As October comes to an end, so does the string of travels that I mentioned a few weeks ago. Soon I will be staying put, more or less till Christmas. As I write this I am on a plane, on my way to St. Catharines, Ontario to sit on a panel at a conference called “Going Global”, on the theme of global and international education. Although I am advertised as one of the panel of “experts” in fact it is a borrowed label, the result of our school’s name as a ground-breaker in this area. Throughout the school, a host of efforts inside and outside the curriculum try to establish the school’s perspective on education as a consciously outward-looking one, in the belief that this will be important for the world of tomorrow. For example: our Junior School and Middle School actively support the World Partnership Walk, raising funds for schools worldwide. For three years running, we have been invited to the Harvard World Congress, in Bangkok, on the strength of some elements in our curriculum that examine global themes. The fabric of the student body is international; in the Senior School, our student body has been deliberately diversified in recent years, now including students from 20 different countries. I could fill a page with related items.
All of the panellists and speakers at the conference were asked to identify three ideas that would help a school promote and strengthen its work on global education. Pat Basset, the Executive Director of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), listed as one of his three suggestions that schools could participate in the Challenge 20/20 initiated by NAIS two years ago, which is described on the NAIS website as follows:
Challenge 20/20 is an Internet-based program that pairs classes at any grade level (K-12) from schools in the U.S. with their counterpart classes in schools in other countries; together the teams (of two or three schools) tackle real global problems to find solutions that can be implemented at the local level and in their own communities.
I was able to write him back and say that our school, in tandem with the Friends Seminary from New York City, earned first prize in that competition in its second year, two years ago, for their study of water management in Tofino, BC. Graham Lilly, teacher of Senior School Economics, who had “led” the team of students along with Cheryl Murtland, Geography teacher, wrote about the award:
With guidance from Ms. Murtland and Mr. Lilly a team of dedicated grade 11 SMUS students joined up with Friends Seminary School from New York and entered the NAIS Challenge 20/20 Program. This program invites schools from all over the world to select a crucial global challenge for humanity, research it together, identify solutions, and map out the steps for an implementation plan in an extensive report. The topic we picked was global water deficits and our collaborative effort, a macro/micro investigation of this challenge, was picked as a winner in the high school category. As a result we were invited to send three students and one chaperone to attend the prestigious Institute for Student Leaders Conference in London, accept our award, and provide a summary of our Challenge 20/20 report.
(You can also read about the project in this May 2007 SMUS Review story.)
Thus has our school developed its reputation on the leading edge of international education, and it is in the slipstream of such achievements that this invitation has come my way. We have miles to go before we sleep, of course, but we have made a good start.