Design for Change USA Blog

Honoring the Land: Fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline

Updated: Nov 16


















The Honoring the Land: Fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline Project was aimed at uncovering community thoughts and documenting those thoughts regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline while finding ways to insert student voices as advocates for their community by bringing concerns straight to state lawmakers.






"I learned stuff we're not usually taught in school. I learned about fighting for our land."

- Student Reflection









Interviewing Community Members to Strengthen Understanding


During the FEEL stage, the team was introduced to the topic of pipelines, the oil industry and climate change through various activities and learning experiences. Students then set out to interview family members to gain an understanding of the information available and how our community feels about the Keystone XL pipeline. Students engaged in a root cause analysis to deepen their understanding of the underlying factors contributing to issues of climate change, land rights and, specifically, the Keystone XL pipeline. Through this process, information about the recently passed Riot Boosting Act (SD Bill 189) surfaced. Students then shifted to gears to investigate this act and its impact on the ability for anti-pipeline activists to protest their cause.










Connecting with Community Activists


In the IMAGINE stage, students engaged in a number of student-led discussions about the underlying factors as well as the impact of pipeline. These discussions then led to research and a brainstorming session around ways in which to educate the community about these issues, including social media campaigns, newspaper articles and ads, a radio bit, and printing and passing out flyers. To gather additional information regarding ideas, a prominent community leader and activist was invited to the class to share his experience. After these conversations and additional brainstorming, students decided the best way to make an impact on the Keystone XL pipeline would be to write letters to lawmakers, voicing their disapproval of SD Bill 189 and urging lawmakers to change their mind or rescind the bill.









Researching and Doing Collectively


Their DO stage was divided into 2 parts: 1) researching laws, the SD Bill 189, and lawmakers and their decision regarding SD Bill 189, and 2) developing and executing a letter writing campaign. After researching, they used the information to inform their letter writing campaign. Additionally, they researched components of such a campaign and used information they learned to develop a strategic campaign (i.e. they created a template letter). Letters were written, specifically, to those lawmakers who had or have supported SD Bill 189.








Documenting Lessons Learned


In the SHARE stage, students each invited 2-3 school staff members to learn about the research behind, the lessons learned, and the results of their project. They also presented to community members. They also noted that, “We learned that raising our voices in disagreement with our own government can take time and may not always result in the way we wanted. We learned that it is still important to try.” They also noted, “The interviews with community members served as our most important guide in setting our purpose and scope for the project.”

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