Creating a “Glocal” Curriculum

Find out how educators can implement a "think global, act local" mindset in their classrooms.

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thinking globally, acting locally in the classroom

As our world becomes increasingly globalized, we, as educators, are looking for more ways to bring the “think globally, act locally” or “glocal” mentality into our classrooms.

Certain educational models support this approach, yet we are still mostly reliant on our own resources and creativity in the classroom to create a diverse curriculum.

In addition to teaching social studies, I lead the dual Model United Nations and Global Action programs at Annie Wright Schools. This hybrid activity is one way we combine classroom learning with real-world experience. We take the topics debated in Model UN — from sustainable development to human rights and migration — and look for opportunities to apply these lessons in our community.

For example, we hosted a student-led forum for mayoral candidates last election season.

This gave students a first-hand account of how a democracy functions. They were faced with practical challenges — what questions do we ask the candidates? What concerns do we have that we want to voice? They came up with a brilliant solution — reach out to students in our Upper Schools, Middle School, and Lower School to gather feedback. They also created presentations on relevant local issues. This was not only an excellent opportunity for our students to present on pressing issues, but it also gave them insight into how democratic institutions work to create harmony among a variety of constituents.

In my social studies class, I wanted to help my students engage with the community.

I challenged them to identify one organization to get involved with as part of our year-long social studies curriculum. The students chose a range of non-profit organizations — from Diversion, an organization that identifies creative, alternative punishments to jail time for juveniles, to an initiative to stop an LNG plant from opening in our area. This experience allowed them to apply their textbook lessons and knowledge of other communities around the country. It also gave them a sense of ownership and feel for the direct impact they could make in our world.

While these are just a few examples, a similar approach can be applied to almost any classroom. Here are a few steps that I have found most helpful when starting the process.

  • Determine your classroom values.

    I typically take my class through a values exercise at the beginning of the year. You can use a simple deck of value cards. I have each student choose their top values and share with the class. We then review these together and identify the common themes among our students. These values become the basis for our future projects.

  • Explore student interests.

    Once we have our values in place, I often challenge our students to explore their individual interests. They do this by taking 2-3 sticky notes each and sharing the top social or community issues they are most passionate about. Students are encouraged to think big—from preserving the Amazonian rainforest to stopping human trafficking. Then, we take a step back and look and what common themes have emerged. From there, we focus in on how a global issue or concern manifests locally and find a way to get involved.

  • Research community issues.

    We will often contact our local city council for insight and intelligence. Another alternative is having students research local organizations involved in the identified topic areas and contact them directly—why reinvent the wheel when we can tap our local experts? For younger students, we may explore community issues on a smaller scale, by assessing challenges within our school. For example, is there a leak in the gym we could evaluate and propose a resolution, do we consistently have a hard time with the transition from lunch to the first period after, etc.?

  • Give students a stake in the game.

    Challenge students to shape their own projects with your guidance. Ideally, they will even come back and teach a lesson to the rest of the class. The more they have direct responsibility and ownership in their education, the more they will engage and feel inspired to learn more. Dividing the class into sub-committees on a topic creates a sense of ownership and expertise, and students are often very proud to share their knowledge with their peers.

  • Look for cross-collaboration.

    Approach other teachers across a variety of subjects and see if they would like to partner with your class for a project. For example, history and science are a great pair for evaluating environmental issues in the community. Outside of other subjects, you may explore other school activities like the school newspaper or sports for cross-collaboration. The more we deconstruct the walls of the school, the more students realize the things they care about can be analyzed and impacted on multiple disciplinary levels.

Above all else, think big and start small. You can start with one activity or lesson plan and go from there. Begin engaging in the discussion and take it one step at a time and everyone will benefit from the process!

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Author Bio:

Katherine Everitt is an Upper School social studies teacher at Annie Wright Schools. An avid orator and logician, Katherine also coaches the Model UN team and leads the Global Action activity. Crafting a strong argument is at the heart of Katherine's pedagogy. She believes young women and men who can confidently and coherently express their beliefs are a force to be reckoned with! Katherine earned her BA in Government and History at Georgetown University and her MS in Global Politics at the London School of Economics.

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