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Winter 2004
Acting Local to Think Global
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Connections are further extended through projects that directly link students here with their contemporaries in other countries. One such recent project brought together via the Internet students from five middle schools in the San Fernando Valley with those from two middle schools in Kabul, Afghanistan. Working collaboratively with specialists affiliated with the International Institute, faculty members at Holmes Middle School International Humanities Magnet in Northridge designed a curriculum to build common ground and facilitate exchanges between the American and the Afghan students. At the same time, the National Geographic Society produced a special map and the global aid group Relief International provided translations, equipment and technology.

The exchanges between the students were quite revealing. When asked about the "10 Things That Make Us Smile," the American students cited movies, malls, theme parks and air conditioning; the Afghan students talked about girls again being able to go to school — something that was prohibited under the Taliban regime — and sharing the same classroom with boys. Such interactions promote the goal of creating global citizens and establishing connections between peoples across cultural and territorial divides.

Travel is another means to encourage connections. Teachers have been taken on study tours of China, Korea and Japan, after which they return with an abundance of resources, experiences and good will that enriches their classroom instruction with fresh content and enthusiasm. These experiences help to meet the national need in the post-9/11 era for citizens, especially educators, to gain firsthand knowledge of other societies and cultures, just as visitors from abroad who have traveled here have learned to value and appreciate the United States and its people.

While the impact of K-12 international- studies outreach may be immeasurable in terms of intellectual stimulation and professional growth for the teachers who go through such programs, it is quantifiable in terms of the millions of students nationwide who are the beneficiaries of enriched education across the pre-collegiate curriculum. Students who have been exposed to these programs may, like the young woman in the Arabic-language class, be inspired to enroll in university courses that will help to further shape them as global citizens. And by so doing, they will participate in the fulfillment of the mission of the university, and that of the International Institute to educate a new generation of citizens and leaders "who are wise enough to know that an open mind is the passport to a better future world, and committed enough to devote their energies to building it."

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