Critical-Thinking Projects for High School Kids

By Rosenya Faith
Critical thinking skills help your teen think things through.
Critical thinking skills help your teen think things through.

Encourage your teen to learn and develop critical thinking skills to help her become an effective problem-solver in school, in peer relationships and later on in adulthood. If your teen can learn to become a critical thinker, she will be able to address complex problems by viewing and investigating circumstances objectively and coming to intelligent and rational decisions.

Argue an Issue

If your teen loves to challenge house rules, use her talent to encourage her critical thinking skills. Present your teen with an issue in society, politics or school and have her research the topic to present a compelling argument for each side. Arguing for one and then the other side of an issue can help your teen think objectively and look various sides of an issue. The more controversial the issue, the more thought and debate the issue can provoke, so opt for the most controversial subject you feel comfortable with your teen discussing. You can start off small to introduce your teen to critical thinking and then encourage her to develop those skills with increasingly more controversial topics.

Bust Advertising Secrets

Ads are designed to capture your teen’s attention and persuade her that she needs what they’re selling, so help your teen figure out what they’re up to by applying critical thinking skills to advertisements. Find a variety of TV, radio and print ads that would be compelling to the teenage population and present each of them to your teen. Have her review the ads one at a time and then discuss who is behind each one, what product or service is being marketed, what claims are being made about the product and how the advertisers are trying to draw in the consumer. Next, have your teen use what's she's learned to create an ad for a product or service of her choice. Encourage her to make it as compelling as possible and then decide where she would post her ad to reach her target audience.

Solve a Problem

Help your teen flex her critical thinking skills to address a real issue in society. If she’s an environmental enthusiast, help her choose an issue, such as deforestation, pollution or endangered species and have her use her critical thinking skills to find solutions on a small or large scale. To help combat pollution, she could create a plan to recycle at home, talk to her neighbors about the importance of recycling, post signs around the school, and get involved in park and neighborhood cleanup efforts. If your teen loves animals, have her devise a plan to help reduce animal cruelty, abandonment or overpopulation. She could choose to only adopt pets from animal shelters, volunteer her time there to help out the nonprofit organization, encourage friends and family to adopt pets from shelters, have their pets spayed or neutered and take part in walkathons and other campaigns to raise money and awareness about animal issues.

Make Society Perfect

Encourage your teen to create her own idea of a perfect society. Start by making a list of all the issues that must be addressed in the project, such as government, work, finances, defense, daily life and a justice system. Have your teen think about the values and goals of her society and the rights the society's citizens would have. She should determine whether the society would be led by political authority or voluntary cooperation, and if voluntary, how decisions would be made. Encourage your teen to address social stratification and decide whether she would retain the use of money. Talk about whether all workers would receive equal compensation or would more difficult work receive more compensation, and how would job placement be determined? Have your teen weigh the benefits and consequences of a formalized system for criminals and a society where the community or individuals are responsible for dealing with criminal behavior. Return to the same project in a year’s time to see whether she would make any changes to the society.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.