Preparing Students for an Ever-Changing World
How do we prepare our students for a world that is ever changing? 24/7 sound bites do not provide students or adults with an understanding of global events. How do we promote an understanding of the world around us and encourage the citizenship skills for our next generation?
While students are taught these valuable life lessons in Social Studies classrooms throughout our state, one approach has gained particular praise. I would like to share with you the curriculum concept that Kimberly Leegan, Westfield High School Social Studies teacher, has created for ninth graders enrolled in Global Perspectives. The innovative endeavor, entitled the “Adopt a Country” project has earned Ms. Leegan the 2016 Christa McAuliffe Reach for the Stars Award, which will be presented by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) next year.
The “Adopt a Country” project allows students to learn more than just sound bites about the countries they hear so much about in the news today. Students are engaged in learning about the rich history, culture, and people of these countries and to educate, not only themselves, but their classmates. They are challenged to answer the question: “What does it mean to be a global citizen?”
Beginning in September, the ninth graders adopt a country to study its culture, geography, and traditions. During the second half of the year, they explore contemporary challenges their country faces (social, political, civic, and economic). Students then are challenged to propose a service project that would ‘make a difference’ and pave the way for solutions to these complex global problems. The final product of their research is the creation of ‘Adopt A Country Weebly Sites’ and supporting web quests which are exchanged and completed by classmates so that other students could benefit from their knowledge. The students end the year with the realization that citizenship takes action.
As the award winner and grant recipient, Ms. Leegan will receive a check for $2,500 for classroom materials such as the incorporation of Google expedition goggles which enable students to take virtual tours of countries. The grant money also will be set aside for guest speakers who will address the issue of global citizenship. Ms. Leegan and her Social Studies Supervisor, Andrea Brennan, co-authored the grant application.
The award, established in 1986, is meant to help classroom teachers “reach for the stars” and achieve a dream that under ordinary circumstances would not be fulfilled. It is gratifying that a fund like this exists to support research and classroom application projects which improve Social Studies education, foster enlightened citizenship, and promote civic competence. Ms. Leegan also has been invited to be a presenter at the 97th Annual NCSS Conference in San Francisco, CA, November 17-19, 2017, when she will discuss the implementation of her project.
Prominently positioned in a frame on my desk is a daily reminder of the responsibility we in the Westfield Public Schools have to our 6,300 students. Displayed in that frame is the district’s mission statement, updated this year during our strategic planning sessions. Our mission, in partnership with families and community, is to educate all students to reach their highest potential as productive, well-balanced and responsible citizens who respect individual differences and diversity in an ever-changing world.