Three years ago, Westfield High School began offering a course that asked seniors what it means to be a “Global Citizen.” The class runs in Socratic seminar-style with students encouraged to ask questions and use logic and reasoning to gain a more accurate meaning of the social constructs that shape society.
“Our goal is that students come away from our course with a deeper understanding of themselves, the spaces they occupy, the greater community around them and their symbiotic relationship with it,” says English teacher Bailey Verdone who, with social studies teacher Antony Farag, co-wrote the curriculum for the interdisciplinary Global Citizen course and presented it to the Board of Education in 2014. “We hope that our students have a greater sense of critical consciousness upon finishing our class, leaving them better able to understand themselves and others in a globalized society.”
Each student prepares a presentation on what it means to be a global citizen, researching and addressing an issue that is local to the Westfield High School community but that also connects on a broader global scale. Topics, which are first approved by the teachers, can be environmental, economic, political, social or educational.
On so-called Fab Fridays beginning in November, each student presents his/her issue to the class.
“The Global Citizen course is based on an essential question,” says Farag who co-teaches the course with Verdone. “The critical thinking tools that we expose students to at the beginning of the year enable them to continually ask questions and use logic to reason towards answers, detect fallacies, and identify unsound premises. We hope that this constant questioning can build a critical consciousness which would better prepare them for a global society.”
The students’ Fab Friday presentations are the foundations for their senior projects. The course also aligns closely with the district’s commitment to Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).
“Much of the course is designed around the students’ own self-perception, recognizing their strengths, and their emotions, self-confidence and efficacy,” Verdone says. “Additionally, our course is very much focused on what impact individuals have on their communities – both on a local and global scale – encouraging their own sense of empathy, appreciation of diversity, and respect for others, thereby building their social awareness. While our academic coursework is research- and text-based, a lot of the real work we’re doing is introspective in terms of students’ own interpretation of this information, how they process it, and how they apply their learning to themselves and their relationships with others.”
Verdone adds that the concept of citizenship also is emphasized which ties into the responsible decision-making competency of SEL, as students turn 18 and become voting members of society.
“One of the wonderful aspects of this project is that students are actively engaged, facilitating their own learning, and building off of one another’s ideas,” says Supervisor of K-12 Social Studies Andrea Brennan.
To learn more about the course and for samples of student work, visit the Global Citizen blog.