Teacher Spotlight: Nick Martino discusses his Global Studies syllabus

Our first class sessions of the 2014-15 school year involved a basic overview of what my goals for the course were, and I quickly shared my vision that the grade ten students create meaningful and engaging projects that deal with our local and global community. We started by discussing mission statements and worked for two entire class periods, finally coming together in agreement that:

“By reaching out to the local and global communities, Grade 10 Global Issues will endeavor to create positive and lasting change, to be then shared through multimedia.”

Once our mission was stated and we had full class buy-in, we could get started on the first global issue at hand: the environment. I started with the flipped classroom approach by having my students read the Environmental Issues blog. We kicked off by having an in-class discussion attempting to identify the global risks that our planet and species face. This would be the second time I had the grade ten students, almost half of whom are new to THINK Global School, openly collaborating and sharing ideas. The first was more of a team-building activity to have the students identify their common goals as a class. This second discussion served more as an academic barometer for me to assess what the students know about environmental issues. Here is the chart I made from the students commentary in that discussion.

Our next task was to investigate the types of environmental problems that we would get to experience throughout our host countries this semester. Using the United Nations curriculum entitled “Cities of Today, Cities of Tomorrow,” students investigated how city profiles were written to give an overview of a city’s environmental problems. You can read the city profiles that they’ve created here. Luckily for us, the cities that we will be living in this year, Auckland and Athens, were not on the list! This gave us the opportunity to research and create our own profiles for our own host cities. In conducting the research for these city profiles, I encouraged students to conduct their own fieldwork and analyze the type of fieldwork they were using to gather data. They quickly learned the downside of conducting surveys with the residents of Auckland regarding Istanbul!

You can read one student’s example here.

After my students dabbled with fieldwork and had an understanding of some of the environmental issues that each of our host cities were facing, I felt they were ready for their first project. The environmental degradation project has two components: one individual and one in which students are working with a small group. Keeping our mission statement in mind, the students separated themselves into groups based on the content that they wanted to cover and began planning a project that would create positive and lasting change. I used Google Forms to create a group proposal for them to complete.

The groups were all set and the students were excited to get started on this meaningful first project. It was then that I explained to them the individual component of this first project: within the confine of their group topic, I challenged each of them to become an expert on a specific area. For example, one group was investigating clean seas, so Mayoya decided to write her individual paper on the environmental dangers of deep-sea drilling.

In groups they researched local business and organizations that they could link up with. They wrote business emails, made phone calls, and even had the opportunity to meet with local businesses. Independently, they researched scholarly articles and used our TGS digital library to gather evidence.

After the proposals were submitted both for their group and individual essays, we worked together to establish timelines to carry out the work they set out to accomplish. They worked in class on group tasks, and at night independently on their personal essays. I made sure to cover my expectations and tips on Conducting Research and the Writing Process during different class sessions.

The students writing and researching skills were impressive, individually and on group assignments. After a few rounds of editing using the Google Documents ‘Suggested Edits’ tool, the essays were ready to be shared with the world. The evidence-based essays are very well-written, and honestly, exactly what I was hoping for!

But how does a teacher get non-class members to read the great work that his students created?

We spent the next class period condensing the main points of the students essays into catchy and intriguing blog posts. They included images and videos to provide an introduction on the topic they investigated, and included a link to the full-text of their essays at the bottom. If you are interested in the numerous environmental issues that plague our planet, or are interested to see what THINK Global School’s grade ten students are capable of, check out this tag dashboard containing my students great work.

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