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Global education in Broward County

13 November 2017

This post features my district’s Global Scholars Coordinator, Camille Edwards, who wrote this piece originally for Education Week. Take it away, Camille!

Beginning its third year at Broward County Public Schools, the Global Scholars program offers students in 18 middle schools an opportunity to interact with their peers around the globe. This school year, the initiative is projected to provide this opportunity to 1,200 Broward students.

Global Scholars an online, interactive, theme-based, educational program connects middle school students to other middle school students worldwide, using internet-based educational activities, project-based learning, differentiated learning, and other instructional strategies. Using interactive e-classrooms and curriculum materials provided by Global Cities, Inc., a program of Bloomberg Philanthropies, teachers create effective blended learning for their students to learn and communicate about important global issues that impact their cities. Students communicate with their peers in groupings called “collaborations” with eight to ten other cities, nationally and internationally. This year’s collaborations will be selected from 29 countries and 58 cities in four continents.

Fitting Into Busy Schedules

To ensure the program meets learning needs and scheduling priorities, as well as the minimum requirement of two-hour weekly participation, Broward has successfully used three implementation models. Classes scheduled as an elective are the most favored option to ensure the content-rich curriculum and resources are implemented with fidelity and students have sufficient time to complete the learning activities. When the topic is appropriate with specific curriculum content areas, the program is incorporated as part of classes such as social studies, science, and language arts. Some schools are choosing to implement the program as an afterschool opportunity. In this manner the program extends the learning beyond the school day.

Student Reactions

Students are excited about communicating internationally. They love to learn about different cultures and they appreciate the opportunity to discuss global issues and to share its local impact. They enthusiastically engage in project-based learning. Perhaps the most amazing by-product is that students now see relevancy in their learning by connecting curriculum to real-world applications. A student shared, “Global Scholars has helped me to understand other countries…I now see the world moving forward at a fast pace and if I want to lead a pleasant life, I need an education, commitment and willpower.” Another student who enjoyed the skyping and project-based learning aspects also found an opportunity to improve conversations with parents, “every day when I go home I talk about the amazing things we are doing in Global Scholars.” Another student’s sharing reflects the general feelings of most, “Global Scholars has taught me about places I never knew existed. It really helped me to grow and increase my knowledge.”

The Community Action Program, the initiative’s culminating activity, allows students to demonstrate mastery of digital skills acquired during last year’s curriculum. Students are challenged to identify and create solutions for local challenges that have a global impact, an important component of any global learning curriculum.  It was interesting to note what concerns Broward’s students as reflected in their project choices which included cyber bullying, E-waste, water pollution, texting while driving, and food waste, to name a few of the more popular project topics. They designed websites, created mobile apps, developed public service announcements, conducted electronic campaigns, and completed digital presentations. About the experience a student said, “Global Scholars has encouraged many students to get out of their comfort zones and allows us to think more realistically while still being creative.” Another student stated, “the program taught us how to be globally savvy. We created a recycling program at our school and put it into action by talking to companies and programs to help us devise and plan a systematic schedule that will work at our school.

“Feeding Our Cities” is this year’s theme. Students will begin exploring the global food systems and its impact on other cities around the world. They will learn about nutrition, food access, food’s influence on public health, and the complex systems used to grow and distribute food in their city and other cities around the world. Previous years’ curriculum have focused on life in the digital age, how cities could become more sustainable in the face of challenges such as climate change and population growth, vital urban interests in water and concerns about environmental sustainability, and food and nutrition encouraging students to examine why what we eat is important to individual and community health, including global issues like food security.

Broward is proudly developing global citizens who are becoming tech-savvy experts, improving their English language communication and proficiency with their 21st century skills. These students are grasping the relevancy of the learning experience in middle school.

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