By Sam Levine
Photo by Robert Kozloff

More than 100 K-12 teachers and education advocates gathered at the Fifth Annual Chicago International Education Conference on Nov. 9 to share strategies for developing a global curriculum and integrating it into classrooms.

In the keynote address, Julia de la Torre, executive director of Primary Source, a non-profit organization that connects American teachers and schools to cultures abroad, discussed the importance of moving global learning from the periphery of American education to its center. She noted that while the Common Core standards most states have adopted focus too much on America and Europe, they also provide leeway for teachers to introduce global texts into their teaching.

Role of education

“If we all agree that the role of education is to prepare students for the world—our future world—not the one we know now, then how we do this must involve careful thought, creative teaching, and a commitment to global education on the part of everyone,” de la Torre said. “It involves moving out of our comfort zone and into what may be the unknown.”

She added that steps teachers can take to emphasize global learning include starting a relationship with a school in a foreign country, sharing a global summer reading list with families, and creating standards for a global competency certificate for graduates.

Global learning

Will Walter, who teaches K-3 Spanish at William H. Ray Elementary School in Hyde Park, favors having some way to recognize global learning on student diplomas, especially for students who start that learning in lower grades. “If they start Spanish or another foreign language in kindergarten or middle school, to have them receive something like that at the end of their stay” is an intriguing idea, he said.

The University of Chicago's Office of Civic Engagement was among the sponsors of the daylong conference organized by the Center for International Studies. Read the CIS coverage of the event.