalyst develops a sense of engaged citizenship in children, building a strong foundation for a resilient society.

School commitment

Kids Thrive deliver weekly training in schools over two terms. Schools commit to a weekly 90 minute class, in a designated room with weekly follow up in class for required actions, and attendance of the participating class to two community engagement events.

 Program Aims:

  • Activating children as major contributors to and creators of community
  • Fostering children’s resilience, leadership and entrepreneurship
  • Building and embracing leadership opportunities for children in their schools and communities
  • Developing children’s passion for social justice, and capacity to drive community change
  • Strengthening connections between schools and communities
  • Developing children’s literacy, budgeting and financial management skills

Program Outcomes

Since 2010, we’ve facilitated 130+ child-led community development projects including:

2016 Kids as Catalyst in local communities:

WYNDHAM REGION

Wyndham Park Primary School

Community Partner:  
Heathdale Kindergarten
Community Action:
Buy toys, books and equipment to facilitate a cultural diversity games day
Value focus: 
Cultural diversity and bullying

Community Partner:
Wyndham Mens Shed
Community Action:
Make carpet bowls set, and a morning tea to learn to play bowls with the men
Value focus:
Elderly health and wellbeing

Community Partner:
Karingal Disability Centre Garden
Community Action:
Buy plants, equipment and food for a joint gardening session/picnic
Value focus:
Opportunities for people with a disability

Community Partner:
Melbourne University Veterinary Hospital
Community Action:
Blanket drive, sewing hand made labels onto them to give to Melbourne University vetrinary hospital
Value focus:
Animal welfare/happiness

Our Lady of The Southern Cross Primary School

Community Partner:
St. Andrew’s Parish Playgroup for Sudanese families
Community Action:
Hold morning tea for mums with children
Value focus:
Women’s safety and social connectedness

Community Partner:
Werribee Basketball Association
Community Action:
Hire basketball courts, share matches and sausage sizzle with disability team
Value focus:
Activity and community connection for people with disability

Community Partner:
Uniting Age Well
Community Action:
Buy and iPad and teach the elderly how to use it
Value focus:
Helping the elderly stay connected with their families

Community Partner:
Mens Shed Wyndham Vale
Description:
Buy materials to make wooden toys with Burmese men at Mens Shed for donation to Royal Children’s Hospital
Value focus:
Safe connections for local men

Manor Lakes P-12 College

Community Partner:
Manor Lakes Aged Care
Community Action:
Buy art materials and paint portraits of elderly residents for their rooms
Value focus:
Well being and connection with the elderly

Community Partner:
YMCA Northern Interchange
Community Action:
Buy items to make sensory gift boxes for YMCA Northern Interchange
Value focus:
Health and wellbeing for special needs children

Community Partner:
Second Chance Animal Rescue
Community Action:
Buy ingredients and have a cake stall for Second Chance Animal Rescue
Value focus:
Animal Welfare

BENALLA REGION

St Josephs Primary School

Community Partner:
Cooinda Village
Community Action::
Create a sensory garden
Value focus:
Disability and helping the aged

Community Partner:
Tomorrow Today Foundation
Community Action:
Make a banner to raise awareness about women’s issues
Value focus:
Girls and women

Community Partner:
Regent Honeyeater Project
Community Action:
Make wooden animal boxes to protect endangered animals
Value focus:
Animal welfare

Community Partner:
Catholic Education Office
Community Action:
Design/install a bollard and plaque of the story of Uncle William Cooper’s advocacy for Jewish people persecuted by Nazis
Value focus:
Indigenous history/cultural diversity

Benalla P-12 College

Community Partner:
Yoralla
Community Action:
Co-gardening and socialising
Value focus:
Disability

Community Partner:
Benalla Health
Community Action:
Screen a movie followed by discussion to help boys express their feelings
Value focus:
Boys and Men

Community Partner:
Benalla Council / White Ribbon
Community Action:
Sports day to raise awareness of discrimination against women
Value focus:
Equality for women

Community Partner:
Cooinda Village
Community Action:
Create a sensory garden
Value focus:
Disability and helping the aged

Community Partner:
Regent Honeyeater Project
Community Action:
Make bird boxes and plant seedlings for local habitat
Value focus:
Animal Welfare

Community Partner:
Chris Thorne (local aboriginal support worker)
Community Action:
Art competition and exhibition
Value focus:
Indigenous/Cultural awareness

GOLDFIELDS REGION

Baringhup Primary School

Community Partner:
Righteous Pups
Community Action:
Help train Jimmy, an assistance dog for a local injured war veteran
Value focus:
Disability

Tarnagulla Primary School

Community Partner:
Kooyoora Friends
Community Action:
Building bird boxes and seed planting
Value focus:
Animals and environment

Community Partner:
Inglewood and Districts Health Services
Community Action:
Hold a series of Armchair Around the World Tours
Value focus:
Affirming the place of the aged in the community

Maldon Primary School

Community Partner:
Connecting Country, Landcare
Community Action:
Create and promote effective rabbit bait stations
Value focus:
Environmental – controlling introduced species

Community Partner:
The Meeting Place
Community Action:
Buy art materials and create a calendar for local aboriginal kids
Value focus:
Indigenous Kids and creative access

Community Partner:
Maldon Hospital
Community Action:
Create a sensory garden for the aged residents
Value focus:
Disability and helping the aged

Community Partner:
Maldon Mens Shed
Community Action:
Make Billy Carts
Value focus:
Boys and Men – connecting generations

Community Partner:
Tarrengower Womens Prison
Community Action:
Create a sensory garden for children of mothers in prison
Value focus:
Women and equality

 Selection of previous community actions include:

  • Our Lady of Mercy College Heidelberg | provided a cupboard full of games and a games day for the Ronald McDonald House kids with cancer centre. After the site visit, one group member opened the games cupboard to find ‘the cupboard was bare! I felt shocked that kids with cancer would travel such long distances to be treated at the Children’s Hospital and have no games or fun while they stayed over.’
  • Alphington Primary School | provided essential emergency supplies and integration support for asylum seekers through the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in West Melbourne.
  • St John’s Primary School | provided toys to a local women’s refuge for children fleeing domestic violence.
  • Maldon Primary School | raised money for a defibrillator to be placed at the local newsagent, in partnership with the Community Emergency Response Team, leading to the establishment of the first Australian junior CERT team.
  • Ivanhoe Grammar | provided Diamond Valley Special Development School with plants and tools to grow vegetables.
  • Ivanhoe East Primary | purchased a humidicrib for rescued native animals cared for by Wildlife Victoria.
  • Baringhup Primary School | purchased 3 injectors and 11 hoes for removal of cactus weeds in collaboration with the Tarrengower Cactus Control Committee.
  • Newstead Primary School | worked with the RSPCA to help lost, dumped and injured animals in Castlemaine.
  • St Pius X Primary School | provided parenting resources for disadvantaged new mums.

2015 Program – Evaluation Data

Participating children demonstrated:

96% – increase in self-confidence
95% – improved teamwork
96% – improved empathy

96% – greater social awareness
96% – improved leadership skills
96% – increase in community engagement

95% – improved self-directed learning
95% – increased literacy

Children building community networks
When asked: ‘How many people can you talk to about things that matter to you?’ Children’s responses revealed the following:

400% increased connections with other kids at school
300% increased connections with kids outside school
150% increased connections with adults at school
300% increased connections with adults in the community
50% increased positive connections within students’ families

Further Information

  • Kids as Catalyst (under its former name InSchools Philanthropy) is featured as a case study in best practice in the Australian Council for Education Research’s Leading Learning in Education and Philanthropy (LLEAP) Reports.  Click here to download the full reports: 2012 (see ISP case study on pp 56 – 58) and 2014 (see pp 62-65).

‘I realise that I can make a change now. I can talk to adults and they will listen to me. I thought I had to be older to do that. Kids can make a difference now.’ Student, grade 5

‘I saw many young people who were inspirational, passionate about helping others, were highly articulate and skilled to make a profound difference. I felt moved, touched and proud at what each group presented and had learnt through this exceptional program.’ Melina Maranville, Principal, Ivanhoe East Primary School

2017 Delivery Partners – Schools and Agencies

Benalla Region – Benalla P-12 College | Tomorrow Today Foundation
Wyndham Region – Our Lady of the Southern Cross Primary School | Wyndham Park Primary School | The Smith Family
Goldfields Region – Maldon Primary School


2017 Funding Partners

Victorian Department of Education & Training | VicHealth | Sidney Myer Fund | The William Buckland Foundation
Helen Macpherson Smith Trust | Newsboys Foundation | Collier Charitable Fund | W.C.F. Thomas Charitable Trust


2017 Evaluation Partner

University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health – The Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program