I had the distinct pleasure of presenting at GEBG’s annual national conference in New Orleans this past weekend. I was so nervous because it was my first national presentation and I wasn’t sure what to expect, however, the presentation was received so well by so many attendees and I have since received some great feedback about my presentation.
My presentation was entitled Globalizing Your Curriculum: Promoting Global Citizenship by Bringing the World Into Our Classrooms. The purpose of this presentation was to address teaching global competencies to students and how they are an essential part of being an educator in the 21st century. The benefits of teaching these skills to students and, in turn, future generations are immeasurable. Global education develops a skill of being able to view the world from different lenses; to develop a sense of empathy that is essential as part of the human spirit. The question is, how do we do that? Where do we start? This presentation will give tips on how to incorporate global issues into curriculums with specific examples that have worked in a science classroom. From weekly “hot topics” to in-depth Project-Based Learning initiatives, globalizing your curriculum is a way to expose your students to life outside the walls of their schools and helps to foster curiosity of other cultures and countries. We live in a world that grows smaller every day, as advances in technology have shortened the distance between “us and them”. It’s important for our students to develop the perception that there is unity within diversity and give them a sense of belonging to a larger world community.
As educators, we need to make a commitment to real world learning for our students. We need to provide opportunities for our students that encompass authentic and meaningful learning experiences that will encourage our students to become the solution-seekers and problem-solvers of the 21st century. The development of students as global citizens is a monumental task turned over to the teachers that guide them through the learning process. There is no specific place within our curriculum that speaks specifically to “global education” because it is a fluid and all-encompassing focus that should be interwoven throughout. The question is then, how do I bring the world into my classroom in an authentic and meaningful way?
The secret to globalizing the curriculum is that it can be done in small pieces, one at a time, that add up to a comprehensive world-view by the end of the year. In my curriculum, I set aside time each week for my students to present their “hot topics”. Hot Topics involve any topic pertaining to biology that is new and exciting around the world. The student researches and plans their mini-presentation (as a homework assignment) and is prepared to take questions after they present. Each presentation takes 2 – 3 minutes and inevitably leads to in-depth discussion about a region or the research that was presented.
I also use Project-Based Learning (PBL) activities to incorporate intensive global study. PBL is the tool that allows me to cultivate these essential skills with my students: collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and empathy. These skills are what will be useful to our students as they enter the global workforce. It is clear that they will be called upon in the near future to solve immense global challenges, and in preparation for these challenges, I ask them to solve real world problems in a very authentic manner. From designing a cell-based sensor for early detection of an Ebola infection, to creating recipes for the World Food Bank to aide the global food crisis, to using cellular respiration/photosynthesis as a platform to research and propose solutions to our energy problems, my students are thinking, designing, researching, and intelligently proposing solutions to very real world issues.
Because I teach biology and infectious diseases, the entire world has a place in my classroom. When we are talking about Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration, I can ask my students why deforestation in Brazil is negatively affecting Greenland; which allows for discussion of these regions and their ecosystems, the different environmental concerns for each region, global climate change and how much humans are contributing to it, and I can then ask my students to propose a solution to this problem. The Ebola outbreak has been a fantastic case study for my Infectious Diseases class in terms of immunology, epidemiology, socio-economic status and the relationship that has with access to appropriate medical care, medicine, ethics, the geography of Africa and specifically the “malaria belt” and why this area is so prevalent with disease. I ask my students to propose a solution to the late identification of an Ebola sickness or a solution that address the reintroduction of survivors back into their communities. The possibilities are endless when using strategies of project-based learning with students and these projects require a level of critical thinking, empathy, and collaboration from our students that other learning tools simply do not.
I have a number of specific examples that can be modified for immediate use in classrooms across division and subject area. This presentation will cover various strategies for incorporating global awareness into the curriculum that will be beneficial to students but will not be overwhelming for the educator. As with all things, this kind of teaching takes practice but, the difference in the classroom once it is implemented is incredible. The discussions that evolve from this globalization of the curriculum are so valuable to the student and to the educator.
Specific examples that this session addressed:
“Hot Topics” – these are a 2 – 3 minute presentations by the students, on a weekly basis, that discuss a hot topic in science. This is not limited to global issues or research but generally revolves around both
Project-Based Learning Experiences – These projects provide authentic learning experiences for students that require in depth research and understanding of larger global problems that need solutions. PBL examples are:
- The Ebola Pandemic
- “Feed My Starving Children” Campaign
- Human Genetics Disorder Project
- Photosynthesis: How does deforestation in Brazil affect the poles?
- Microbial Pathogenesis Paper
- History of HIV
- The Malaria Belt in Africa
- The Flu of 1918 – how an epidemic becomes a pandemic
- Invasive Species Pop Up Books
Weekly podcasts and discussions – stitcher
This presentation also listed a plethora of ideas for educators to use to globalize their classrooms throughout the year.
Before I had even left the room, I was already getting supportive tweets from people that attended the session and found it helpful. I had one Head of School from North Carolina ask if his Department Head could contact me to talk about globalizing the curriculum and project based learning. I had another teacher ask if she and some of her colleagues could come observe me teach. And, I had one amazing non-profit group from California ask if I would be willing to consult with them on science curriculum for international trips. All in all, it was a great presentation!