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How Two Schools Are Thinking Globally and Taking Action Locally

Editor intro: Asia Society's International Studies Schools Network brings together educators from across the U.S. for its annual summer institute. At this year's institute, Asia Society intern, Vanderbilt University student, and Posse Foundation Fellow, Amaya Allen, had an opportunity to hear how two schools are using Asia Society's definition of global competence to empower their students to think globally while taking action locally.

By guest blogger Amaya Allen

It is no secret that schools are pushing for their students to become more globally aware. There has been noticeable momentum in recent years for teachers to teach subjects from a global perspective. To answer this demand, the International Studies Schools Network (ISSN) was formed in 2003. Since then, the network has amassed a membership from schools all over the country dedicated to incorporating project-based learning that tackles global topics into their curricula. 

Every year, the ISSN organizes conferences hosted at one of its Network schools. This year, the Academy for Global Studies at Austin High School hosted the three-day ISSN Summer Institute in Austin, Texas. The students, teachers, and administration had a plethora of programs and projects they presented to the network; however, they were not the only school to present how their school embraced global learning. Other schools, such as the Ambassador School for Global Education and the Jackson Academy for Global Studies, gave engaging workshops showcasing how their teachers adapt the four domains of global competence: Investigate the World, Recognize Perspectives, Communicate Ideas, and Take Action.

Ambassador School of Global Education: Travelling Tales

One teacher who exemplifies the use of technology to support global learning is Jose Rodriguez, an elementary school teacher at the Ambassador School of Global Education in Los Angeles. While following the curriculum the school gives him to ensure success for students academically, he goes above and beyond, using fun activities and technology to promote student interest. One such activity is "Travelling Tales," which he does with his fifth-grade class.

issn2.pngTravelling Tales, spearheaded by Joel Bevans, is an online program where students from schools all over the world create and build upon stories. Students are sorted by age and assigned an issue on topics that vary from environmental to social issues. Once assigned a topic or part of a story, students have 48 hours to work with their classmates to add on to the story, complete with drawings and voiceovers, which teachers then upload to Adobe Spark.

These stories not only introduce students to different topics such as pollution, they also introduce students to new parts of the world. "I think the teacher needs to be able to model what being a global citizen is all about," Rodriguez says. By collaborating with teachers from all around the globe (he follows the #TeachSDGs hashtag on Twitter for inspiration and to network with other teachers), Rodriguez purposefully puts his students in an environment where they are learning a California curriculum but applying it globally.

By doing this, Rodriguez' students are investigating the world to find a problem, learning about the problem and forming their own perspective on the issue, communicating their thoughts about the issue, and then taking action by posting it online for the world to see.

Jackson Academy for Global Studies: Battling the Opioid Crisis

The students of ISSN member school, the Jackson Academy for Global Studies (JAGS) at Jackson High School, are taking action by combating Ohio's opioid crisis. The students, guided by their principal Jeff Kracker, spearheaded at least two events in the 2017-2018 school year to help bring awareness about the crisis and support children who are affected by it.

One such event was JAGS' Model UN Conference, which focused on the opioid crisis. With help from coach and JAGS teacher Kathyrn Stone, students invited Drug Enforcement agents from the Ohio area to speak at their conference. After hearing more about the problem from the DEA agents, students serving as UN delegates came up with possible solutions to combat the crisis. They then proposed their ideas to the agents, who gave them feedback and resources to start the implemention process in their school. Stone says the students took the lead in coordinating the event: "They came up with everything: the theme, the thought to invite the agents, everything."

JAGS students are not just bringing awareness about the opioid crisis and coming up with possible solutions for it, they are taking action in their community and helping people affected by it. Every year during Jackson High Schools' Polar Bear Plunge, students, teachers, and administrators brave cold weather and icy conditions to take a dip in Ohio's Lake Cable to raise money for an organization of their choice. This past year, JAGS designated the money they raised for Pathways, an adoption and foster care agency for children who have been displaced as a result of the opioid crisis. According to their website, Pathways is "dedicated to the purpose of creating a culture of safe environments for children and their families." The high school as a whole raised $40,000 for 28 nonprofit organizations during their most recent Polar Bear Plunge.

These students are no doubt taking action in their community. However, their process hit a little closer to home. Instead of just investigating the world, "they're living through it," Stone says. "They see their friends and family members go through it. They knew they had to do something." The students took the lead, keeping the four domains of global competence in mind, while putting a dent in their community's problem. 

Both schools used the principles of global competence education to empower their students to take action on issues that mattered to them, whether an issue like pollution or chronic drug use that is right in their backyard. By fusing global learning in their curriculum, ISSN partner schools are grooming the next generation's future leaders.

Follow Amaya, Heather, and the Center for Global Education on Twitter.

Image created on Pablo.

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