Monday, March 30, 2009

Global Weekend

So--how was your global weekend?

You say you didn't have a particularly global weekend?

Well, let's see . . . .

You were online at some point, certainly. So you were part of a community of communication, along with millions of others all over the world.

You enjoyed meals, for sure. How many were international, at least in part? (Even if you don't count the pizza!) How many included ingredients that are enjoyed all over the world? (Rice, for instance, is an important staple not only in Asia, but in Latin America as well. And the peanut butter you slathered on your sandwich is very big in West Africa.)

How about the clothes you choose to wear? Which were manufactured or at least assembled in Asia or Latin America, or elsewhere?

Maybe you were a little surprised by what you've just read--and maybe you're suddenly thinking of more and more everyday global connections you've been making without really thinking about it. If you're teaching globally, it's important to be conscious of these small realities, so you can make use of them.

This week, make a resolution to become more conscious of everyday global connections. Get a small notebook and keep it with you. Whenever you realize you're connecting global in your everyday life, make a note of it. At the week's end, take a look at all the connections you've made and think of how life would be different without them. Challenge your students to do the same.

And enjoy a global week!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

World News(papers and otherwise)

When I was a freshman in high school, my social studies teacher insisted that we read the editorial section of the newspaper on Sunday and bring it in every Monday. In small groups, we'd talk about the issues featured in the section, and then we'd come together as a class for a formal discussion (and you'd better be ready to cite your source!). It was a great way to begin each week, and reminded us of the connections between local, national, and global spheres.

Local newspapers still offer us that weekly "roundup" opportunity. And there are more possibilities than ever to read and discuss global news connections in the classroom.

The New York Times is available online, as most know. But now you can also read the global edition of the Times, published in collaboration with International Herald-Tribune. And did you know that posts news stories published in African newspapers? The BBC World News is another great source for international updates and stories. If you're interested in seeing what's making the front page in cities around the world, take a look at the Newseum site (click on a world region to choose a city and view).

Take advantage of the global news online. Choose a news event with global connections, divide the class into groups, and ask each to read about it in a different online news source. Come together as a class and discuss the different perspectives you find in the reporting. A good way to begin the discussion is to read aloud the first sentence or paragraph (the lead, or lede) of each source. That will reveal what each source identifies as the most important point of the story.

Are they all the same? Probably not! Perspective shapes our perceptions. The view from Chennai is not the same as the view from Charlotte. But both views are worth exploring and discussing, because learning experiences that widen our perspectives deepen our understanding of the world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Vernal Equinox: Perfect Balance

Friday, March 20th marks the vernal equinox--the day on which Earth experiences a perfect balance. We'll have twelve hours of darkness and twelve hours of light.

In the northern hemisphere, we'll be moving into spring and summer, and so the light will grow each day (as it has been since the winter solstice, last December 21st). In the southern hemisphere, we'll be moving into autumn and winter, and so the dark will grow each day (as it has been since last December 21st).

Windows to the Universe
offers great information, ideas, and lessons plans for introducing your students to the very global subject of astronomy. Lesson plans and resources are available in both Spanish and English. If you'll be teaching the vernal equinox, you can find information and diagrams suitable for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students.

National Geographic offers an activity with a fun scientific/cultural spin at A Reason for the Season on its Xpeditions site. Related activities for all grade levels are included.

Here's wishing you perfect balance! Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beyond Leprechauns and Shamrocks

It's almost St. Patrick's Day. Why am I bracing myself?

It's those nightmarish memories of being forced to color in acres of shamrock outlines in elementary school. Those hideous-looking leprechaun images. What kind of celebration was this, anyway?

Because my family was Irish, I knew just how far off the usual class activities were from real Irish culture. Where was the music? The dancing? The poetry? Irish language, besides "Erin Go Bragh"? How about "hello"? (It's "Dia duit," pronounced "dee-a-gwith.")

We can lose an important opportunity for cultural learning when we grab the first thing available for a holiday. Instead of getting out the leprechauns and shamrocks, play some authentic Irish music for your class. Have them listen to a recording of William Butler Yeats reading his poetry. Imagine how much deeper a discussion of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" would be if everyone's just heard the poet speak the words himself.

And here's a great story for St. Patrick's Day. Caroline Duggan teaches art in an elementary school in the Bronx, very far from her native Ireland. When she shared her culture, it opened the world for her students.

Think about coloring shamrocks. Now think about learning to do something so well you get to travel to Ireland and appear on television.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is Globalization Dead?

Remember the joke in Citizen Kane about the failing global economy in the thirties? A reporter innocently asks Charles Foster Kane, just returned from abroad, "how did you find business conditions?"

Orson Welles, as Kane, mockingly repeats the question, and then answers, "with great difficulty!"

We may be hearing that sarcastic remark for some time to come. According to today's World Bank report, the global economy will shrink in 2009 for the first time since World War II.

If you've been teaching with Globalization 101, you'll be familiar with their definition of Globalization as a dramatic increase in connections between people of different nations, driven principally by finance and technology. So what happens when global finance starts to contract sharply? Is that the end of the global connections?

Not entirely. The effects of globalization are cultural, environmental, and political, as well as economic. The changes--good and bad--that have been set in motion by globalization will likely continue. As educators, we can continue to encourage the growth of the ties between our students and students all over the world. Global awareness and understanding is still possible, and is even more critical, as the situation stresses the economies of all nations, particularly the poorest.

Keep yourself informed, as always. A good source of information for educators is Globalization 101's news analyses on the situation as it develops.

Monday, March 2, 2009

World Wide Weather

March has come in like a lion. But the daffodils are still poking their heads through the wet snow. It'll be a mixed bag for weather this month, but we're on the way to spring!

How's the weather in other parts of the world in March? On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World's Weather offers the answer for over a dozen different locations, from the Arctic to Australia. Marilyn Singer's poetic text is engaging and simple without being simplistic, while Frane Lessac's illustrations of snowy and steamy landscapes delight the eye and the imagination. Your own copy should cost less than $10, but the book is available in many community libraries (hopefully your own school media center, too).

Younger students will love this read-aloud-and-share-the-pictures treat. And you'll know you're covering goals in language arts, social studies, and science in a global context. It's a very visual and specific addition to the standard globe-and-flashlight presentation on seasons. Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end for a great explanation of seasonal reversal and global climate patterns. If you're beginning the day with a weather report, as many teachers in the primary grades do, the learning here will add a great global context.

Middle and high school students can share On the Same Day in March with younger students as part of a volunteer or service learning project in a community library or a school program. Bring along a globe and a box of seasonal items (gloves, scarf, umbrella, sun hat, etc.) After the reading, play "what should I wear?" With the older students' help, the younger students dip into a grab bag of locations, pull one out ("Kenya"), find it on the globe, and then choose what they might wear for the March weather there.

Maybe we can't do anything about the weather, especially in mad March. But let's use the opportunity to teach globally!