Making Global Connections in a Chicago Classroom

Charlotte C. Anderson with Steven Brumbaugh,
Erin Drankwalter, Scott Hemmer, Michael Myers, and
Joann Podkul

Students in schools today are living in a world that tis increasingly interdependent and culturally diverse. It is imperative that they develop a sense of civil responsibility and efficacy which enhances their attachment to their local communities and to the larger global society. It is critical, therefore, thatteachers are well informed about emerging global issues, and know how these affect studentsí everyday lives in the local community.

Rationale for Teacher Seminars on Local-Global
Connections, Education for Global Involvement


Bowen High School, one of Chicagoís oldest, is situated in a blue-collar, South Chicago neighborhood that has witnessed continuing job loss triggered by the closing of local steel mills over twenty years ago. While the mills were running, European ethnic groups were in the majority; now there is a fairly balanced mix of white Europeans, Hispanics, and African Americans in the community.

In ethnic terms, the Bowen student body consists of just over fifty percent African Americans, just under fifty percent Hispanics, and a remaining small percentage of non-Hispanic Caucasians. Socioeconomically, about 80 percent of students are classified as low income, with ten percent considered limited-English proficient. The communityís struggle with gangs and drugs impinges on the school, which has had a dropout rate as high as twenty-six percent in recent years.

In 1997, low test scores caused the central school administration to place Bowen High School on probationóa status yielding both close monitoring and support resources to correct the situation. Bowenís nine-member social studies department has seen extensive turnover in recent years, with only three teachers having had more than three years of classroom experience when the school was placed on probation. Even so, student scores on standardized social studies tests were significantly higher than the school norm for all subjects.

The Bowen social studies department is committed to raising student test scores through quality instruction grounded in a global perspective. In January 1996, the department initiated a pilot program to enhance the teaching of global issues by linking them to local conditions and engaging students in related community service. Teachers felt that involving students in firsthand experiences of the connections between local and global challenges would enhance their engagement in both their studies and the community.

An essential part of this project is developing a set of authentic assessment tasks to track student progress. The teachers are drawing upon the NCSS Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, while also working to correlate their instruction with both the Illinois State Goals and the Chicago Academic Standards for Social Science.

Assisting the department effort are staff members of Education for Global Involvement (EGI), a not-for-profit organization working to enhance international and multicultural education, with special focus on the Chicago area. The project is also supported by a grant from the Industrial Bank of Japan Foundation, whose program of Education for Global Citizenship and Strengthening Urban Communities is especially relevant to the Bowen project.


Local-Global Connections:
A Course Outline

The first step in the local-global connections project was a series of after-school seminars held alternate weeks from February through June 1996. Participating teachers earned two hours of professional development credit from the Chicago Public Schools. The course was designed by EGI staff, and taught with the assistance of guest speakers from local universities and community agencies. The course outline, which may provide a good model for secondary classroom units, was as follows:

Analyzing Local-Global Connections (two sessions of three hours each).

These sessions involved using a number of ìlink lessonsî to analyze how the local community is connected to the global system.


Developing an Overview of Critical Global Issues (two sessions).

These sessions built on the previous exploration of local-global links to take a broad look at current global challenges. Our study made it impossible to escape the fact that global issues impinge on us and our community in myriad ways.


Examining Global Topics In Depth
(six sessions).

These sessions were devoted to in-depth examination of three global issues: human mobility and migration, women and children, and the environment. Two class sessions were devoted to each topic; the first examined the issue from a global perspective, while the second explored local manifestations of the issue with representatives from local agencies.

For example, following a session on historical and contemporary patterns of global migration, the teachers met with representatives of community agencies serving recent immigrants and other families new to the community. The local agencies, which were easily identified through the Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the school connection and encouraged teachers to call on them for classroom visits and community service placements. The teachers, in turn, indicated their frustration with the isolation of the school from the community, and their enthusiasm for having made some vital connections.


Exploring Local-Global Connections for Service Learning (two sessions).

The seminars concluded with two sessions exploring service learning from a global perspective. Teachers considered various ways to link classroom instruction to community service so that students could see (1) how challenges encountered by local community agencies are manifestations of larger global phenomena and (2) how working to address these local challenges simultaneously addresses global issues.

Reading materials on local conditions were provided by the local community agencies and obtained from other area sources. For the publications that teachers found most useful in teaching from a global perspective, see ìTeaching Resourcesî at the end of this article.


Taking the Project into the Classroom

Teachers who attended the seminars in spring 1966 generated lessons on global links that were immediately applied to classrooms.

A case in point is the Foreign Itinerary. In this assignment, students take a six-to-eight week ìtripî around the world, making one stop on each continent (except Antarctica). They document the trip by drawing a large-scale world map, developing a comprehensive itinerary, and maintaining a daily journal. The exercise includes detailed instructions that prompt students to draw on many sources and use a full range of geographic, economic, political, and cultural literacy skills. Because a sense of humor helps maintain sanity in any classroom, the scoring rubric for the Foreign Itinerary identifies four possible ranks: Carmen San Diego, Ferdinand Magellan, Still Searching for the ìSeven Cities of Gold,î and ìHouston, we have a problem!î

Another application of the local-global approach is the treatment of Human Migration within our U.S. history course. Students begin this study with an interview process. Each student interviews an immigrant to the United States, transcribes the recording, and writes critical responses to important things he or she has discovered during the process. Students then compare these oral histories, looking for both common patterns and unique circumstances involving human migration. Only after making such concrete observations do they open their textbook to its treatment of immigration. (An alternate strategy would be to invite one or more immigrants into the classroom for full-class interviews. Very few U. S. communities today are without any immigrants.)

The value of helping students make local-global connections is reflected in the following comments by teachers:

ìThe immigration and global economy units at the end of the school year were clearly engaging for students at a time when interest and attendance generally wane. The local ëangleíóusing local maps with ethnic breakdowns along with global data presented on alternative world map projectionsóseemed particularly effective.î

îMy modern world history class is an ideal match, as the name suggests. Last year, I found it hard to keep students interested in the topics I was covering. [Now] I take issues that kids care about which are facing South Chicago [and] put these local issues in a global context.î

Or, as one teacher summed up the process, ìWe always try to feed several birds with one crumbî (a more humane, eco-sensitive, metaphor than the bird-stoning one, donít you think?).


Taking the Classroom into the Community

Community people visit Bowen classrooms; likewise, Bowen students go out into the community. Many volunteer in social service agencies, while others pursue more independent projects. Students are expected to document and analyze the global connections encountered in their work, and to note opportunities that local citizens have to affect global conditions.

One member of the social studies department who teaches a law class has identified several community service options that involve local-global connections. The global issues embodied in these options appear in parentheses.

n Tutor people for citizenship exams (global migration, diverse citizenship laws)

n Initiate community mediation program (global sources for conflict management, alternative justice systems)

n Register people to vote, help elderly people get to polls (voting rights, aging societies)

n Develop and distribute pamphlets identifying agencies that provide free services (funding alternatives, economic profiles)

n Start a school or neighborhood crime watch (involving criminality originating outside the U.S., e.g., drug importation)

n Develop a picture book to demonstrate smart shopping to youngsters or non-English speakers (immigration patterns, alternative shopping conditions/patterns abroad)

n Volunteer at a childrenís or battered womenís shelter (status/condition of women and children around the world, alternative perspectives on human rights traced to cultural mores)

Because community outreach is a new venture for the Bowen social studies department, we are approaching it very deliberately. We anticipate gaining new insights about both the potential and the challenges of making local-global connections. Monitoring and documenting our studentsí experiences will help keep the project on track and prepare us to share what we learn with others.

We have drafted a handbook with strategies and resources to guide students in (1) identifying and mapping local-global links and challenges, (2) exploring their communityís response to these challenges, (3) investigating how communities around the world are facing such challenges, and (4) engaging in community service to address local-global challenges. We welcome inquiries and are eager to learn of other efforts to link community service with global connections. v



Alger, Chadwick F. Your City in the World/The World in Your City: Discovering the International Activities and Foreign Policies of People, Groups, and Organizations in Your Community. Brief Report No. 1. (Columbus, Ohio: Mershon Center, The Ohio State University, 1974). The authors gratefully acknowledge the debt owed to Chad Alger for this pioneering study of global connections in Columbus, Ohio, which gave us new ways of perceiving the local-global connections in our own community.

Anderson, Charlotte C. ìGlobal Education and the Communityî in Kenneth Tye, ed., Global Education from Thought to Action, ASCD Yearbook, 1991.


Teaching Resources

The following publications proved especially useful in bringing a global perspective to our project.

Adventures on Earth. This is a four-lesson teaching packet that focuses on global environmental problems with case studies based in Haiti and Bangladesh. Publisher: Population Reference Bureau, Circulation Department, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 520, Washington, DC 20009.

Global Issues. This annual compilation of newspaper and magazine articles from around the world is an excellent resource for up-to-date information reflecting diverse perspectives. Most articles can be handled by middle and high school students; others require teacher synthesis or interpretation. Publisher: Dushkin Publishing Group/Brown & Benchmark Publishers, Guilford, CT 06437.

Great Decisions. This publication offers analysis of eight key foreign policy issues each year. Its newly revised teacherÌs guide helps make these complex issues classroom friendly. Publisher: The Foreign Policy Association, Inc., 470 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016.

World Press Review. As its name implies, this publication reprints articles from the worldís press. Publisher: The Stanley Foundation, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

World Eagle. This publication conveys information on a broad range of global topics using charts, maps, graphs, and brief essays. It is an excellent tool for developing graphic literacy skills, while enhancing global knowledge. Publisher: Independent Broadcasting Associates, Inc., 111 King Street, Littleton, MA 01460.

Two excellent publications supported the service learning focus of the project.

Service Learning in the Social Studies. This twelve-page bulletin provides teachers with a concise yet comprehensive guide for structuring service learning. Publisher: Constitutional Rights Foundation, Chicago, 407 S. Dearborn, Suite 1700, Chicago, IL 60605.

Active Citizenship Today Field Guide. This detailed handbook for students is laced with critical thinking challenges. It is a joint project of the Close Up Foundation and the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Publisher: Close Up Foundation, 44 Canal Center Plaza, Alexandria, VA 22314 (703-706-3300) or Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 South Kingsley Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90005 (213-487-5590).


Charlotte Anderson is assistant professor of education and coordinator of the tutorial-clinical teacher education program at Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. She is also president of Education for Global Involvement.