The Global Concerns Classroom: Civic Education that Turns the World Around

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day.  My 2013 post framed Dr. King not merely as an American citizen, but rather as a global citizen… a concept that is widely used today in education and beyond.  In a 1979, Harry Belafonte performed the song  “Turn the World Around” on the Muppet show emphasizing the power of knowing, not otherizing, people and recognizing the agency and positive results that engagement can foster.   Watch the video below and enjoy!


How great is that?

In preparation for the segment, “designers at The Muppet Workshop did background research on African masks, to serve as the chorus. While these would be patterned very closely on real African masks, Jim Henson was very particular about selecting the final designs, since as Belafonte recalled, “he didn’t want to cause offense by choosing masks that would have some religious or national significance.”

Well done Mr. Henson.  And although some people may dismiss this as political correctness, an error in application of that term, I consider this understanding to be an example of global citizenship in practice.

So, what about today in 2016? Currently, there are a range of global citizen programs available for educators, schools, and communities to select GCC_logo_Colorfrom in order to bolster the global education experiences students have.  One program that stands out and should be explored by you  is “Global Concerns Classroom.” In their own words:

Global Concerns Classroom (GCC) is an innovative global education program that seeks to raise awareness of current international humanitarian issues in U.S. youth and to empower them to take meaningful action. Through dynamic resources, student engagement programs, and professional development for educators, GCC prepares youth to gain the knowledge and skills needed to be globally competent for the 21st century.

Very compelling indeed!  At a conference this past November, I had the pleasure of meeting  GCC Education Officer, Margi Bhatt.  We reconnected in the new year and discussed GCC and global education.  Margi’s insights about GCC’s  vision, resources, and her own work are provided below.  Be sure to connect with her and explore how GCC can contribute to your school and class.


1) Tell us about how you got involved in GCC.

After finishing my Master’s at Teachers College in International Education Development, I was eagerly seeking a position at an education NGO in New York City that not only captured my interest but whose mission I could believe in. Concern Worldwide’s reputation was well-known at Teachers College and when I saw there was an opportunity to work in the domestic education side of it through the Global Concerns Classroom program, I jumped at the opportunity! Luckily, the fit was great and I was hired for the job! I’ve been here for almost a year and half now.Margi

2) What are some of the successes of GCC and what is ahead for 2016?

GCC has been active since 2001, though it has taken on many faces since its conception. One of the strongest aspects of GCC is the content it provides teachers and students through standards-aligned curricula and our global issue guides. Because GCC sits under the greater INGO Concern Worldwide, we have access to up-to-date material on global issues. We source our information directly from our teams in the field so we can best capture what’s happening around the world and make it accessible for the US classroom.

All our resources are completely free of charge as well and as streamlined, easy to implement as possible for our teachers. Having been teachers ourselves, team GCC is always teacher-conscious and we hear great things from our participating teachers about the resources we provide, which gives us pride in our work! You can read more about our approach to programming on our website!

The last two years, we’ve focused our yearlong programming on Innovations in Global Health and Global Climate Impact. The yearlong program includes standards-aligned curriculum in the fall (5-6 lessons, 50 minutes each), Global Youth Summit in the winter, Community Action Plan and a Showcase event the spring, followed by the overseas field visit opportunity in the summer.

For the 2016-17 school year, we will turn our focus to Humanitarian Emergencies. Our curriculum will cover both manmade and natural disasters and how humanitarian organizations like Concern Worldwide respond in times of crisis. The lessons will include information about the humanitarian landscape and emphasize the importance of coordination. Our Global Youth Summit in the winter will give students the opportunity to put all this to the test through a simulated emergency scenario.  We are very excited for what’s to come!


3) What makes your program unique in the space of global citizenship education?

 Besides the fact that all our resources and program participation is completely free of charge, one very unique factorGcc unit of the GCC program is the annual overseas field visit. After participating in the various components of our program throughout the school year, students who are deeply interested in the global issues they’ve learned about are invited by their teachers to apply for a field visit opportunity.

Chosen students (and their teachers!) spend a week visiting Concern Worldwide programs in the field, with previous trips to Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia. This experience is hugely impactful for students as they are able to complicate and deepen their understanding of development work. You can read about our students’ experience last summer in Ethiopia on the GCC Blog!

Student alumni of our field visits have gone on to explore college degrees and career tracks in this field, citing their GCC/Concern experience as an inspiration. Teachers who participate in the visit find they are better equipped to talk about global citizenship topics in the classrooms back home and are more motivated to include global concepts in the topics they teach. We are thrilled to be able to provide such a special opportunity for our students and teachers!


4) What resources do you have for teachers?

 We have ten global issue guides focusing on major humanitarian and development issues in various countries, seven standards-aligned, ready-to-go unit plans (5-6 lessons, 50 minutes each), student narrated videos, and classroom posters to help teachers get the conversation started. Most recently, we’ve added an issue guide and unit plan on Climate Change in Niger. Our Water poster is very popular!

All of our resources are available on our website for free in PDF downloadable format. Teachers can also request hard copies of our issue guides for their classroom library. In 2015, we received dozens of requests from teachers all over the world, impacting hundreds of students.

In addition, teachers are welcome to request any other needs they may have for teaching global issues in the classroom and we do our best to provide guidance and additional resources.

 (sample video from GCC)

5) Are you seeing more schools in the USA making a move toward global education?

Yes, definitely! We are continually hearing from teachers all over the US seeking resources on global topics. Most recently, I’ve noticed a trend at the state-level for creating a global citizenship certification program for high school students. A lot of times, it’s the teachers themselves who are leading these campaigns to make global education a priority and to create incentives for their students to take part. States like Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and others are at various levels for making the certification program a reality. With these programs in effect, we hope that our resources will help fill any gaps teachers and administrators experience in their need for curriculum. Very exciting to see global education trending, especially since, from my conversations with teachers and students, it’s what they want to be teaching and learning!


6) How can schools get involved with GCC?

Currently, our yearlong program is available to high schoolers in NYC, Chicago, and Boston metro-areas. Any educator that fits those two criteria (geography and grade-level) are welcome to register on our website for next year’s program on Humanitarian Emergencies. Once registered, teachers will receive further information on the details of the programming, including curriculum and dates for events.

For those who don’t quite fit the bill, we have amazing online resources, PDF-downloadable and for free! If you’re a teacher looking to teach about global issues, you will find global issue guides per topic and by country on our site. In addition, there are 5-6 lesson (50 minutes each) unit plans on topics like Climate Change, Child Survival, hungerDisplacement, Education, HIV and AIDS, Hunger, and Water. There are also student-narrated videos to play in the classroom, as well as classroom posters to get the conversation started!

If teachers have other needs related to teaching global issues, we are always ready to receive requests and provide whatever resources and assistance!


 7) It has been a pleasure.  What final words do you have for readers?

Having worked with teachers the last couple of years on global citizenship education through GCC, I see first-hand the demand on teachers from all sides – administrators, students, guardians, and peers. It can be challenging in such a shifting educational environment to continue to provide great learning for students with energy and without losing sight of what is at stake – after all, the next generation of leaders are in the classrooms today!

In the last two years, I’ve also seen amazing teachers who are so dedicated to their work, which inspires me continuously to provide them with the most effective and streamlined tools to make their jobs easier. I will never forget last fall in Chicago, when a teacher came up to me after our professional development session – she hugged me and explained that she’s been looking for something like the GCC program for her students and she’s so thrilled that she’s found it!

Global citizenship education is quickly becoming essential to better prepare students for the 21st-century and to generally provide them with critical perspective on global issues. I am happy to be a part of the work that is making this happen!

To keep updated on all we’re doing at GCC, follow us on social media, where we’re constantly updating on the latest big thing and providing additional resources for teachers! You can find us on Facebook at Global Concerns Classroom, on Twitter @concerngcc, and Instagram at GlobalConcernsClassroom. Be sure to also check out our blog, where we post on international awareness days – an easy way to bring current events and global issues into your classroom!

Thank you Margi.  It has been a pleasure.  I look forward to staying in touch and seeing the continued impact GCC will have on global education.

Whoa ho, so is life!

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