As you know, each month I feature an expert in education or a related field. This month I'm happy to introduce you to Becky Morales from the amazing website Kid World Citizen. We had a wonderful discussion about the what, how, and why of Global Education. Below you can read our correspondence.
I Started Kid World Citizen for adoptive parents so they can teach their kids about their heritage culture. I started because my kids are adopted. At first, Kid World Citizen focused on my kids’ heritages, but I wanted them to learn about cultures all around the world. As a teacher I thought about how I could help other teachers do this too. I wanted something easy for teachers to use since they are so bogged down already. I happen to have lots of resources around me to create these lessons, so my educational partner and I also ended up writing a book to help teachers integrate simple lessons into what they were already doing.
The idea about global education is that you are integrating it across all disciplines. For example, if you are a music teacher you are looking at musical traditions from around the world, different instruments, different rhythms, different singers. You’re still teaching the same curriculum you would always teach and following the same standards, but you’re integrating some kind of global awareness into your existing curriculum. Let’s say we’re talking about science and you’re talking about recycling. You might look at Germany to see how they are doing it. If you’re talking about rain forests, also look at them on a map and compare the different types of forests around the world. If you are going to be reading Cinderella to your kids, read the Cinderella stories from around the world. It deepens the learning for kids.
Today's kids in general, no matter where you live, in order for us to be successful in the global economy of the world, we have to be able to understand people who have a different perspective. We have to work together with people from around the world in order to solve problems. They will need to be able to communicate across cultures, how to research from another perspective, be able to communicate with someone who has an accent. So, giving kids the chance to connect with other schools can allow them to have empathy with people far away and see how they solve problems that are part of their lives or countries. It opens their minds and helps them to be more creative. These are the skills we need to build peace in the world and to have a happy meaningful life. For example, 1+5 is 6, but so is 3+3. You both come to 6 so no one is wrong but you came to the same conclusion in a different way.
The Asia Society explains that there are four components to global ed: Investigate the world, Recognize Perspectives, Communicate Ideas, and Take Action. That is something we can teach even our littlest kids. One example was a day when we had kids bring their families to talk to the class. One of the grandparents mentioned that their family lives in a nursing home. She mentioned that a lot of the people who live in the nursing home were sad because not a lot of people come to visit them. The kids asked the teacher if they could make cards for the people in the nursing home. So, the thing about global education is not that you’ll necessarily be changing the whole world. You start locally. The kids saw a need and took action. They decided to make cards during their valentines day party and some kids got to go deliver them. That is global education because they are thinking outside of their immediate group, they considered another perspective, and then they took action. That is what global ed is trying to do. It’s about how we are all connected. The ideas for activities are student led, it’s finding something they are passionate about. This is why it’s important that teachers are given the ability to be flexible.
I can’t give you specific statistics of the top of my head, but I can tell you that kids want to get more involved. I can tell you a story about a Canadian class who Skyped with an Indonesian school just to talk about how their schools were similar or different. They completed the project in December before break. Over break the Tsunami hit in Indonesia, so when the Canadian kids came back from break they told their teacher they had to contact their Indonesian friends to make sure they were okay. They learned that their friends were on an island that was okay, but all the kids knew someone that was effected. So the two schools worked together to create a fundraiser. It is because of the initial project that the kids felt it was their duty to help, so they began to see how they can take responsibility and make a difference with their actions.
Scientifically being multilingual has cognitive benefits, high IQs, more creativity, because the way the brain is wired when you're multilingual is different then when you’re monolingual. But aside from the scientific studies, when you are able to speak another language you increase the amount of people you are able to talk to. Also, you begin to realize certain issues that culture might be talking about more or find more important. You learn that culture’s morals and values. It opens your brains so much more. And kids become more curious about the world around them.
I also incorporate culture into my ESL and my Spanish classes. One year I did a unit on Mexico, and a girl in my class told me she was never proud of being Mexican until she was in this class. “I never knew about my culture until I was in this class. My parents made me take Spanish because I was never interested before. After this year I want to take all four years.”
We live in an age where we are lucky because our libraries and the internet have so many resources. Apps and Skype can allow you to speak with native speakers, you can watch shows in another language, attend a church or community center that speaks another language, books, movies, radio. There are so many opportunities for our kids to be exposed, so it’s a lot easier now than it was a generation ago.
Thank you so much to Becky Morales for sharing with us your perspective as a Global Educator!
*Our conversation was so great! But too long for an article. So, this interview was edited for length and time.
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Emma B Perez