The idea sounds simple enough: develop an extracurricular course to teach kids about world cultures, with a focus on life in developing countries, and get a grant to help cover costs.
Done and done.
But that hardly begins to scratch the surface of what is happening at Cole Middle School this year.
Cole Spanish teacher Katie Hook and library media specialist Phyllis Humphrey were awarded an EG Education Foundation for $5,000 to develop a Global Studies program that would introduce Cole students to world cultures and global humanitarian causes.
The first step was enrolling 30 students (they ended up with 32) in the actual "Global Studies" class, which takes place four days a week for 20 minutes during "Cole Time," a remediation/enrichment block meant to provide academic support for students. Because the course was taking place during Cole Time, only those students who did not need any remediation were eligible. Turns out, there were still a lot of kid who were eligible. For Hook and Humphrey, that was the tough part. Interested students applied and an independent panel reviewed essays written by the applicants.
The course was going to be rigorous. With class time only 20 minutes, 4 days a week, a lot of work would need to be completed independently. Some students decided it was more work than they wanted to deal with. Still there were more applicants than the course could hold, Hook said.
In a way, that was appropriate. The goal of the grant was to bring a global perspective to all the students at Cole. Hook and Humphrey were always aiming to reach as many students as possible.
On Nov. 20, for instance, they held Universal Children's Night, an school-wide extravaganza featuring ethnic foods and performances, hands on learning opportunities, and numerous global charitable exhibits. Many students who were not part of the official Global Studies course were able to participate by creating artworks, learning about global charities, or performing. The evening saw upwards of 400 visitors.
"It is a true pleasure to see teachers and staff, students and families come together in an incredible effort to help children in need and celebrate the diverse cultures of our Cole families," said Cole Principal Alexis Meyer. "I am confident that this experience will leave a mark on our students – they will long remember how their time and effort helped to improve the living conditions of children in need."
Hook is grateful for the EGEF grant – "If if wasn't for them, we wouldn't be able to do this."
Still, to keep it going, the program will need to be self-sustaining, since EGEF is not a long-term funding option, but rather a source to fund innovation. Hook and Humphreys are working on that.