Case Study: World Savvy

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World Savvy's mission is to educate and engage youth in community and world affairs. Their Global Youth Media and Arts Program (MAP) is an interdisciplinary global arts and media education program. Students develop content knowledge of the program themes--for example, immigration and identity--while honing their skills for global citizenship, including critical thinking, multiple perspectives, and appreciation of diversity locally and globally. The main goal of the program is to help students explore how global issues are related to their own experiences.

World Savvy aims to not only serve youth, but also empower and enable schools and afterschool programs to provide global learning. They work closely with educators and youth workers who apply to implement the MAP program over several months. During this time, World Savvy facilitates and models a minimum of four workshops and/or field trips, which happen in-school or afterschool, and then educators lead additional workshops on their own from a curriculum guide provided. 

Through the workshops, students are able to understand a theme, find how it’s relevant in their lives, and then create art and media that expresses their perspective on the theme. Students have completed visual and performing art, filmmaking, spoken word, theater production, and photography, all of which are displayed in a city-wide exhibition at the end of the year. 

As Dana Curran Mortensen, Executive Director, says, “This is not arts for arts sake. Rather, it is about the generation of dialogue on timely and critical global themes. Arts and media are integrated in a rigorous program that is about the process more than the product.”

Community Profile
World Savvy’s MAP was developed to provide global education to students who may not gravitate towards academic programs and often did not have access to or consider opportunities for global learning. In New York and San Francisco, they are currently serving 1,800 students in the MAP program. The ethnic and cultural diversity of participating youth mirrors that of the cities where they are located. 90% are youth of color from low-income communities, and 50-60% are foreign born immigrants or refugees. The schools they work with contain a range of socio-economic and ethnic/cultural diversity. 

Program and Staffing Structure
World Savvy’s MAP programming focuses on experiential learning, and helps students look around them to begin to explore themes such as immigration and identity. The program helps staff and youth understand that everything has a global connection – even when you start right where you are in your own place and space. Often, this begins with a community audit or assessment. If the community is not diverse, staff encourage students to look into the history of the community for global connections. One of the key guiding questions is, what kinds of cultures and resources are here, and why?

Each World Savvy site takes an interdisciplinary approach, with educators helping youth lead project development around their interests. For example, youth in the World Savvy MAP program at a Bronx, New York high school decided to explore their local community and identified an agency that helps support newly arrived immigrant families. The students went to the center and interviewed the staff of programs for immigrant children, then decided to use their arts skills to design T-shirts and other items to generate fundraising. In the process, they shared their knowledge of design and printmaking through a workshop with the immigrant students. At the end of the project, they exhibited the T-shirts in the World Savvy city-wide exhibition and sold them to raise funds for the community center.

World Savvy has created an Immigration and Identity curriculum that forms the main framework of the program and is supplemented every year by the work generated by youth and/or educators and youth workers. They plan to expand to new themes in future years, including sustainability issues beginning in 2011.

The curriculum is designed to reach kids by helping them to make personal connections to big, complex global themes, by meeting youth and educators where they are. It begins with seemingly simple activities that help young people identify and question their own world view. World Savvy’s work builds not only local and global connections, but more importantly, personal and global connections. This requires a good deal of discussion to help young people identify not only their own world view but what has informed it, whether through family, immigration, history, environment, or other aspects. World Savvy has found that this approach allows students to dive deep and think critically about global issues that are complex, and to develop viewpoints that will be valuable when they explore other issues. 

Professional Development
World Savvy teachers and afterschool coordinators come from a wide range of personal experience and subjects, including ancient civilization, geometry, animation, media arts, and language arts. Each commit to attend two full-day Professional Development workshops (MAPLabs) led by World Savvy and at least one 2-hour consulting session during which they map out the scope and sequence for the program and discuss how they will integrate the content into teaching. The MAPLab is designed to be flexible for people who are not experts employing art and media in teaching. Rather, arts and media are used as a vehicle and lens for tackling issues that are complex and difficult for students to discuss.

For that very reason, World Savvy spends a lot of time working with educators and youth workers to develop a safe space for global learning.  A key tenet is to always assume good intention from others, to help engender a positive learning environment for a diverse group of students and educators as they explore sensitive themes together in the MAP.  
World Savvy emphasizes that there is no way for everyone to know everything about the world. No one afterschool program or school can house all the perspectives that are necessary for global learning. Therefore, they encourage staff to look at the diversity of the community, the types of cultural and heritage institutions that exist, and find community partners that reflect the demographic or have deep knowledge of a specific aspect of the chosen theme. These partners also bring expertise from years serving people directly affected by the issue. 

“A commitment to providing global education does not have to be intimidating. Sometimes it can look a lot like what you are already doing, and can build on the rich diversity of the local communities we all inhabit” says Dana Curran Mortensen.