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Global Enthusiasm Revealed at Summit

Thursday, March 19, 2015

So engaging are international topics — for a significant population of Wisconsin students — many had to be turned away from the third annual Wisconsin Global Youth Summit in Madison last month.

traditional dance
Students at this year’s event saw performances of Eisa -- a folk dance from Ryukyu (Okinawa), Japan, which incorporates taiko drumming and martial arts -- as well as South African gumboot dance, learning about cultural connections. They also met international university students and discussed global citizenship. Pictured is Anaguma Eisa, UW-Madison's Okinawan Taiko Club. Photo: Angela Bublitz, for the UW-Madison Division of International Studies

Gerhard Fischer, DPI international education consultant, feels the growing popularity of this event confirms that there is “enthusiasm for global learning” among Wisconsin students.

“I mean, 170 kids on a Saturday, for a full day? They don’t do that unless something interests them.”

And some students “may not even know yet that they’re interested” in international education if they haven’t experienced it very often, Fischer says.

Fischer says the Department of Public Instruction and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which jointly organize the summit, had to cap attendance because of limitations on the time of volunteers needed to make the event run.

Teachers working at a table with a newsprint sheet on which is handwritten the title, 'What Comptencies shoudl students demonstrate through Cultural Literacy'. Below are various sticky notes in a variety of colors.
Approximately 65 Wisconsin teachers -- who brought the students -- met separately to talk about ways they could implement programming in their schools and classrooms that helps students achieve the Wisconsin Global Education Achievement Certificate. Photo: Angela Bublitz, for the UW-Madison Division of International Studies.

Students also met in small groups to talk about how to increase global awareness in their own communities. Kerry G. Hill of the UW-Madison Division for International Studies reports these “key themes emerged”:

  • More academic opportunities to learn international languages, arts, culture, and sports, as well as non-American viewpoints in history and global issues.
  • Boost global appreciation through new and existing organizations and events. Learn through cultural food events.
  • Connect more through exchanges, pen pals, Skype, sister city partnerships, guest speakers, and collaborations with other students.
  • Service projects, such as to teach languages to younger students, or to assist international populations, locally or worldwide.
  • Visiting culturally diverse places, whether nearby -- like mosques, synagogues, museums, and ethnic restaurants – or abroad through service projects.
  • More statewide conferences, like the Global Youth Summit, to help more students connect with like-minded peers, and perhaps take on collaborative projects.

Global competency, Fischer says, is “all about understanding different perspectives and where different people are coming from. Different folks in different parts of the world approach ... problems differently.”

He emphasizes that global learning is a method of student engagement that should be woven into other subject areas.

“It’s not an add-on, it is an approach to learning that should be natural. So as a science teacher if I don’t occasionally reference the real natural world beyond Lake Superior maybe I’m not doing it right. If as an economics teacher I’m not talking about the global economy, maybe I’m not doing my job. So, not, ‘Create a new course,’ just, ‘Work it in to what you’re doing.’ Teachers and students should routinely consider the global scope of various concepts, whenever it's relevant."

Yellow notepaper folded by a participant into an origami crane
Photo: Angela Bublitz, for the UW-Madison Division of International Studies