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Global Education

Three Takeaways from the United We Teach Summit: Connecting Students to the World

With six presenters and educators from 18 countries around the world, the United We Teach Summit created powerful moments of learning and connection. We hope the sessions inspire other educators to consider ways they, too, can engage students through global topics.

Read on for three actionable takeaways for connecting students to the world around them!

1. Identify real-world connections and link them to tangible outcomes.

Connect back to your community. Help students understand and find their place in their community. Make global connections relevant and meaningful to students. With Sustainable Development Goals in mind, find ways to get students curious about their own environment. Together you can explore the commonality between what’s happening at the local level and the global issues communities face all over the world. At each stage, allow students to explore, ask questions, and share their ideas for how to make a difference.

In particular, find ways to work together as a school to link initiatives to tangible outcomes. Host a global fair, and plan for all proceeds and donations to go toward a student-selected charity that supports the community at large. Organize a food drive to teach about Sustainable Development Goal #2, Zero Hunger, then donate canned goods to a local food bank. These efforts help students develop into future leaders who are making a difference in the lives of others from a young age.

2. Make memorable moments for your students through special guests.

COVID-19 has presented unique opportunities for meaningful connections around the world. Set yourself and your students up for success when inviting a special guest by preparing your class with background knowledge and inquiry questions. Create feelings of anticipation and excitement before the day of the activity to make the experience more rewarding and have a greater impact for your guest. Connect with your special guest before the presentation to answer any questions and discuss their needs and expectations.

Help your students imagine their future and what a career could look like for them. Consider people from your local community as sources of inspiration for students. It also serves as an opportunity for students to gain insight from a subject matter expert.

Nothing compares to having someone with first-hand experience visit your classroom to share with students. It’s important for students to learn from people of all ages, to add generational variety to their discussions and perspective. Students are often curious and engaged when they hear from someone new. Harness that curiosity by choosing special guests that will tie back into your units for greatest impact.

3. Structure global connections around project-based learning.

Effective global learning often happens through a cross-curricular approach. Project-based learning can incorporate research, science, social studies, and mathematics all at once. How much time you spend on a project with a global connection is up to you as the teacher. Projects can range from as short as a weeklong unit that investigates a single question, to an eight-to-ten-week project that is incorporated over an entire quarter of the school year through many content areas. If students find a topic particularly engaging, you can always adjust the timeline to maximize their learning.

Instead of shortening other lessons or reducing overall instructional time in any subject area, find ways to seamlessly integrate Sustainable Development Goals and global issues into the curriculum. Students will be exposed to all the standards they need to learn while doing so through real-world content. To see this in action, check out Katie Gourlay’s session where she talks about water projects between her class and a class in Malawi.

Interested in more takeaways? Each session from the United We Teach Summit was recorded and is available within the United We Teach Community of Practice. Visit this page to join our free United We Teach Community, a global gathering place for educators to discuss ideas and engage in weekly live chats.

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