A Local Education Pilot With Global Implications
School districts throughout the country are facing unprecedented challenges right now. With COVID-19 cases rising again, districts that only recently re-opened their doors to students are grappling with difficult decisions. Should we stay open or return to the strain of remote learning? Can we keep students and educators safe? And most importantly, how do we ensure that students continue to progress in their learning during this singularly disruptive year?
One school district in Massachusetts is taking a novel approach to that last conundrum, in partnership with World Savvy. The Norwood Public School District recently launched a pilot program for its middle and high schools implementing our signature inquiry-based learning approach and focus on global competency. This year, English, Science, Math, Social Studies, Art, Music, Drama, Wellness, and World Language classes at Coakley Middle School and Norwood High School will teach their lessons using this approach. If the pilot is successful, it has the potential to expand to all of Norwood’s public schools.
The pilot aims to help the Norwood Public School District achieve its strategic goal of moving beyond traditional textbook-and-test-based teaching to project-based learning. Norwood is a leader in recognizing the need for a new approach to education — one focused on global competency. In fact, this program is an expansion of Norwood High School’s Global Citizenship program, which has been engaging students on global issues since 2013 via a Global Citizenship club and certificate program.
At World Savvy, we’ve been empowering educators to make school inclusive, relevant, and engaging for all students since 2002. Our focus is on inquiry-based learning, which involves cultivating a learning environment where students can be curious, challenge assumptions, and seek multiple perspectives. We believe it’s essential to prepare young people to thrive in a more diverse, interconnected world. By focusing on “global competence,” educators can engage students in exploring and solving real-world issues, from poverty to climate change.
Norwood is putting these concepts into action and educators there have high hopes for the outcomes. “Teachers will use the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to ignite an interest in the students to look at real world issues and inspire them to action,” said Norwood High Vice Principal Cynthia Derrane. “I hope this helps increase our student engagement. I hope kids find their passion. I hope they start to see the real world connections with what they learn every day and the world beyond.”
So what, exactly, will this approach to learning look like in Norwood? As an example, some math students at Coakley Middle School might use data and statistics to analyze poverty, or why some communities have food deserts. Students at Norwood High may use their science lessons to learn how to extend the New England growing season for a new garden that will provide fresh produce for school families. In other words, students will be able to follow their own interests and make connections between issues in their own communities and in the broader world.
It’s more important than ever that students are empowered to recognize, and act on, that interconnectedness. COVID-19, systemic racism, climate change — these are challenges that know no borders. In fact, this year has squarely demonstrated the pressing need for global competence-based learning.
2020 has been rough on students and educators alike. By prioritizing this novel learning approach during such a difficult time, Norwood Public School District is positioning them for a better future.
World Savvy is already building out partnerships for the 2021–22 academic year, when we hope to see light at the end of the COVID tunnel and opportunities to engage face-to-face. If you’re interested in learning more about collaborating with us check out our partnership page.