Reflecting an intentional alignment with Lead From Here, today's Global Education classes inspire students to build cross-cultural empathy and greater global awareness.
In the summer of 2020, Jessica Yonzen and Melanie Spransy — then director and assistant director, respectively, of Ravenscroft’s Global Education program — began developing new mission and vision statements for global competencies using Lead From Here as a guide. The goal was to place the school’s groundbreaking citizen leader framework at the center of all global education work on campus.
Since then, Spransy, who is now serving as interim director, and her colleagues in a range of disciplines have been working to integrate these global competencies even more thoroughly into their curricula. Their efforts bring the world to Ravenscroft students in a variety of ways — something Spransy describes as a “pivot” that positions global travel as an extension of sustained, in-depth classroom learning.
One game-changing tool making this shift possible are the “virtual exchanges” taking place between Ravens here and their counterparts all over the world. “There are so many different models of virtual exchange — from a one-time [online] classroom speaker to a yearlong integrated project,” Spransy said. “And they can involve so many more participants than trips. These opportunities will make a huge difference for our students.”
This year, a number of classes have leaned into the opportunities created by virtual exchanges, including these Upper School examples:
● In ninth-grade World History, students participated in an introductory virtual exchange with classes from multiple countries, including Moldova, Taiwan and Romania.
● Tomeiko Carter’s students in Honors Digital Media for Global Learning participated in virtual exchanges with students in India, Tanzania and Taiwan.
● Spransy’s Global Issues students created and shared projects with students learning English at their partner school, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico.
● Yi-Wen Liu’s Mandarin students are building their language skills and cultural knowledge through an ongoing virtual exchange with students at New Taipei Municipal Panchiao Senior High School in Taipei, Taiwan.
Global Issues teacher Melanie Spransy (top row, second from left) moderates a breakout room discussing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as part of the virtual GEBG global dialogue in the fall of 2021; in attendance are students from India, Turkey and the U.S.
“It’s my second year working with them, and their teacher and I have become a good team, brainstorming more ideas to make connections,” Liu said. “Both of our freshmen classes did the Marshmallow Challenge [a group design-thinking exercise that emphasizes creativity and innovation] at the beginning of the year and exchanged photos of our class results. When the students started to exchange video messages, they were able to be more open-minded and share their learning experiences with each other. As a teacher, there's nothing more fulfilling than seeing how this virtual exchange ignites curiosity in students.”
“Global Education hopes to support other departments in all divisions in making these kinds of connections,” Spransy said.
Davis Anderson ’22, a passionate student of Global Education who is earning Ravenscroft’s International Diploma, has enthusiastically embraced the myriad opportunities presented by virtual exchanges.
“It’s hard to imagine having an international program during our times of COVID-related contact restriction, but the virtual programs I have engaged with as a part of my diploma experience have been so much more than merely substitutes for travel,” she wrote in a reflection (below) on the impact of her studies in Global Education. “By holding conversations and building cross-cultural empathy with students from India, California, Belarus and beyond, I’ve fundamentally changed the way I see our shared world.”
Members of Melanie Spransy’s Global Issues class present their first-semester research projects, which reflect a deep understanding of global problems and potential solutions facilitated in part by their virtual exchanges with students from around the world.
In this graphic from his multimedia policymaking proposal on immigration, Global Issues student Connor Kowalczyk ’23 explores challenges and solutions at America’s southern border.
How Global Education and virtual exchanges expanded my worldview
By Davis Anderson ’22
It was the first week of the second semester in my sophomore year at Ravenscroft, and I had decided to stay in my Latin classroom for study hall. At the time, I didn’t know that this decision would lead me down a path of international interconnectedness, expanded worldview and newfound global focus. I just knew that the discussion I
heard in the classroom across the hall about Annawadi, a Mumbai undercity, seemed interesting, and that I wanted to join in.
I’m beyond thankful that I did. Before I joined that classroom, I primarily saw myself as an individual, faithful to the communities of my identity but ultimately restricted to engaging with what I knew. However, through my participation in the International Diploma program and taking globally focused courses such as World History, AP European History, AP Environmental Science and Global Issues, I have recontextualized myself as a citizen of the world with a responsibility for the stewardship of its resources and people. Particularly as an advocate for climate justice, having an international perspective has been crucial in ensuring that I am working to create a more equitable and sustainable world for all.
It’s hard to imagine having an international program during our times of COVID-related contact restriction, but the virtual programs I have engaged with as a part of my diploma experience have been so much more than merely substitutes for travel. I have been fortunate enough to attend three dialogues hosted by the Global Exchange Benchmark Group focusing on youth action for global causes, ethical leadership across the rural-urban divide and the United Nations’ sustainable-development goal focusing on climate action. In these dialogues I have had the incredible opportunity to engage with students my age from all over the world, discussing differences and sharing similarities on issues we share a passion for. These dialogues have been so much more than a substitute for virtual travel: by holding conversations and building cross-cultural empathy with students from India, California, Belarus and beyond, I’ve fundamentally changed the way I see our shared world.
I have also had the opportunity to bring some of the competencies I’ve learned back here to our campus. I participated in a virtual story exchange and facilitation workshop held by GEBG over the summer that paired us up with other students. Participants told their partner a story, then each of us shared our partner’s story to the larger group using the “I” perspective as if their story were our own. After finding that method for building connections with others to be particularly poignant, I collaborated with Ms. Spransy to create a similar workshop for our Global Issues class exchange with the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey.
These virtual experiences have been beyond rewarding, and I highly recommend them to any who are interested in expanding their worldview.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Read more stories about recent work in Global Education:
Middle, Upper School Students Participate in Global Dialogue Series (April 30, 2021)
Programs Emphasize Student Leadership and Global Citizenship (Oct. 30, 2020)