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November 1, 2017
Vol. 75
No. 3

Inspiring Global Citizens

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In a world of intersecting identities and fluid boundaries, global citizenship has increasing value—and a whole new meaning—for students.

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If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change!" Across the street from the White House, 30 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students belted out the lyrics to Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" on a sunny Saturday morning in June 2017. The Children's March—an event they had organized with the support of their teacher, Carol Lewis—was coming to a close. These students from One World Middle School had traveled 250 miles from their homes in the Bronx, New York, to Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., for one purpose: to convince the U.S. government to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a set of universal human rights for children ratified by all United Nations member nations except the United States (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, 1989).
Donning matching T-shirts they'd designed themselves that read "CRC is Me! Children's March" and holding signs saying "Stop Violence," "Violence Hurts," and "Keep Calm, Be Peaceful," the children passed around megaphones as they shared spoken word poetry, open letters to the president, and stories of discrimination and violence they had experienced.
Students made an explicit connection between their lived experiences and the CRC articles, pointing out, for example, how discriminatory slurs thrown at them violated Article 2 ("the child is protected against all forms of discrimination") and that the deportation of one student's father violated Article 9 ("a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will"). If a student choked up at the megaphone, her peers cheered her on, offering encouraging words. The students interspersed powerful stories and poems with spirited chants like, "The CRC is me! Don't deny—ratify!" and "The young are at the gates! The U.S. can't wait!"

From Local to Global

These passionate students embody what it means to be a citizen in today's diverse, interconnected world. Often, when we hear the word citizen, we think of national citizenship and the rights, responsibilities, and collective identity that go along with it (think free speech, voting, and watching fireworks on the Fourth of July). Yet citizenship today is far more complex. In a pluralistic democracy composed of diverse racial, ethnic, religious, and political groups, students may feel connected to one of the many cultural groups that form the tapestry of the United States, groups that often have deep-rooted, shared histories of fighting for rights promised to United States citizens. At the same time, globalizing forces—like mass migration, free trade, the internet, climate change, and international agreements and alliances like the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights or Paris Climate Agreement—have made borders, and the communities with whom students engage, increasingly fluid (Banks, 2008). Not only do youth today have the world at their fingertips through their smartphones and tablets, but some also identify as citizens of more than one country as they travel physically and virtually across borders. Students may also feel tied to a common humanity and one shared planet. They may declare themselves citizens of the world.
In the past, definitions of global citizens often referred to individuals who relinquish national identity and cultural affiliations for a notion of a one-world culture. But the global citizenship many young people experience today is both globally connected and locally rooted. According to UNESCO (2015), "Global citizenship refers to a sense of belonging to a broader community and common humanity. It emphasizes political, economic, social, and cultural interdependency and interconnectedness between the local, the national, and the global" (p. 14). Global citizenship is, in effect, glocal.
Ms. Lewis's students exemplified the intersecting local, national, and international layers of "glocal" citizenship during their Children's March. They revealed their affiliations to cultural groups within the United States, relaying incidents in which they were threatened, yelled at, or called derogatory names because of their Mexican or African heritage. They acted as citizens of the United States, exercising their right to assemble by marching in the nation's capital and showing an affiliation to the country. (As one student marcher said, "You can make our country great by protecting the rights of children!") Their request that the United States follow the lead of every other UN member nation by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child demonstrated their connection to a set of universal rights that all humans, everywhere, should enjoy.
In a complex world of intersecting identities and porous borders, it's prudent to embrace global citizenship as a vital outcome for students. How can educators prepare students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to engage locally and globally as responsible citizens of their communities, countries, and world?

Learn Globally, Teach Locally

Caring for the world and its people begins at home. Key learning outcomes for global citizenship education identified by UNESCO (2015) include:
▪ Acquiring knowledge and understanding of local, national, and global issues and the interconnectedness of local and global concerns.▪ Experiencing a sense of belonging to a common humanity with shared values and responsibilities, while at the same time developing attitudes of empathy, solidarity, and respect for diversity.▪ Acting effectively and responsibly at local, national, and global levels for a more peaceful and sustainable world.
Each of these outcomes emphasizes that to understand the world and take action to improve global conditions, people need a firm grounding in their own identity and local context. These cognitive, social-emotional, and action-oriented learning outcomes transcend content-area borders. Teachers of any age group or subject area can cultivate students' competencies as global citizens by incorporating three elements into their practice: an understanding of citizenship as glocal, a belief in students as stewards who will make the world a better place, and a pedagogy that includes facilitating student-directed learning with—and for—authentic audiences.

Understanding Glocal Citizenship

Teachers must dispel the notion that global citizenship and national citizenship are mutually exclusive. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term citizen as 1) "an inhabitant of a city or (often) of a town; esp. one possessing civic rights and privileges," 2) "a member of a state, an enfranchised inhabitant of a country," and 3) "citizen of the world: one who is at home, and claims his rights, everywhere." Global citizenship education encompasses all three of these definitions by examining issues at the intersection of local community, country, and world.
Take the issue of violence. The students in Ms. Lewis's class became concerned about violence in their school and surrounding community, so they started the Heart to Heart campaign. Students cut hearts out of paper and asked other children to write on those hearts about a time (or times) they had experienced violence. The students and their teacher handed out hearts wherever they went. During a phone interview I conducted with the class prior to the Children's March, one student explained, "We saw violence happening around the world every day and thought we should collect data. We collected data on the hearts: age [of people involved], place, and kind of violence. We started from the school we were in; now we have 3,000 hearts and are still getting more."
In collecting paper hearts from countries as far-reaching as Jamaica, Russia, Venezuela, Myanmar, Belize, and Nigeria, the students learned that experiences like bullying or assault that many of them had suffered happened to kids all over the world. This led them to search for actions they could take to stop the violence. Another student explained:
Before I came into this class, I didn't know about the violence and starvation in the world. It hurt me. I really wanted to make an impact. … So, we planned to march for children's rights to get the CRC ratified and get those rights protected for kids in the future. I don't want kids to be afraid. I don't want my kids to live in fear, to be afraid of walking into the world and being themselves.
The environment is another "glocal" issue. Mike Soskil, the 2017–2018 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a member of ASCD's Global Educator Advisory Council, teaches science with a global lens in an economically struggling town in Pennsylvania. He connected his 3rd grade students with scientists at an animal hospital in South Africa through Skype. During the video call, the scientists showed students penguins at the hospital and explained how plastic pollution harms these birds. The penguins' plight resonated with the students, who decided to take steps to eliminate plastic straws in the cafeteria and to collect bottlecaps for art projects rather than throwing them away. The students came to understand that making small changes in their own environment could help penguins halfway across the world.

Believing in Students' Power

Global citizens desire to make the world a better place and believe they have agency to make a difference. To help students develop this mindset, teachers must believe that students can be the change they want to see. This means reframing school as a place that teaches students to be active change agents. For instance, Mr. Soskil subscribes to the mantra "use learning to make the world better." He explains, "The purpose of learning is to solve real problems in the world, not fill students' heads with facts. Students become passionate about doing good for others through learning in school. Many schools talk about global citizenship in their school missions. For that to happen, students need to be citizens of their own schools and classrooms."
Creating a culture that encourages students to explore and solve problems they're concerned about is paramount. Students should feel comfortable talking to their teachers about a problem that they want to solve based on something they learned in class or witnessed in their neighborhood—be it water conservation or access to healthy food. Teachers should also feel comfortable taking on a supporting role as students follow their passions.
For example, when her students wanted to expand the reach of the Heart to Heart campaign, Ms. Lewis helped by bringing hearts for people to fill out wherever she traveled, including to Belize. When teachers believe in their students as change agents, students internalize it. When asked what they had learned through the Heart to Heart campaign, these students responded: "Children matter, and we have to show that they matter."

Embracing Authentic, Inquiry-Based Learning

Teaching students to act as responsible global citizens relies on the principles of inquiry-based, student-led learning. Students take the reins by identifying a problem relevant to them and applying a mixture of research skills and content knowledge to address that problem—in authentic settings for authentic audiences.
Teachers can facilitate this process by providing students with windows to the world, windows that also help students see themselves differently and realize the positive impact they can make.
As one example, a Skype exchange between Mr. Soskil's 5th graders and a class in rural Kenya led to a year-long bridge-building project. The Kenyan students showed their Pennsylvanian counterparts a dilapidated bridge. Because crossing the bridge was unsafe, their village was cut in half, and many students couldn't go to school. This seemed unjust to Mr. Soskil's students. They spent the next month collaboratively researching, building prototypes for, and designing a model bridge, which they sent to a bridge builder in Kenya, who estimated that building the bridge would cost $3000. The students then built a website about the project and raised the necessary funds over the course of a single school year. That June, the bridge was replaced.
For Ms. Lewis's students, the Convention on the Rights of the Child served as both a window and a mirror that empowered them to act. When students read the articles of the CRC, they made connections to how they personally saw those rights being violated. This incited them to advocate for the U.S. ratification of the CRC so that all children around the world would feel protected.
Teachers can also guide students to find connections between content-area standards and issues that impact students' personal lives, communities, and the wider world. For example, when it came to the attention of Mr. Soskil's students that not all people in their community could afford a Thanksgiving dinner, students decided to make Thanksgiving dinner for community members. In doing so, they continued to develop their knowledge of fractions while cooking meals for people in need. Ms. Lewis's students drew on math standards to track data on violence compiled through the hearts they collected; from that data they drew conclusions about the prevalence of violence against children. These examples of local and global action began with a concern students had, connected directly to curricular standards, and resulted in a product aimed at making a difference in people's lives.

How to Begin "Glocalizing" Citizenship Education

Students need space to practice exercising their rights and responsibilities as glocal citizens. Whether schools create this space through stand-alone courses or after-school clubs or incorporate it into existing classes, the following strategies can help embed global citizenship education into instruction.
1. Start small. Begin with simple steps to expand students' worldview. Prod students to deepen the connections between any lesson topic and their own multifaceted identities. For example, "The 3 Whys" Global Thinking Routine, developed by researchers at Harvard University's Project Zero, can be incorporated into any content-area lesson (Boix Mansilla, 2016). Students reflect on the following questions: Why does this matter to me personally? Why does this matter to my community? Why does this matter to the world? You can also broaden students' perspectives by introducing them to people and places around the world. This can be done through guest speakers, video exchanges, literature, films, or even news headlines. Curiosity will inevitably lead students to ask questions about why inequitable conditions exist and what they can do to make a difference.
2. Empower student voice. Create a classroom environment where students feel comfortable expressing their beliefs, opinions, and ideas. Encourage students to extend their voices beyond the classroom as well. Whether your students develop blogs, start a social media campaign, or organize a march, there are endless ways to remind them they have the right to free speech and a responsibility to speak out to local, national, and global audiences when they see injustices. For instance, Ms. Lewis's students activated their voice through multiple mediums: classroom dialogue with one another about being victims of bullying and violence, chanting into megaphones in the nation's capital, presenting at the United Nations, and utilizing social media.
3. Be flexible and embrace autonomy. When research inspires students to take informed action, don't be afraid to push aside the unit you had planned and let students march into uncharted territory. Instead of asking students what they should do for you, ask what you can do to support students. As Mr. Soskil shared, "Kids will inevitably say the magic words, 'We should do something about that.' Once you hear that, give them autonomy, and kids will do magical things."

Learners and Citizens

"Glocalizing" your classroom empowers students as learners and as citizens of the multiple communities in which they engage. Global citizenship can be cultivated in all students, everywhere: Ms. Lewis's students live in a massive city and represent a diverse array of races, religions, and nationalities, whereas Mr. Soskil's live in a rural community with little diversity. Global citizenship teaches that, regardless of who we are and where we live, we're all part of a larger planet, and our actions will impact its future and the future of its inhabitants.

Banks, J. A. (2008). Diversity, group identity, and citizenship in a global age. Educational Researcher, 37(3), 129–139.

Boix Mansilla, V. (2016). How to be a global thinker. Educational Leadership, 74(4), 10–16.

UNESCO. (2015). Global citizenship education: Topics and learning objectives. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002329/232993e.pdf

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York: Author.

End Notes

1 See and follow the One World Middle School students' messages on their website, Twitter (2heart and with #CRCChildrensMarch), and Instagram (@CRCchildrensmarch).

Ariel Tichnor-Wagner is an educator and researcher, committed to identifying and leveraging policies and practices that improve academic and social-emotional outcomes of culturally and linguistically diverse students and that foster global citizenship. She is lecturer at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development in Boston, Massachusetts.

As a former senior fellow of global competence at ASCD, Tichnor-Wagner advocated for, developed, and implemented innovative frameworks, tools, and professional learning experiences to support educators in fostering the knowledge, skills, and attitudes students need to succeed in a diverse, interconnected world.

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