In this blog post, Middle School history teacher Kori Brown discusses the goals of her World Cultures class to instill a sense of curiosity, cultural awareness, and empathy in her students. She gives tips on how to create "virtual international adventures" from your home. This article originally appeared on MainLineToday.com.
The overarching goal of my World Cultures History class at The Haverford School is to instill in the Middle School students a sense of curiosity about the world they inhabit. In order to achieve that goal, we spend the majority of our class time exploring the people, places, and events that helped shape our modern globalized society. We talk to students around the world. We visit notable cultural sites in other countries. We travel back in time by simulating historical events. And we do all of this from within our classroom.
As we transitioned into a virtual learning environment during the spring of 2020, I used these same methods and tools to design at-home global experiences for both my students and my own young children. Even though international travel has halted, global education has not. We can still teach kids cultural awareness, perspective-taking, and empathy so they can continue growing into responsible global citizens.
Kids are still eager to learn about the world, and parents have never had so many resources to help promote that curiosity. Here are a few tips for creating some virtual international adventures of your own:
Make it personal. Educators recognize that students better comprehend and retain information when they feel that what they are learning is personally relevant to them. Use this to your advantage.
- First ask, “Where in the world would you like to go?” If they need some help brainstorming, let younger kids spin a globe or pick a place from a map. Have older children scour the Atlas Obscura to find some places or cultures that intrigue them.
- Then ask “What interests you?” Use the answer as a jumping off point. For example, my students who strongly identify as athletes often begin exploring a new country by watching videos of the sports that are played there. Foodies search for the most common dishes. Musicians look up traditional instruments. Establishing personal connections and identifying similarities is often the first step on the path to cultural understanding.
Make it experiential. When designing global education lessons, educators use multisensory, interactive activities to bring the world to life for their students. There are many ways to replicate these experiences at home.
- Take a 360° aerial tour of a city using AirPano.
- Use Google’s Arts and Culture app to “walk” through the Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan or “sit” in the audience at a concert by the Suanplu Chorus in Bangkok, Thailand.
- Visit YouTube to “swim” through the underwater Museo Atlántico in the Canary Islands.
- Check out Universal Yums to experience the flavors of different countries.
- For a wide variety of experiential activities from different cultures, order Global Kids, a deck of games, crafts, and recipes compiled by award-winning global educator Homa Tavangar.
- Reach out to people in other countries. At The Haverford School, we use a platform called PenPal Schools to connect with kids around the world. Such exchanges allow students to learn about other cultures, ask questions, and share their own experiences.
Make it fun. Educators use the term “gamification” to describe lessons that incorporate elements of puzzles, board games, or video games. When students see learning as a series of playable activities, they are far more likely to remain engaged.
- My students love to solve mysteries and play content-based escape rooms. At home, you can try out a world cultures-themed escape box through Finders Seekers.
- As you learn about a new culture, try out the language. Duolingo is a gamified app that makes learning a language fun for students of all ages.
- Use everyday items from around your house to re-create a work of art, an historical event, or a cultural heritage site. For example, Haverford School eighth graders researched and replicated famous works of art at home for the Getty Challenge, staged historical events with LEGO minifigures, and built iconic landmarks out of food.
These tips are by no means a comprehensive checklist or sequential roadmap, like a classroom syllabus. Rather, they are suggestions for experiences you can craft at home in order to further the higher goal of global education: to develop the skills of open-mindedness and communication that will equip your children to contribute to an ever-changing world. By helping your child explore other cultures, establish connections, and acknowledge different perspectives, you can reinforce the idea that there is more than one way to see our world.
Kori Brown is a Form II World Cultures teacher at The Haverford School. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and Masters degrees from Williams College and Columbia University. Prior to her arrival at Haverford, Kori taught undergraduate core curriculum classes at Columbia University, and worked in the education departments at the Hood Museum of Art, Clark Art Institute, and Morgan Library & Museum. She has presented on the topic of global education at conferences hosted by the International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC), Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), and National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).
For more information on The Haverford School, please visit haverford.org/admissions.