Curiosity inspires exploration.
Lines of Inquiry
17-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg was also TIME‘s Person of the Year. She started out by missing class to protest alone in front of the Swedish parliament as a “school strike” for climate action—which ended up inspiring millions to demonstrate around the world. Thunberg’s biggest accomplishment is in motivating regular people like herself, as well as governments, to rally and take action to save the planet.
After distributing food to the homeless with his aunt, young Jahkil Jackson from the South Side of Chicago established Project I Am to give out “Blessing Bags,” which contain essentials like soap, toothbrushes, and socks, to the homeless—all at the tender age of 8 years old. Now 12, Jackson’s group has helped over 35,000 people in need around the world. Also a motivational speaker and youth ambassador for several other organizations, Jackson strives to get young people involved in their communities on a local and global level. He's been named a hero by Marvel’s Hero Project.
When he was just 3 years old, Ryan Hickman was inspired to collect recycling in his neighborhood after visiting a recycling plant in California. With the help of his parents, he founded Ryan’s Recycling Company in 2012 and become a viral sensation for his efforts to keep plastic out of the ocean. Hickman visited Washington to promote a standardized labeling system to help eliminate recycling contamination in trash bins.
Bringing a little more joy to the world can make a kid incredible, which is exactly what Robby Novak, aka Kid President, did with his series of YouTube videos. Made with the help of his older brother-in-law, Kid President began in 2012 when Novak was just 8 years old in order to make the world less “boring” and more awesome by spreading messages of love and positivity. His outlook on life was inspiring, especially given that Novak has the brittle bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta, and his popularity grew. After taking a break to focus on school and just being a kid, Novak, now 16, has started a second YouTube series, a motivational travel show focusing on kids across the country. Try these acts of kindness you can do to change the world.
These Indonesian sisters are on a mission to stop plastic bags from ending up in the ocean off their island of Bali. Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest polluters of marine plastic, so in 2013, the then 10- and 12-year-olds decided to do something about it after being inspired by a lesson in school on influential leaders like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. They started a petition to get the government to take action on the plastic issue, organized beach cleanups—and even decided to go on a hunger strike as Gandhi did. After years of working with local and international leaders, including speaking at the United Nations, the sisters made major progress when the Balinese government announced a law banning single-use plastic in 2019. The Wijsen sisters’ organization, Bye Bye Plastic Bags, also helps kids around the world start anti-plastic initiatives in their own communities.
With Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome, Jaylen Arnold always knew he was different. But when he was bullied at school for it, the then 8-year-old decided to take action on behalf of other bullied kids. He started a website for his classmates with the message, “Bullying No Way,” and the project immediately grew in leaps and bounds. The Jaylens Challenge Foundation now runs programs that teach kids how to recognize bullying and how to appreciate kids who are different.
The most heartbreaking effects of war are on the children who grow up amidst danger and conflict. At just 7 years old on a Twitter account managed by her mother, Bana Alabed documented living through the siege of Aleppo, Syria, in 2016, telling the world about her wishes for a childhood of peace without fear. Her accounts from the front lines gave people a firsthand look at what war does to children and families. Her family eventually became refugees as they were evacuated to Turkey. Her book about her experiences, Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace.
After a change in the water supply of Flint, Michigan, led to residents becoming sick and dying, something had to be done. Amazingly, then 8-year-old Mari Copeny drew the federal government’s attention to the water crisis with a letter to President Obama in 2016. When the president visited Flint after reading her letter, the kid donned her beauty pageant sash for the meeting, earning her the nickname “Little Miss Flint.” The visit resulted in federal aid to help the crisis—but Copeny’s advocacy didn’t end there. She went on to fundraise over $500,000 for Flint and helped her community first by handing out bottled water and then more environmentally-friendly water filters. She’s also become involved with aiding underserved children and organizing community events.
This young education advocate and filmmaker made her mark at the young age of 9 with her first short documentary, which was about the Ghana Revolution, as part of a filmmaking competition—and at 10 years old in 2013, became the youngest person ever to be featured in Forbes magazine. She gained more attention for the self-produced film she made in 2014 at the age of 12 called A Promising Africa, which profiled several African nations. Oduwole began focusing her efforts on African girls’ education, and established Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up to spread the message to kids about the importance of education.
After being stung twice by bees, then 4-year-old Mikaila Ulmer started learning about the little critters—only to discover honey bees are in danger. Coincidentally, her family had also received a cookbook of her great-grandmother’s recipes that included one for flaxseed lemonade. Young Ulmer thought that if she could make lemonade sweetened with honey from local beekeepers, she could help the bees. When her parents suggested she enter her lemonade in a local children’s business competition in her hometown of Austin, Texas, her product was a hit. She began her company, Me & The Bees Lemonade, donating a portion of the profits to organizations that save the bees. Now 14, Ulmer has found major success: Her lemonade is available at Whole Foods and other stores, plus she’s expanded her honey-infused product line and started her own bee-advocacy non-profit, Healthy Hive Foundation.
Easton LaChappelle's 8th grade science fair project turned into his life’s passion. Now, at the age of 21, he’s founded his own company, Unlimited Tomorrow, and is focused on making life-changing robotic limbs available and affordable for those who need it most. And it all starts with one young girl.
Param Jaggi is an American inventor known for building Algae Mobile, a device that converts carbon dioxide emitted from a car into oxygen.
Louis Braille invented Braille when he was just a teenager! His method of raised dots to help blind people read has changed the lives of countless people.