Connect Local and Global

An important part of facilitating global learning is helping young people to make connections between local issues within a community and broader global issues and themes. The major political, environmental, economic, health, and other challenges facing countries and communities today are not confined within their borders. All of these challenges have local implications and require international solutions. Consider these facts:

  • There are an estimated one million young people in the United States who have a close friend or relative serving in Iraq or Afghanistan—and yet 88 percent of U.S. high school students cannot find Afghanistan on a map.
  • On some days, almost one-third of the air over Los Angeles and San Francisco can be traced directly to Asia. Often this air is polluted with dust particles generated from factory exhaust and deforestation from Asia, among other causes.
  • H1N1, or “swine flu,” was first detected in April 2009 in Veracruz, Mexico. In only a little over 2 months, by June 11 of that same year, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global pandemic.

When helping young people make connections between local and global issues, consider these questions:

  • How is our community connected to global trends? These trends could be related to the environment, the global economy, public health, international conflicts, and so forth. What does our community have in common with others around the world? Consider similarities in geographic location, natural resources, demographic diversity, and so forth.
  • How are personal experiences in our community connected to universal experiences? These could include challenges such as violence, poverty, and homelessness or positive experiences such as artistic traditions, rituals, and celebrations.
  • What are some of the familiar aspects of all cultures, and how are they addressed similarly or differently in our community and in communities around the world? Examples of familiar aspects of culture include food, clothing, and shelter.
  • When considering how to make global connections, it is important to first identify relationships to build on. A key question to ask is “Who else around the world is affected by the issues, concerns, and trends that affect our community?” and vice versa: “How does this global issue, concern, or trend affect our community?”

Push yourself and your students to go beyond researching a local topic on a global level. Conducting general research on global hunger as a connection to a visit to the local soup kitchen, for example, may be relevant to the topic of hunger in general, but not necessarily meaningful to young people or their community. And it can be daunting for both staff and youth to tackle a general issue like hunger on a global scale.

However, if young people begin to research the causes and proposed solutions to hunger in their community and compare those with another community across the globe that is also facing this same issue, then the research is manageable and relevant. The goal is to focus on young people taking action in their own lives, in the community, and globally—you want to design projects that will take young people beyond the program and enable them to make a real impact.

A student-produced video on the migration of people--and air pollution.

Helping young people make global connections through action projects takes intentional planning, as with any project. However, the bridges young people will build between their lives and the rest of the world can have a profound impact on their learning and their future.