Global Education Starts Here
A visiting author once described my classroom as “The United Nations,” which was a rather clever but complementary way to recognize the many languages spoken by my students. At last count, over 10 languages are spoken. In addition to our official languages of English and French, native speakers of Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Turkish, Italian, Mandarin, Tamil, Punjabi, and Spanish are represented. In addition, some 60 different cultures are represented in our school, a new school built about 7 years ago in a middle-class suburb of Toronto, Canada.
Surprisingly, racial problems are few and far between, making the United Nations moniker even more “apropos.” Students are given the opportunities to communicate one with another and frequently celebrate differences and similarities.
Many students have lived or at least traveled to other parts of the world. Events in countries far and near are often openly discussed. Even at Grade 7, students spent considerable time initiating discussions about the recent federal election, the Presidential election in America, the current events in India, Thailand and Canada (in case it hasn’t yet hit the media south of the border, the minority government led by the Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be replaced with a controversial coalition government led by the rejected centrist Liberal Party, propped up by the social-democractic New Democratic Party and the separatist Parti Québécois after a vote of non-confidence in Parliament). But I digress.
My students have a broad world-view because they are the world. They represent it. So does our teaching staff. Cultures, countries and religions represented by my colleagues include: India, Mauritius, Singapore, Vietnam, Greece, Portugal, Guatemala, French-Canadian, Aboriginal, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, and Jewish.
Our school does not begin and end at the schoolyard gate. We raised $14,000 in support of victims of the Tsunami in 2004. On two occasions we have raised over $10,000 and sent a small contingent of students and teachers to Honduras in Central America to build schools in poverty stricken, remote areas. Our Green Team worked tirelessly for three years to protect the wetland adjacent to our school that was slated for development.
It is natural then, that our students have been involved in global and environmental education. They actively are “the change we wish to see in the world”. (Gandhi)
Each year, classes are challenged to complete a project together around a theme. This year’s project has as its focus, the environment, a response to our theme for the year: “We are all connected.” Last year’s goal was to raise money for Honduras. After the class saw the series of “Where the Hell is Matt?” videos, in which a young traveler danced around the world, they decided that they wanted to create a video to educate the world about an environmental issue. They chose the problem of bottled water, a significant producer of energy and environmental waste. They have researched the problem and have written a series of fact sheets and slogans that can be used by classes, friends and family around the world. People have been invited to send a short video clip of their group announcing, in their local language, an important fact or message about the problems related to bottled water. The class will be editing, adding music and fact titles. The emails have been sent out. We have our first video clip sent from Australia, with a Thai class filming this week. The class hopes the video will “go viral” on Youtube.
Global education, it seems, is alive and well at Ruth Thompson Middle School, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
**Adendum- I took an official language count and we totalled 14. Some were languages I had never heard of.