||Volume 10, Number 7, May/June 1998|
Global Perspectives 12
by Ken Lorenz
Does counting 18 senior students, 3 supervising teachers, and 2 volunteer dentists, 19 hours by plane to get to Jakarta, then Central Java, and from there, a remote village called Ngentakrejo, nestled in dense jungle, one hour shy of the Indian Ocean sound like your normal field trip? Such is the nature of teaching Global Perspectives 12 at Richmond Secondary School.
In its 5th year, the course is aimed at students interested in international projects and Third World relief work after graduation. Many students who come from families who have worked overseas on projects in developing countries, have sponsored children, or have worked in organizations such as the Red Cross, CUSO, Oxfam, and UNICEF. They come from a globally conscious family environment. It was clear to me that our present curriculum had not specifically addressed the needs of these students who might be interested in pursuing this line of interest at a school level.
Global education is not a new concept; global awareness has long been a desirable outcome of student learning in a variety of subjects. The purpose for implementing Global Perspectives 12 in the Richmond Secondary curriculum was to give students a more concentrated, focussed, and detailed study under a prescribed guideline, such as: A “developing country” is selected in April or May, contacts are made (usually in a remote area of the country), and a work project is established before the course begins in September. The first month of study deals specifically with understanding what it means to become a global citizen. The document I use as a teaching aid was created by now retired SFU Professor Maurice Gibbons Toward a Universal Curriculum for a Global Generation.
The course has three phases: first, students begin learning about the country they will be travelling to and working in. Nine-to twelve-hour units in geography, history, sociology, political science, economics, religion, language, and fine arts are taught. This concentration gives students the opportunity to understand the country and the people they will be visiting. This approach not only makes them more mindful, respectful travellers, but also minimizes culture shock. Stepping off the plane, they feel more comfortable because they know what to expect, and how to respond to the varied cultural differences they will encounter.
Phase Two of the program is the actual field trip. Since the program’s beginning, students have studied, travelled, and worked in the rainforests of Ecuador, South America, in a deaf/mute orphanage in Lai Thieu, South Vietnam, in a co-op village in the Central Highlands of Guatemala, and most recently in the jungle of Ngentakrejo, Central Java, Indonesia.
The team of supervising teachers is essential because going to a developing country can be high-risk travel. The teacher of the course is the project co-ordinator and also during class sessions will introduce students to the various vaccinations needed including the orally taken malaria pill. Safety issues are dealt with extensively. As in most districts, a female sponsor teacher is required, and at Richmond Secondary, ESL teacher and long-time traveller Gwena Schuck handles all travel arrangements. The third supervisor is General Currie Elementary School teacher Kathy Lavery. She has a much needed background in nursing, and is often one of the busiest people on the trip, taking care of medical needs commonly associated with travelling in undeveloped regions.
Taking the classroom on the road
For our experience in Indonesia, while the course was in progress, students were fundraising for a project the village had identified for us. Our goal was to raise $11,000 for educational and playground materials. The materials were purchased here, sent by cargo and oceanliner in January to Jakarta, and then were taken to the village to be there for us when we arrived in March.
Students spent five days performing a number of activities. Some worked on the building and construction of six main playground structures including swings, sandboxes, tree houses, two ground-level playhouses, and a Pagoda-shaped games room. Others were given the opportunity to assist in some jungle medicine by working alongside our two volunteer dentists, Dr. Satim Kamani and Dr. Kevin Gee, who treated about 80 patients in five days. Another group assembled 24 pieces of multi-purpose classroom furniture made and donated by technical-education students. BCIT instructor Phil Esworthy has been a keen supporter of our program over the years.
One of the most important elements of the entire experience comes when the village people work alongside our students. Two different cultures working together for a common cause, having fun, cutting through the language barrier with smiles and other signs of recognition of friendship, is truly global education.
On the last day in the village, when all the project work was completed, a special ceremony was conducted. Close to 1,000 people attended, many in traditional Javanese costume. They came to honour us and our efforts. It was an emotional experience. Village representatives and the students made speeches, gifts were exchanged, and a plaque that recogized all schools and organizations back home that donated to this project was nailed to one of the structures we built. There were a lot of tears on that last day as our bus pulled out of the village. It was a quiet ride back to our accomodations in Yogakarta as we all reflected on our accomplishments and the friends we had made in a short time.
“Gobal Education means learning about those issues that cut across national boundaries and about the interconnectedness of systems, cultural, economic, and political. Global Education also involves perspective taking. It means the realization that while individuals and groups may view and live life differently, they also have common needs and wants.” –R. Hanvey
When students return from their field trip, there are exercises and evaluations. During the field trip, students are required to keep a journal, and it helps to bring things back into perspective. Many slides and photographs are taken, and students are required to make presentations to interested classes and to organizations and supporters within the community.
One of my personal goals is that students will want to become involved in the global community after graduation. For those going on to post-secondary education, we finish the year by introducing them to career options that include college and university programs offering courses in internationalism. How does one become a Canadian ambassador or consulate worker? What can one do with a degree in political science? How can one get involved with the United Nations, the Red Cross, Oxfam, or Amnesty International on a volunteer basis?
Global Perspectives 12 has provided the greatest number of challenges over my 23 years teaching. But it’s worth it! To build citizens and leaders for the 21st century, we as teachers must continuously strive to offer instruction that helps students to learn to see through the eyes, minds, and hearts of others.” – R. Hanvey
Ken Lorenz teaches at Richmond Secondary School, Richmond.
A professional development session is being organized for the October ’98 PD day. Registration information will be sent to your school in early September.