Connecting to Global Content

Curriculum and Approaches

Students on a 'photo stroll' with a professional photographer. (Michale/flickr)

There is no shortage of approaches, topics, or themes when teaching about the world. No matter what approach you use, it is important to compile high-quality content and curricula to ground the learning. Materials about other cultures and global issues abound, but the challenges for afterschool staff are to adapt them to the afterschool environment and create an integrated learning experience across the program.

Afterschool and out-of-school time programs rely on hands-on experiences that keep young people engaged while expanding their horizons. One way to start integrating global content and curricula is to focus first on the specific approaches that are successful in the program already, and then think of ways to apply them to global content.

Project-based learning starts with a question or problem that interests young people. As consumers, how might we be contributing to global poverty? Are there economic reasons why people pollute our planet? Can we stem the spread of global epidemics like malaria and tuberculosis? How can the world’s largest producers of carbon emissions, the United States and China, work together on energy issues?

Object-based learning uses objects to tell the stories of people, cultures, land, and environment. What is an object, such as a tool or a musical instrument, made of and why is it made? Who first made it, and who uses it today? What does it tell you about life in its country of origin?

Field trips to your community, another community, a museum, or a cultural institution build on what youth are learning. Think beyond four walls to the areas in your community that could be considered “living museums,” for example a street full of markets, restaurants, clothing, and organizations from another part of the world.

Events, festivals, and celebrations are a favorite way for afterschool programs to bring in parents and the community—and highlight traditions, food, and connections from around the world. They are a great way to get participants excited about global learning, and also important entry points to more in-depth content knowledge.

Travel and exchanges alter perspective and expand vision. If young people do not have the opportunity to travel to other countries, you can help youth travel virtually through technology—and exchange experiences with peers in other places.

Guest speakers and artists in residence can help bring local, cultural, and global connections to life, as well as provide insight into international careers. Colleges and universities can be useful sources of international students and faculty, as well as American students who have recently returned from work and research abroad.

Internships and apprenticeships attach young people to experts and professionals in a range of fields and build skills, career awareness, and connections for the future.

In addition to the wide range of global education resources already available, afterschool organizations have begun to develop curricula specifically for afterschool programs that focus on the wider world. Global GraffitiWall, from the Center for Afterschool Education at Foundations, Inc., has fast and easy games, puzzles, activities, and projects that can be used as kick-off and transition activities into global content.