January 18, 2017– Crumpled balls of paper and a garbage bin – in some classrooms, that’s all it takes to spark a lively discussion about global development. These props are part of a class activity in a new curriculum resource, Inspiring Global Citizens, developed by Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC). Katherine Stauch, Department Head of Canada & World Studies at Brookfield High School in Ottawa, has been using the guide in the classroom – so AKFC sat down with her to discuss global citizenship education, student-centered learning, and this new resource for teachers.
Tell me about yourself.
I teach at Brookfield High School in Ottawa, where I am the Department Head of Canada and World Studies. This role is a very good fit for me since I was fortunate to have been raised with a love for other parts of the world and a global perspective. When I was eight, my parents took our family to France for a year while they were on sabbatical. It was an unbelievable experience. This sparked a desire to encounter as much of the world as I can – since then I’ve lived in five different countries and have visited over fifty-five and counting! (I was a flight attendant back in the day.) These experiences have profoundly shaped who I am as a person, a teacher, and a citizen of the world.
Which countries have you lived in?
I’ve lived in Spain, France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and here in Canada.
That’s incredible! How do you think a teacher or student who hasn’t had those same experiences can develop an understanding or awareness of other parts of the globe?
Make every effort to learn from other people and to share your own experiences. Every time you go somewhere or meet someone, there is an opportunity to learn. That’s something I tell my students all the time. Being a global citizen doesn’t mean that you have to leave Canada or even your city. Global citizenship means understanding and appreciating the unique contexts of other people around the globe – who they are, what they believe, how they live their lives, the challenges they face, and their moments of joy. That’s what makes us global. It’s not necessarily physical movement but rather how we seek to understand. So ‘local’ and ‘global’ are very connected.
Do you think that students have a good grasp of what global citizenship means?
Some more than others. One of my favourite experiences this year was when I was supervising the cafeteria at lunch time and as I walked around I heard a table of students all speaking in Spanish, and a table of students speaking in Korean, and a table speaking in Arabic, and so on. But there was this one table where four different international students were eating lunch and all of them spoke different languages. English was the only language they had in common. And they were talking about what various words mean in their own mother tongues, learning from each other, making comparisons, and finding common ground. It was beautiful.
How do you facilitate global citizenship education in the classroom?
I like to provide space for students to draw upon and share from their own experiences. I’m teaching civics right now and we’re looking at different forms of government and the rights and responsibilities of students as citizens of a particular country and citizens of the world. One student from Libya shared her story with the class and talked about immigration issues – how her father is still in Libya while the rest of her family is in Canada. Another student’s mom was at Tiananmen Square in the 1970s and so she brought in her book of Chairman Mao and shared a bit of her story. It was a great chance for students to learn about concepts in the curriculum through the lens of experience. Students have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw on and, as a teacher, my job is to provide them with a venue to share those experiences and learn from each other.
AKFC has a brand-new curriculum resource, Inspiring Global Citizens. How do you use the resource to support global citizenship education in the classroom?
The resource is a great tool to spark discussion! One of my favourite activities involved students throwing crumpled-up pieces of paper into a recycling bin from various distances around the room. The point was to show that inequality is often systemic and that not everyone has access to the same opportunities, resources, and services – there are often barriers. Naturally, the students closest to the bin had no problem throwing their piece of paper into the bin, but those farther away complained that the game gave them an unfair disadvantage. We had a great discussion about it afterwards, especially real-world applications, talking about local and international issues of inequality. The students responded really well. You could see the light bulb turning on for them, so to speak.
What would you say to teachers who want to incorporate global citizenship but don’t know where to start?
Although global citizenship education has been talked about for a while now, we’re only just beginning to put it into practice. So it is a very exciting time because there are plenty of opportunities to break new ground.
One of the big questions is how to go about fitting global citizenship into the curriculum. It is tempting to simply tack on global citizenship as an ‘extra.’ I take a much different approach by asking myself what I want to achieve through the curriculum. It isn’t so much a question of ‘either/or’ but rather ‘both.’
If you’re doing it for the first time, my advice is to start small. Begin with one lesson. Once you’ve got that figured out, try to do a whole unit and slowly build up from there. Our staff and student bodies also have a great deal of expertise, which is great since it means you don’t have to know everything. Let students lead their own learning.
The Inspiring Global Citizens curriculum resource is a great tool to do this. It’s incredibly easy to use and everything is clearly laid out in one spot – lesson plans, videos, next steps, assignments, and links to additional resources. The resource also has several different options within each lesson so you don’t have to use it step-by-step, which gives you flexibility to go where the students are interested. It also provides an open door for discussion and critical thinking on key issues and concepts.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Financial support for Inspiring Global Citizens– An Educator’s Guide: