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Building a Global School

Monday, March 2, 2015  
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By Sarah Stewart

Global programs have become a staple at many independent schools; however, what those programs look like and include varies and is evolving. The resources available for connecting students to the world have exploded due to technology and the efforts of educators to collaborate on standards for global programs. Moreover, more schools have sought to integrate global competencies throughout a student’s career; setting foundations in the early years, and building toward greater service-learning and exchange trips. Also, due to the costs associated with global programs, schools often have to pursue additional sources of funding.

Cape Henry Collegiate in Virginia Beach, VA, begins its students’ global education curriculum in kindergarten, with language and cultural learning. As students get older, they are eligible for cultural immersion programs as well as service-learning and exchange trips. Upper school students can participate in a Global Scholars Program, which includes more advanced, critical study of other countries, research and service-learning trips, a senior thesis on a global topic, and a diploma distinction. 

When Lucy Willis signed up for Cape Henry Collegiate’s Global Scholars program, it was largely due to the prompting of her parents as a way to stand out on her college application. She was a freshman and had recently taken a trip to the Virgin Islands to study marine biology, which piqued her interest in global studies.

While unsure at first, Willis soon began to look forward to the weekly seminars on global topics. She thrived in the courses on comparative government and politics, as well as international business. She enjoyed participating in the travel programs and continued to sign up year after year. As a freshman, she was an exchange student for two weeks in Paris and Nice, France. During her sophomore year, she went to Panama and worked with scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. As a junior, she spent two weeks in Turkey studying history and culture.

Now a senior, Willis says she has found her passion and wants to pursue a degree in international relations. “I love history, but more than anything, over the course of these trips and the scholars program, I found that people are so different, yet there is so much to learn from each other,” Willis said. “While you can read about people or cultures in a book or online, you don’t get the essence of who they are until you experience it first hand.” 

Willis also believes she’s gained valuable communication and critical thinking skills from the Global Scholars program. “This program gave me an inside look into what’s really going on, more than a traditional class or classroom ever could,” said Willis. “It not only teaches you about the curriculum of that course, but also how to communicate and consider different points of view. It’s been amazing to come together with a diverse group of people and hear a wide range of opinions.”

Willis has also been integral to a program the school recently started to help fund its students’ travels. At the encouragement of Willy Fluharty, Director of Cape Henry Collegiate’s Nexus Global Studies, the students started their own business, Compass Rose Coffee. The idea for the project came during a tour of a nearby coffee roasting plant, Massimo Zanetti. The students chose the name and created the tagline, “A cup of coffee may change your day, but a cup of Compass Rose Coffee will change a student’s life.” They applied for positions at the company such as CEO, CFO, COO, and Director of Marketing and Sales. They conducted market research to determine what type of coffee people would buy, and calculated a budget with costs and sales projections. The students independently applied for a loan with a financial management firm and secured $11,000 in seed money. They also had to develop a communications plan and create a website and Facebook page. In 2013, they launched their product, marketing it on campus and to local businesses.

Fluharty says the project has fit perfectly into the global scholars program.It teaches students numerous skills about entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The project has also taught them invaluable leadership and interpersonal skills. “They have to figure out how to deal with each other,” he said. “If someone isn’t working, they have to decide, do we fire this person? What do we do with people who aren’t producing? They are figuring out how to be leaders, and learning that sometimes leading can be uncomfortable.” 

Fluharty also believes in connecting students directly with business leaders. He invited a number of Chick-fil-A store owners to speak to the students about running a business, which ultimately led to an invitation from Chick-fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy to visit its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, GA. Cathy spent 45 minutes with the students, and arranged for them to meet with the heads of different divisions such as sales, marketing, and finance. The trip was such a success that Fluharty arranged a similar trip through a contact with connections to multiple technology companies in San Francisco. As a result, the global scholars were able to spend a day in San Francisco talking to leaders from Facebook, Google, and Square. 

Lillian Burroughs, a global scholar and COO of Compass Rose Coffee, attended the trip. “It was incredible and really encouraged me to explore global business,” she said. “I had no idea how much work goes into running a business or supplying us with all these things because there are so many different components of a business. I feel like the experience I’m gaining in high school will help me in college because I have a better understanding of what I want to do and what it takes to be successful.”

One incredible resource for schools developing their global programs is the Global Education Benchmark Group. GEBG was founded in 2008 by leaders from 15 independent schools including Cape Henry Collegiate, Lakeside School, Providence Day School, Charlotte Country Day School, Palmer Trinity School, Collegiate School, Hotchkiss School, Ravenscroft School, and more. The group wanted to share ideas and data, collaborate on best practices, create an outline of what an exceptional global program looked like, and promote global citizenship. They also wanted to add assessment measures for global programs and a certification schools could seek. The GEBG has grown to include more than 150 member schools. Fluharty is also the director emeritus of GEBG.

GEBG held its first annual conference in 2012 and published its first iBook, Global Education: A Roadmap to Program Development, in 2014. The book covers a myriad of topics relevant to global programs such as why schools should create global programs, how to organize a global curriculum, collaboration with other schools/organizations, defining and assessing global competencies, finances and marketing, and risk management. GEBG has also created an endorsement schools can earn, certifying their program aligns with national standards. Moreover, SAIS has partnered with GEBG to allow schools to earn the endorsement during their accreditation.

The need for global education is considered an urgent responsibility at Palmer Trinity School in Miami, FL. Its student body represents more than 30 countries, and many students are bilingual or trilingual. The school is also deeply committed to inclusion and diversity. 

The school offers global curriculum in the form of the humanities and the arts in all grades, but its focus accelerates in eighth grade when students participate in a service-learning project in their community. The school believes that students should serve in their own community before taking service trips. Upper school students can participate in exchanges, immersion trips, and service-learning trips. For exchanges, Palmer Trinity has developed relationships with schools in Australia, Spain, and France.

Danny Reynolds, Director of Admission, College Counseling and Study Away, has been driving Palmer Trinity's global program for more than 12 years, with help from the school's World Languages Chair, Caroline Rubeau-Goodwin, and its History and Humanities Chair, Laura Massa. In 2014, Palmer Trinity also hired Manjula Salomon as its first Global Scholar in Residence. Salomon has an extensive background in global education programs. She was previously the Director of Global Initiatives at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT, and prior to that, spent 25 years at the Jakarta International School in Indonesia.

Since joining Palmer Trinity, Salomon has focused on developing students' curriculum when they travel, as well as expanding its service-learning trips. Students recently completed a trip to Haiti in partnership with the National Association of Episcopal Schools and St. Thomas School in Lamecette. During a four-day visit, students assisted teachers, and participated in crafts, sports, music, and dialogue with its students.

This summer, students will travel to North Dakota to work on the largest reservation of the Lakota Indians, who are part of the Sioux Tribe on the Cheyenne River. Palmer Trinity will partner with Simply Smiles, a nonprofit that supports families and children in impoverished communities, to build housing for the Indians while learning about their culture and history.

Salomon also participated in Palmer Trinity’s recent re-accreditation with SAIS. She said the process was extremely helpful as it allowed her to review every department and identify relevant curriculum already in place. Moreover, Salomon was able to help teachers explore how to incorporate a global perspective into their curriculum.

Palmer Trinity will also host GEBG’s third annual conference this year. Scheduled for April 23-25, the event will draw representatives from more than 200 different schools around the country. In addition, Palmer Trinity will open its doors to the greater Miami community with its 15th Annual International Festival on March 7. The event showcases arts, music, food, and crafts.

While Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville, SC, is located in a small town, its vision is to prepare students for the world. The school has had a global scholars program for its middle and upper school students since 2008, as well as exchange opportunities. It recently extended its global program into the lower school and created a school-wide program where students study a different country every year. 

Head of School, Steve Mandell, and Lower School Global Studies Teacher, Brianne Peters, have been key drivers in the expansion, which required geography curriculum, added new experiential programs and language opportunities for students beginning in Pre-K.

“Pinewood has always had the vision to be a globally-minded school," Mandell said. "Our desire is that every student, age three through 12th grade, would develop an understanding, empathy, and compassion for people around the world, while exploring ways to connect with people everywhere.” 

Pinewood chooses a country based on connections they have with their school community, their region, or the United States. For 2013, they chose Argentina and Chile. Across the school, students studied the countries’ geography, language, history, art, and cultural aspects such as clothing, foods, and holidays. Students created art and performed special performances inspired by Argentina and Chile. Pinewood is studying China this year, and next year they will study France. 

In order to allow lower school students to experience different countries, Pinewood also created a Global Studies World Fair. Students in each grade are assigned a different country or continent and create projects representing its culture. At the end of the year, they display their work at the fair. The Pre-K and kindergarteners have a world-famous fashion show; the first graders perform dances; the second graders organize games and activities; the third graders make food; the fourth graders present on culture and history; and the fifth graders create a wax museum of major historical figures from all over the world.  

“Our goal is to allow our youngest students to travel the world without ever leaving Pinewood," said Peters. 

Mandell echoed the sentiment, “Like many subjects or skills, we believe that the earlier we start educating our kids on a topic, the richer their experience will be. As a community we have always embraced and will continue to embrace different cultures and people, and our global program is an extension of that.”  

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