Global learning: Travel in Europe expands students' knowledge in STEM, human rights, history

Madeira schools consider world culture committee
Posted at 12:00 PM, Sep 06, 2016

MADEIRA, Ohio -- Two Madeira High School students spent a portion of their summer exploring STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects by traveling to Europe.

Senior Erin Parker and junior Alex Miller were selected this year to accompany a group from Mariemont High School on an Education First tour, visiting cities from London to Amsterdam. This is the second year Mariemont City Schools has partnered with Madeira City Schools, reserving two spots for students on the Leveraging STEM to Protect Human Rights tour.

The group was particularly captivated by a museum in The Hague known asHumanity House, which offers a glimpse into the firsthand experiences of individuals in the midst of disasters and conflicts.

“We’d never actually felt what it was like to be a refugee, and I think that really helped us do that,” Parker said.

Visiting the museum helped students relate to experiences they otherwise have only read about or heard discussed on TV.

“You hear about it, but you don’t actually see it or understand it,” Miller said.

Over an 11-day span, the group also visited sites including the British Library in London, the Peace Palacein The Hague and the Anne Frank housein Amsterdam.

With only two spots available – both of which were 50 percent funded this year and last by the Madeira Schools Foundation – the trip is still a unique opportunity for Madeira students. A tentative initiative in the works could lead to more opportunities like it, though.

The district’s planning commission, which is made up of volunteers who are Madeira residents and teachers, recently urged school board members to create an international culture committee.

“Not a lot of schools have a formalized plan for that,” said David Kennedy, principal of Madeira High School.

The recommendation came as the result of one of four studies conducted by planning commission members over the 2015-16 school year.

“We probably will start looking at having a team of folks who will stay abreast of those opportunities,” Kennedy said.

Although no team has yet been put together, the planning commission’s recommendation is to include teachers, administrators, students, parents and professionals on the committee.

“We are right now just at the beginning stages of planning for that,” said Tim Weber, assistant superintendent for Madeira City Schools.

The district offers French, Spanish and Latin electives for high school students. Extracurricular clubs are available for the three languages, which include travel opportunities to France, Costa Rica and Italy. The district also partners with international exchange programs to host high school students from other countries.

Students learn about other countries and cultures in lower grade levels as well. Madeira Middle School features global learning through activities like geography bees and heritage days. Elementary students have opportunities to learn about other countries through an after-school “culture club” and for a fee can take Spanish or Chinese lessons before the start of the school day.

Additional global learning initiatives could not only help students understand and relate to their peers in other countries, but give them “a leg up” in the job market as graduates, Kennedy said.

“There are so many people being hired internationally,” he said. “The job market is now a global market.”

If the international culture committee is established, its members would explore more outlets and resources for global learning opportunities. Some possibilities explored in the planning commission’s study included foreign language curriculum for first- through seventh-graders, guest speakers from other countries and field trips to local sites with an international emphasis.

“It’s really about designing that K-12 experience,” Weber said.