“Global education” has become a popular term recently. Most people use it to mean education that incorporates a global perspective, helping students to think and understand cultures and societies beyond their own.
On the East Side, the three N–12 independent schools have committed funding and time to expand their curricula to be more globally inclusive. As a result, more students are graduating with a deeper understanding of Providence and its place in the world, as well as their own roles as members of the local and global community.
Moses Brown School
Last month, Moses Brown (MB) hired a Director of Global Education, Dr. Gara Field. She is responsible for advancing the vision set forth in MB’s strategic plan and guiding their applied learning, travel and service programs. One of the cornerstones of this plan is MB TRIPs, or Travel, Research and Immersion Programs. These include upper school students traveling to the Dominican Republic, middle school excursions throughout New England, environmental science studies in Yellowstone National Park and adventure education in Colorado.
MB’s vision is not just for students to travel outside of our region; rather, Dr. Field is tasked with creating a program that “empowers students with skills necessary for navigating a flattened world and a new economy.” While TRIPs are a part of that program, the curriculum is also being expanded to include interdisciplinary and team-taught courses as well as programs that foster civic engagement and service and leadership opportunities.
As a history teacher herself, Dr. Field believes that her “responsibility as an educator is to make learning personal, relative and meaningful within the context of self, society and the world. Teaching should be a catalyst for self-knowledge and world understanding.”
Under the leadership of Head of School Suzanne Fogarty, Lincoln School offers many opportunities for girls to expand their horizons. In partnership with the World Leadership School, the school has a program that connects upper school students with people in the rural village of Chinchoti, India. In 2015, 13 students participated in interdisciplinary intensive seminars to prepare for their trip, learning about language, food and the cultural background of the area.
They then traveled to Mumbai, the Dharavi Slum and Chinchoti, where they lived alongside the villagers and spent time working and interacting with the children at an elementary school.
The goal of the India Program is to create lasting connections and deep understanding not only of another culture, but of one’s self and one’s own culture. Several months after their return, the students and faculty who participated in the India Program were invited to attend, via Skype, a wedding in Chinchoti, a testament to the close relationships fostered by the program.
Lincoln’s global education curriculum includes opportunities for younger students, as well. As a part of their human rights studies, all 8th grade students travel to New York City to visit the United Nations. Meeting with alumnae who work there, the girls tour the facility and learn about issues such as sustainability, global warming and international finance.
Wheeler School has embedded global education offerings into the existing curriculum. Head of the Upper School Neeltje Henneman explains that the school’s global education opportunities happen organically, springing up from student and faculty interests and alumni engagement and outreach. Curricular offerings include not only foreign languages, but also interdisciplinary and cross-cultural courses such as Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Revolution: From the Bastille to Tahrir Square.
The school’s popular Aerie program allows students to pursue individual interests and talents, and enriches the curriculum across all grades. Through Aerie, students in the Upper School learned over 20 languages last year, including Latin and Arabic. Past topics have included Advanced Economics, Political Thought and International Relations; many of these courses are taught by professors or graduate students from local universities. Lower School students completed units on diverse topics such as insects, India, Kenya and world geography.
Each year, 70 students participate in the Model UN program, learning about issues in developing and industrialized countries and collaborating with students from around the world. Several students choose to spend time in another environment through attending the Island School, High Mountain Institute, City Term and School Year Abroad. And, fueled by student interest, the faculty is investigating trips to Italy (to study art) and Iceland (to explore environmental science).