global awareness

Developing 21st Century Skills: Global Awareness

Global awareness is understanding diversity, learning about other cultures, and recognizing our place in the world—and is a key 21st century skill.

The internet has served to expand your students’ worlds as even children living in a rural small town can access information about anything, anywhere. The direction you provide by including global awareness in your classroom can teach diversity and tolerance, an understanding of other cultures, and each person’s responsibility as part of a global society.

global awarenessKids generally strive to fit in during their school years. No one wants to be different, so many students often do whatever it takes to be just like everyone else. Global awareness teaches students to become more accepting of others’ differences and opens a world of curiosity and respect for unfamiliar religions, traditions, appearances, and languages. Preparation for working in a global business environment is also important for students—79 percent of United Kingdom business leaders in a 2011 study ranked global awareness as critical; even more important than grades or subjects studied.

Teaching this 21st century skill of global awareness may seem daunting, but incorporating a global view as part of your class curriculum is easier than you think.

Where in the World

“Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” may have been children’s first introduction to different countries and cultures. But a geographical review to identify the location of a country that has been in the news, the language spoken there, the type of government ruling the nation, and the country’s economy can bring understanding to the life of a Syrian affected by the recent chemical attack, put faces to the people impacted by a natural disaster, and shine a light on those making major STEM advances in other countries, increasing global awareness.

International Communication

global awarenessAlthough some American students have had the experience of developing global awareness through traveling outside of the United States, exposure to foreign cultures can be accomplished in the classroom. If available, Twitter accounts can be used by students to communicate with others in another country to share in the study of economics or philosophy. Skype can be used to bring students into one classroom to experience each other’s place in the world. Sharing classroom blogs with schools in other countries allow students to collaborate and gain understanding of other cultures. If technology is a challenge, many services exist that can match your classroom with a pen-pal classroom in another country.

Field Trips

If your school budget permits, field trips to an international museum or art gallery followed by lunch at an ethic restaurant exposes students to new cultures. Allow students of different ethnic backgrounds in your class, if they are comfortable doing so, to share their country’s traditions, foods, and history to give the other students a heightened global awareness. Bringing someone into the classroom to teach an introduction of their native language will expose your students to global communication awareness. Virtual field trips are a great option for increasing global awareness without depleting your budget, scheduling transportation, and managing lunches, volunteers, and permission slips.

Global Issues

Global awareness can be achieved by not just studying current events, but making global events a part of your science, math, history, geography, or language arts lesson. The international effects of ocean pollution, deforestation, or hurricanes can be discussed to emphasize how something happening far away can impact students in the United States. Global awareness opens our eyes to just how interconnected we are.

However you choose to incorporate global awareness in your classroom, your students will learn tolerance and respect for other kids’ differences, be they physical or cultural. Understanding differences allow students to respect and work with others from anywhere in the world.

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Sue Hamilton

Sue is a Pennsylvania native and graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.S. degree in English. She worked as a radio newscaster and newspaper reporter before becoming a paralegal in a small civil law firm. Reading is her passion and Sue is an avid volunteer with her community library.

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