SIMA SDG CHALLENGE: Impact Campaign (facilitator/educator led)

An impact campaign starts with one thing: inspiration. Here, students watch a lineup of SIMA films and then create and execute an impact advocacy campaign within their schools/communities. Join hundreds of classrooms around the world participating to win the challenge.


The goal of this lesson plan is to connect and activate your students’ creative capacity to affect positive change in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs refer to the seventeen global goals adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. They are a universal call to action to end poverty, promote equity, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The hope is to achieve these goals by 2030, which means we must take urgent action. Students can get started now by taking the SIMA Challenge.

The SIMA Challenge can be taken as a whole class, or by several small groups within a class. The instructions below offer suggestions for each variation.



  • Critically analyze and assess a social issue that is part of today’s global landscape.
  • Practice self-reflection skills.
  • Generate creative group brainstorming.
  • Collaborate with peers.
  • Learn to structure and execute an actionable campaign and/or event.
  • Exercise presentation and communication skills.
  • Understand and participate in a democratic processes.

STEP 1: WARM UP: Introduce the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Guide a discussion aimed at clarifying the role of the UN in the world and the purpose of the goals. 

Take a 5 minute KICK OFF SURVEY to get started:

For middle school students click here.

For college students and older click here.

Introduce SIMA Academy and explain that you will be using film to explore the SDGs, and inspire action. Watch this 8 minute compilation video #TeachSDGs  addressing all 17 goals. 



Display this SDG Poster depicting all 17 SDGs and ask students to make observations about them. Ask,  what might the colors signify? How are the goals related to each other? How are they interconnected? Interdependent? Lead students to explore ideas about how we are currently addressing these goals, or how we might address them going forward. This is a warm up to get students thinking about the complexities of these global issues, and to recognize that while they are not easily “solved”, we can have a positive impact on them.  

Prepare students for a deep reflection on their concerns and passions by facilitating a group discussion addressing the following:

What are a few positive things about your community/school that others may not know about?

What are a few negative things in your community/school that should be changed or fixed?

What have you seen or experienced that isn’t fair or right that should be changed or fixed?

What Global Goal is connected to the issue that should be changed?

The answers will help your students connect with the Sustainable Development Goal(s) that are most important to them, how they manifest locally and the change they want to see in the world. 

Ask your students to journal about which of the 17 SDGs speaks most to them and why. Use the prompt “Which Global Goal is important to me and why”

If students choose more than one SDG, they should explore how the SDGs are inter-related. Ask them to identify the specific cause/theme they wish to focus on. For example, a student may feel particularly concerned about child poverty (SDG 1). They may recognize the relationship between child poverty, hunger and malnutrition (SDG 2) and how this affects their access to quality education (SDG 4).

STEP 2: WATCH FILMS: Take a journey to the frontlines

Prior to viewing the films, introduce the SIFT Worksheet. This is a graphic organizer designed to help students keep track of their reactions while viewing the films. Using the worksheet during the film viewing, ask students to notice and record any physical SENSATIONS, any IMAGES that are particularly evocative, any FEELINGS that they experience, and any THOUGHTS that occur to them. Be sure to supply one worksheet per film for each student. 

In addition, ask your students to write down any thoughts and questions they had while watching the films.

Screen the film(s). After watching each film, allow time for students to discuss their reactions either as a class or in small groups. 

Hint: This reflection is a critical step in learning from the film as it allows an opportunity for participants to make an emotional connection to the issues through the storytelling.


Model this “mind-mapping” exercise for students by writing the chosen SDG in the center of a large whiteboard or paper and circle it.  Next, ask students to brainstorm what they have  learned about the issue from the film(s). This may include other related SDGs, various stakeholders and other elements that somehow fit into the overall story. Write these impressions around the circled topic. Ask them to name the causes of the problem. Add any suggested solutions to the map. Draw lines to connect related ideas. 

Ask students to take a step back and reflect on the complexity of the topic, the range of impacts they have observed and how the map informs or illuminates what they have previously known about the issue. 

Hint: Allow this process to be messy, and help students to draw connections as they brainstorm thereby recognizing the complexities. If students are interested in a variety of SDGs , the above exercise may serve as a model and they may repeat the exercise in their groups, focusing on an SDG of their choice.

Ask students to research the root causes of the selected SDG; to understand it’s complexity and relevance to the people around them and to the world at large:

Investigate the main contributors and causes of the problem: 

  • Interview people in your community: What does a member of your family think is the problem, what does your neighbor think
  • Research the problem: how does the UN identify the problem? What do other sources say? 

Use the UN Sustainable Development Goals website for a global perspective. Click on the goal, then scroll to OVERVIEW (the first tab) to view the infographic issue on a global scale. 

  • What could be a potential solution and path forward?
  • What are the UN’s target objectives for the goal? (Go to the second tab for each goal labeled TARGETS AND INDICATORS to learn about the UN’s plan for addressing the goal.)
  • What are other groups doing to address the goal?

Identify two initiatives or ideas that are part of the solution, and consider how you could support, raise awareness, amplify or adopt that solution through an action, initiative or campaign in your own school or community. (See below for examples.)

Have your students form groups based on the SDG they selected and present their findings: 

What have we learned about the root causes?

What solutions have we found that address the issue?

How could we support that solution?


STEP 4: COLLABORATION: Co-create an Impact Campaign

Based on their research and their interests, ask students to form collaborative groups to create an impact campaign. Groups may be addressing the same SDG, but in different ways, or they may be working on different SDGs, again depending on the teacher’s learning goals. Impact campaigns should be based on the film’s social issue, and be both plausible and actionable inside their own communities. 

Example of a successful impact campaign: One group of students observes a great deal of waste in their community with an overflowing landfill.  After watching E-WASTELAND they decide that SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production and SDG 15: Life on land are the SDGs most connected to the problem. After talking with people and researching the topic, they decide that where they can make an impact is to build a campaign urging students to recycle their electronic devices. They raise awareness by creating an information resource and impact by creating e-waste recycling stations positioned throughout their school/neighborhood. 

Provide students with the Advocacy Campaign Brainstorming worksheet to help them brainstorm as a group, generating as many good ideas as possible. Students may narrow down their ideas by asking themselves: 

What would be the goals, short and long term, for the campaign?

Who would be their partners and allies? Who else has interest in achieving the goals?

Who is the target audience? Who are they trying to reach and/or convince to join/support their cause?

What actions or tactics will they use? What initiatives can they create to reach/mobilize their target audience?

Provide students with the Advocacy Campaign_Planning worksheet to guide them through an eight step planning process that will lead to success.

Ask students to present their campaigns to the class. Groups may evaluate each other’s campaigns, providing feedback to help maximize impact.


Take a 5’ wrap up SURVEY:

For middle school students click here.

For college students and older click here.


Last but not least: REPORT YOUR IMPACT!

If you are a teacher click here to apply to the SIMA Teacher Award

If you are a student click here to apply to the SIMA Student Award


The timeline for this lesson can range from three days to eight weeks, depending on existing background knowledge and the extent of the impact campaign. We suggest that teachers allow ample time for research into the issue associated with the SDG and film topics before development and implementation of the campaign begins.

Note: Teachers may wish to lead the entire class to design and implement one single impact campaign together, or to create several small groups to take the challenge, perhaps each focusing on a different goal. These options will depend on time available and objectives of the lesson.


Review the history and purpose of the Global Goals via the 2030 Agenda and Declaration: Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for background information, definitions, facts and indicators. Consider assigning this to students as background reading prior to the lesson. You may also consult The World’s Largest Lesson Plan for ideas on how to present the goals to your students for the first time. 

Bonus Option

You may wish to invite your students to work together to implement their campaign on a larger scale, perhaps permanently implementing the campaign at school, or expanding to other schools in their area. Students are encouraged to contact school principals or education administrators in their area to propose a plan for implementation.

Select 3-5 films from SIMA Library or from the curated SDGs SPOTLIGHT that match the topics  you wish to explore with students. You may choose to select films on a variety of topics or focus on one topic that meets your particular learning goals.

Suggested Films:

Browse All Films