Saturday, June 14, 2014

Flattening the Globe, One Voice at a Time


This year, in order to expand student understanding of others' lives and perspectives, I designed a course called Voices Across the Globe. Initially, the plan was to have regular communication with a couple of different classrooms around the globe. However, I realized that if I wanted students to develop empathy and respect for others, I should not expect other teachers to alter their curriculum to fit my vision. Moreover, a key skill that the students will need to have in the future is the ability to make global connections. I changed the course design to teach students how to make and develop those connections in concert with an issue that mattered to each individual student. During the term, students tried to make contact with a variety of people around the globe who had involvement and interest in their topics. They kept a process journal to log their contacts, reactions, questions, obstacles, and solutions for overcoming the obstacles. Their culminating assignment was to present their findings to their classmates. A sampling of the topics, students chose to explore included:

* the plight of orcas in captivity by Paige (grade 10)
* pop art around the globe by Eunhye (grade 12)
* global food security by Laura (grade 11)
* plastic pollution in the oceans by Elizabeth (grade 10)
*how people around the world respond to Alzheimer's by Rita (grade 12)

Some of the highlights of the presentations included:

*Global Water Crisis- Haley (grade 11) introduced us to a new device, The Drinkable Book , whose case serves as a water filter container. Each page provides safe water information and then is placed in the case as a water filter;

*Global student film-making- Brooke (grade 10) created this film with the combined voices of student film-makers around the world

* Spoken word poetry-Chanler (grade 11) inspired an internationally known slam poet to create a googledoc in which dozens of students from around the world have added their thoughts, poetic lines, and inspirations. Chanler developed her own "open poem" by starting with the line "I have yet to find an alias". Each author was invited to add a few lines. Here it is:

    "The Poem"
I have yet to find an alias
(Chanler, 16, Baltimore, MD)
For years I have put on capes and masks;
A musical chair of identities
(Alex Dang, nationally known slam poet, Portland, OR)
But what will I be when the music stops?
(Carolyn, 15, Baltimore)
A scarecrow guarding a dead crop-
Someone pretending to be who they're not.
(Diane, 21, Canada)
Maybe I'll yank 'me' out of a top hat,
Or maybe I'll be hiding under wood shavings
Stuck, stuck, stuck at home
Until someone else lifts my plastic house away.
(Caroline, 21, Alabama)
This search is a series of illusions,
One after another,
Each more mysterious and playful than the next.
(Julia, 19, Albany, NY)
I have yet to find an alias; but the music leads me along my way.
Perhaps, the search is the source.
Perhaps, a disguise is all I need.
(Chanler, 16, Baltimore)
Their sharing and learning was a joy for all of us.