This is the reflection of Laurel LaBar-Ahmed, a Saskatchewan teacher, on how she engaged with global citizenship education.
Contributed by Laurel Labar-Ahmed
At the start of this academic year, I was faced with the daunting task of how to actively engage 37 grade 8 Social Studies students while meeting the required curriculum outcomes and indicators. I had already begun preparations months before and knew that I wanted to begin the year by examining food-related issues from various perspectives.
I used several current magazine and newspaper articles, relevant case studies and discussion activities to begin the unit. One excellent source of such materials is Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World. Once I had the class actively thinking about food issues, I introduced the Canadian Council for International Co-operation’s (CCIC) 2002 “Food for Thought: Talking about What Matters in International Trade of Food” public deliberation guide.The three different approaches to food trade from the guide were discussed briefly and then I divided the class into six groups whose task was to become an expert on one of the approaches.
Once the groups were comfortable with the pros and cons of their assigned approach, I then had two members from each group join with members of the other two groups as part of a jigsaw teaching activity. These new groups, six in total, then taught each other about the various approaches and continued to discuss the same. This part of the unit then concluded with a discussion with the entire class. At all times, students were strongly encouraged to keep an open mind and to note any unanswered questions that arose while examining the three approaches.
Following the re-examination of food trade issues within the larger group format, the class began actively researching inquiry topics on a food related issue. Students were allowed to work alone, in partners or in groups of three. To help guide the process for exploring such issues, I provided a series of questions adapted from Manitoba’s Citizenship and Sustainability Grade 12 Global Issues Pilot Course.
Without exception, the students were able to choose and find topics of personal interest. Students were highly motivated and engaged in their research projects. Various references were sourced including books, articles, relevant websites and videos, as well as personal interviews with local resource people, which was a project requirement. It is to be noted that finding people to interview can sometimes be challenging, but well worth the effort. Students then had to present their findings orally and in writing.
Concurrently with the above, I also involved the students in Regina’s fall “Field to Fork Festival,” a screening of the food documentary “Hijacked Future” at the University of Regina, and an “Organic Connections” youth conference on food issues. All three of these outings were made possible via the supportive community network that I have carefully nurtured over the years. Such support is vital to the success of the global education classes that I teach. Moreover, it provides additional perspectives on pertinent issues and helps foster critical thinking skills.
Last, but not least, I ensured that my class experienced an Action Project component, which in this case was our Food for Thought Youth Conference. We partnered with the Saskatchewan Council for International Co-operation (SCIC) for conference ideas and facilitation support, which was a great way to seed the conference. After that, the overall conference was planned by members of our class and included such things as the lunch preparation, giving and planning some of the workshops, booking all needed venues and equipment, contacting and working with the media, and much more. Two of the grade 8s coordinated everything, and there were many different subcommittees and jobs, which kept all students involved in some form or another. One drawback from such deep involvement meant that grade 8 students parachuted in and out of workshops and other aspects of the conference, as they were needed elsewhere; nonetheless, everyone agreed that the conference was a great success and experience.
In terms of assessment, I cannot stress enough that it needs to be ongoing. I used the following format:
- Inquiry Process (Jigsaw activities, discussions, topic selection and questions generated, peer and self assessments) 25%
- Final Products (Oral presentations, written research projects) 25%
- Critical Understanding Tasks (Thesis statements, comparative analysis, responses to teacher-generated questions, etc.) 25%
- Action Project Component (Planning of Food for Thought Conference, implementation, peer and self assessments, community and participant evaluations, etc.) 25%
For further assessment ideas, I would highly recommend reading Manitoba’s “Grade 12 Global Issues: Citizenship and Sustainability Suggested Assessment and Evaluation Model” which is currently in draft form.
- Why do you think this project was so successful? What elements contributed to that?
- Is it possible to get the local community involved in projects that you might undertake? Is that important?
- What might be some of the longer-term learning effects this Food for Thought project had on students?
- How did all of the participants involved benefit from this project?
- Do you think this project was a good example of global citizenship education, even though it did not involve partners from overseas? Why or why not?