How to Incorporate Multicultural and Global Education Into Curriculum
Educating children to be global thinkers and compassionate citizens is an important part of teaching for the 21st century. But how do we help our students develop life skills that may be difficult to grasp and expand on viewpoints that are already deeply embedded in their personalities?
At Milton Hershey School, our Multicultural and Global Education program provides international travel opportunities to high school students. By traveling outside the United States and learning about other cultures, students gain a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.
“Studying abroad provides students with an experience that we can’t create at school,” said Andrew Miller, social studies curriculum supervisor at MHS. “It requires a level of independence and maturity. It gives them practical life skills they can bring back home, so they can become more confident in their ability to interact with people in their community.”
Learn more about the significance of global education and how to provide students with eye-opening cultural experiences in and out of the classroom.
International Travel Opportunities
When traveling abroad, language and learning are part of every trip. To ensure MHS students are fully prepared for the immersive experience of an international trip, they are required to submit letters of interest and complete interviews where they explain how they plan to act with integrity and mutual respect.
Each school year, approximately 75 students are selected to travel on an academic tour, language immersion trip, or global summit. Whether they visit multiple cities, complete immersive activities to apply their foreign language skills, or attend student-centered summits, the opportunity to travel allows MHS students to experience global challenges firsthand. They learn how to solve problems, communicate with others, and develop empathy and awareness—skills they can apply in their own communities.
“Students often come back with really daunting challenges such as globalization and pollution,” Miller said. “These are big issues they have to face and sometimes students wonder, “What can I do?” We try to set up a framework for them to address some of those same issues on a local level.”
Sharing Global Awareness with the Community
To help create a framework for sharing global awareness, MHS students are required to give back with their international travel experience. Students must choose a topic that relates to the theme of the trip and complete a before, during, and after component—including journaling during the trip and developing a plan to help others after they come back.
“I think for many students, the real spark hits when the plane touches the ground and they begin to reflect on their experience,” Miller said. “When MHS students see other cultures and engage with people who are different from them, it provides them with empathy for the world.”
It also can be empowering when students realize they have the power to make a difference in their community. For example, when high schoolers traveled to Ghana on an international trip, they organized a video chat with younger MHS students. By answering questions and sharing their experiences, the older students began to practice global citizenship and the younger students gained a new understanding of inclusiveness and global unity.
“We have a very diverse student body at MHS, which is a great advantage for students,” Miller added. “It sets them up for incredible success with these trips because it opens up that diversity to the world.”
Incorporating Multicultural Education Into the Classroom
For many students who travel, it can be surprising to learn that the world is more similar than it is different. To strengthen these global connections and create global literacy for students of all ages, MHS humanities teachers participate in a strategic work group to bring these lessons to life in the classroom.
“We want our students to be ready for the 21st century and our global world,” Miller said. “This involves competencies related to jobs that don’t exist yet and the ability to work with different cultures.”
MHS teachers plan global awareness activities that expand on academic lessons and promote critical thinking—such as third-graders organizing a lemonade stand to raise money for children in Ghana or fourth-graders chatting with a woman from Afghanistan to make connections to a book they read in class.
“We want to help students see themselves as citizens of the world and understand how their actions, decisions, and choices impact the world—not just their local community,” Miller said.
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