World Wonder

Inspiring Global Citizenship

The Year of Global Inspiration!

Mother with baby on her back.

Mother and babe in South Africa (2010, Kristina King Cohen)

As we ring in the new year I wanted to share some recent stats about World Wonder. In looking at last year, World Wonder was viewed close to 800 times in 13 countries. Quite encouraging for a blog that has been in existence barely 5 months. These statistics indicate to me that there is a significant level of interest out there for creating a more globally aware and involved community. My goal with World Wonder this year is to feature more success stories about people and organizations doing remarkable things and to highlight these opportunities for encouraging more global citizenry. This means if you have a resource or idea to share or you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I’d love to feature you and help get the word out! Let this be the year of global inspiration!

So to start the year, I have a short story to tell.   Recently I had a chance encounter with a person I hadn’t seen in a while. It was my Ob/Gyn Dr. Debra Matityahu who delivered Skye and cared for me during my pregnancy with Leo. We hadn’t seen each other in several years. In fact, the last time we talked I heard a little bit about a trip she had made to Kenya with her family. Little did I know how transformative this trip was for her and her family.

Right after their trip to Kenya, Debbie and her daughter Arielle founded A Little 4 A Lot. This non-profit provides scholarships, skills training, and micro loans for young women recovering from fistula. If you don’t know what fistula is I encourage you to read this article and watch this video. It will blow you away! What is so inspirational and impressive is how quickly they moved to take action and focus this organization on a very critical need in Kenya. They are doing it right by engaging with a local expert, in this case, a health clinic that offers women with no access to healthcare, the opportunity to get the operation they so desperately need. Then they provide the women with education, skills training, and resources in order to build their own businesses. Models such as this in solving some of the world’s biggest social issues are incredibly encouraging. A Little 4 A Lot also takes high school students on trips to Kenya to observe, engage, and learn about how the other half of the world lives. This method of engaging youth in development work continues to show extremely positive outcomes and results. Basically it’s the best kind of training for preparing youth to be more empathetic, globally aware, and ready to take action. This video beautifully demonstrates how this kind of experience can impact youth. Remember you don’t need to travel 10,000 miles away to make this kind of impact. You can look in your local neighborhood and find many ways to give back and encourage youth to participate in service-learning.

I’m excited to watch this dynamic duo continue to do their work in Kenya. This kind of grassroots involvement and engagement with partners abroad to solve some of the world’s most pressing social issues is inspiring and powerful. This is the essence of World Wonder. Finding what inspires you, involving young people, and taking action for the betterment of the world. Stay tuned for more from A Little 4 A Lot. I’m predicting great things for this organization! Learn more about how you can get involved here.

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The Gift of Global Perspective

animation of students asking questions.

Exploration, inquiry and discovery. (Image courtesy of USF)

I was recently inspired by a workshop I attended with World Savvy. World Savvy is an organization that designs and delivers teacher training with a focus on bringing more global competence, project-based learning and community action into the classroom. At the start of the workshop, the ice breaker went like this: “If you had unlimited resources where would you go in the world?” It was fascinating to hear from each of the 20 attendees, mostly strangers, about where they would go and why. It immediately gave one insight into people’s interests, desires and personalities.  It also quickly lightened up the mood in the room. The answers were intriguing like the local middle school teacher who said she would go to Egypt to learn more about the ancient pharaohs. She said, “Ever since I was a child I pretended I was a pharaoh, so I would love to spend more time with my imaginary friends.” Or the middle school teacher from Marin who talked about her Scandinavian roots and how she prefers cooler climates and the green lush landscape of Northern Europe. And the educator from Oakland who talked about her travels and her favorite place being Turkey, where she felt very little racism. She would love to spend more time in a society where she felt most comfortable. And the youth coach who grew up in Los Angeles and expressed her desire to spend more time exploring her birth place in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. It made me wonder what would it take to instill this kind of global perspective and curiosity in our youngest citizens.

World Savvy curriculum is primarily focused on grades 6-12, but much of their training curriculum can be applied in the K-5 environment. During the workshop, all I could think about was what a gift this would be for all students to be exposed to such rich content and topics that expose young people to the diversity and challenges in the world, providing inspiration for action. It made me think about how we as parents, educators, community members and volunteers have the power in our hands to expose kids to the beauty and realities of the world and to inspire action by the youngest citizens in our communities. So how might we go about this? One idea, is to ask the littlest people in our lives, what inspires you the most? What are you curious about? What would you like to learn more about? And take that inspiration and broaden it.  Put it in the context of a global issue, place or people and talk about ways to understand the issues and how to create change. Our littlest citizens are compassionate people by nature. By doing this we are encouraging a heightened level of empathy and understanding. The goal is to take these skills with them beyond K-5 into middle school and high school and into college and the work force. Start young and provide that gift!

What sparks your child’s curiosity? How can you encourage the gift of global perspective?

Here are a few resources that might inspire you:

  • Gardening – Introduce your child to gardening practices in other parts of the world.  What gardening practices are “smart” practices depending on the climate you live in? What about edible gardens? How do people grow food in different parts of the world whether you are living in a rural or urban environment? One interesting resource to share is Urban Farming, an initiative to encourage the establishment of gardens on unused land and raising awareness about health and wellness.
  • Reading and Storytelling – Introduce your child to children’s books in different languages or books about children around the world. How would your child write their story? How would your child share the books they love with other kids around the world? I recently discovered this online collection of Time for Kids articles that tell the story of young people around the world. What’s most fun about this resource is for every country they feature. they offer a Day in the Life of a local child. How would your child describe a day in their life? Have them create a book and think about sharing their story with a pen pal.
  • Sports – Wouldn’t it be fun to explore the world through sports? What do local sports tell you about a culture? Are girls participating in sports in other countries, why? Why not? What sport would you like to try? You might even check out your local resources, for example, here in the Bay Area there is a thriving cricket league because of the large population of athletes from India. Wouldn’t it be fun to catch a local cricket match! I searched for a comprehensive book about sports around the work that might interest children, and I have yet to find anything. But here is a really fun list of games played around the world.
  • Art – Does your child enjoy painting, drawing, using mixed media, crafts, fashion?  Art is one of the more accessible means for learning about a country, culture and people. Art can provide historical context, cultural lessons, connection and emotion. The Met has an interesting site that shows numerous traveling exhibits featuring art from around the world.
  • Music – You can learn a lot about a country and culture through their local music. Does your child enjoy making music, singing, dancing, acting, using instruments? I have always loved the assortment of global music offered by Putumayo. Share this musical magic and watch imaginations soar!
  • Cooking – Does your child enjoy cooking? How about exploring recipes from around the world, including the different ingredients, spices, and traditions around food. Food is another subject that can teach children a lot about a culture and unique traditions such as the local delicacies and celebrations around food. This online resource offers some really fun recipes from around the world.
  • Science and Technology – For those children that love to create, experiment, invent, or tinker, there are many ways that these interests and skills can be applied in a global context. How are countries around the world impacted by innovation and access to technology? Why do some places have more access to today’s innovations over others?  How are technologies like solar energy, green construction, and new medical technologies impacting societies around the world? There is a wide array of resources available including learning resources from the national maker space movement, the Exploratorium, the Cal Academy of Sciences and the Tech Museum.   Challenge your children to explore the world through science and technology and you’ll be amazed by what they discover and create.
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What’s Your Cause?

Hands holding felt heart

What are you most passionate about?

‘Tis the season of giving! The season of being thankful! I often ask the question, how can we embrace this feeling throughout the season without getting completely overwhelmed by the shopping frenzy and holiday madness that seems to creep into many of our lives? No matter how hard I try to focus on what this season is supposed to be about, I often find myself getting anxious and stressed and losing site of the true holiday spirit.

One possible coping mechanism is to think about what you are most passionate about. Is it your family? Children’s rights? Literacy? The environment? Global peace? The arts? Technology access? Are your passions too many to list? Recently, I was inspired by a local school in East Palo Alto that has declared the month of March as their give-back-month. Every March the students pick a cause to support and they basically collect pennies and other change from students and staff. This year they raised $10,000, including some donations from the local community. My point being that it doesn’t take much to make a big impact and why not start now? I’m inspired to start this tradition at my daughter’s school as a way to involve students in active philanthropy and community service. I want to challenge you to take on the tradition of a give-back-month, involve your school or neighborhood, and think about the many ways that you and your family can give back.

The other thing that struck me is what research continues to show us.  That the act of giving is good, actually great for your overall well-being. The act of giving to others whether it be time, money or other resources can provide a very strong connection to your community and a purpose in this big, complex world. As reported in Scientific American, “In one study subjects were given the choice to receive a very tangible material benefit to themselves—up to $128—or to donate money to a range of charities. Each charitable donation would decrease their own monetary endowment, while each choice that focused on their monetary interest would maintain their earnings. Not only did the researchers find that all participants consistently chose to engage in costly donations, anonymously giving up an average of 40% of their endowment (around $51) for charity, but they also discovered surprising differences in neural activity for decisions that involved donating money versus receiving money. Specifically, while monetary rewards activated the mesolimibic reward system, including the dorsal and ventral striatum and the ventral tegmental area—as would be expected of something that gives us positive reward—when people donated money to a charity, the same network showed even greater activity—and the activity spread to the subgenual area (implicated in social attachment), which had remained inactive in the pure monetary reward choices. While we may not always agree, our brains seem to suggest that the joy of being a gift’s giver may eclipse that of being its recipient.”

It doesn’t take much and the rewards are even greater in terms of your well-being and the positive global impact that you can have. I challenge you and your family to find your cause, commit to it, and create your own give-back-month. Enjoy!

A few of the organizations I’m most passionate about that might spark your interest:

  • Unicef – This year UNICEF is running a great campaign offering you a variety of ways to make a difference for very little money.
  • Kiva – Kiva sends micro loans to organizations around the world including the United States. You can choose the type of business you would like to support and the specific global location.
  • Global Fund for Children – This organization continues to support small non-profit organizations working on a variety of children’s causes. I recently received their annual report and I was extremely inspired by their model of localization by cultivating local expertise through ongoing monetary support and strategic planning.
  • Donors Choose – One of my favorite national organizations that provides a platform for teachers to post projects and solicit donations to support what they want to do in their classrooms. You can track the progress of the project and communicate with the teachers to see how things are going.
  • Global Giving – A fantastic resource for finding organizations that support your passion globally. Find the organizations that most inspire you and give yourself a little dose of feel good this holiday season! I challenge you!
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Celebrating Life!

Dia de los Muertos (Photo credit: Jessica Seba)

Dia de los Muertos (Photo credit: Jessica Seba)

I have always been intrigued by the Latin American tradition of Día de los Muertos. Although marked throughout Latin America, Día de los Muertos is most strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. It is believed that on November 1 the deceased come back to earth for a visit and families create ofertas or altars to welcome their presence.

According to National Geographic Education, “assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Día de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Día de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Día de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.”

My daughter’s classroom has been studying this tradition and as a class created an altar featuring photos primarily of great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and pets that have passed. The children decorated the altar with tissue flowers, papel picado, fruit, skulls, hearts and other memorabilia representing loved ones. I like the tradition of having a time each year to celebrate loved ones that have past. The simple act of creating a special place for loved ones and remembering what they enjoyed can be immensely therapeutic and powerful. I can remember attending my first Día de los Muertos procession in San Francisco. It was a magical, mystical and beautiful community event.  The streets were filled with skulls and skeletons dressed in street clothes, dresses, and suits, dancing, singing, and celebrating life.

I found it interesting how my daughter quickly turned something that may seem morbid into something that was uplifting, colorful, and celebratory.  Her classmates have embraced this tradition with curiosity, compassion, and intrigue.  I encourage families to create their own ofertas or altars in their homes. I also encourage you to check out some of these local activities happening this weekend. Here’s one way of putting an international twist on Halloween, show your kids how the day after Halloween is celebrated in parts of Latin America. Ask your children what they would include in an oferta to loved ones. You might consider including these typical objects in your altar:

  • A photo of the person to whom the altar is dedicated
  • A glass of water or beverages enjoyed by the loved one
  • Flowers or other natural objects
  • Decorations
  • Fruit, bread, and other foods
  • Candles and incense
  • Things that the person enjoyed in life

Check out these local Bay Area activities and celebrate!:


Guest Blog – Building a Global View

Allen and her daughter Honour

Author Allen and her daughter Honour.

Growing up in a little village in Uganda was very exciting for me for a number of reasons.  I had many siblings to play with, my family was and is still very close, valuing relationships, love, respect and support to each family member.  As a young girl, I very much enjoyed the daily excitement of playing and sharing meals.  If we had to leave home, then it was when we were going to school, church, hospital or maybe just taking a day off with mom to visit grandparents who stayed in close proximity to us.  My parents had strict parenting rules.  As children we found most of them hard on us but today I thank God for then seemingly strict rules as they helped my siblings and I remain morally upright.

Whenever I met friends who traveled for long distances, I admired them and hoped that one day I would travel. I am personally inspired by positive thinking people, those of great faith and people that believe impossible things happen! I love meeting new people and making friends. And most importantly I love to travel often and venture out into new places.

Going to high school and university did provide me that experience to some extent as I came to know many people that influenced people positively. However, that was always short lived hence I kept longing for opportunities to travel. Later, I had some opportunities to travel through my work with development organizations such as Action Aid International and Compassion International. As a parent, I thought about it more and wanted my children to get a global experience in their education.

I have a passion for development work such as working to uplift the status of under privileged children and women and other vulnerable persons. I believe in creating rights awareness for these groups of people so they can come to a position where they can demand for their services. Sometimes, to do this, you need to move out of your own local experience so as to better appreciate how different communities view and respond to life situations.

In 2006, I got married to my husband who I had known since I was 18 years old. My husband’s home town is in eastern Uganda and mine is in western Uganda, which means, this union came with travels as we occasionally needed to see family members in these two uniquely different parts of the country.

In 2011, my husband moved into a new role in Nairobi, Kenya. Although it is closer to home, we were still excited to move and to join him in a new location. My elder daughter Honour was then in day care and it was awesome to watch her get excited by the new developments in the family. My little girl Nissi was just a few months old. I was so excited that I was eventually getting closer to the life I had wished for.

In a space of less than 6 months, there were some changes and my husband had to change jobs and relocate to South Africa, a beautiful country with resilient people who fought hard until they ended apartheid and the injustices associated with it.  This was a time of many changes in the life of our family, yet we all looked forward to it.  South Africa is extremely different from all the other African countries in a sense that it has people from all walks of life – there lives a cocktail of cultures, values and backgrounds.  The infrastructure and service delivery are all different and good compared to all other African countries including Uganda. Unfortunately, it is also one of the countries with the highest crime rates in Africa.

Traveling abroad does give an opportunity for exposure to other cultures and other opportunities and this has been the case for my family.  It is exciting to watch my six year old daughter teach Afrikaans to the rest of the family members.  My daughters have had an opportunity to learn more about South African languages, foods, and a way of life among others.  In Uganda, where we were born and lived until we relocated to South Africa, the weather is cool throughout the year, with beautiful sunny seasons and some wet months.  Now, South Africa is one of those countries in the Southern Hemisphere where winter begins on 1 June and ends on 31 August.  Early last year, we had to teach our kids more about the weather, and the schools helped to explain why the dressing has to change, and also why we have to make some changes in our daily routine.

Although we still miss our big family and other aspects of our life in Uganda, we believe that it has helped widen our world view. This is especially important for the kids as they get to learn much more such as a new language, caring for pets, etc.  Nissi, my 3 year old little girl is doing extremely amazing at school, learning how to care for abandoned animals and plants. This is not common practice in Uganda as there are more human beings in dire need of food, clothing and shelter hence animals may not come first.  At the end of the day seeing the mind shift and newly found interests take root is exciting.

In brief this is what we have learned by moving to a new country as a young family:

  • How to interact with people from other cultures with respect and love.
  • The importance of showing interest in other cultures and lifestyles.
  • Understanding the history of South Africa and the sacrifices people make for the sake of freedom of others.
  • Developing the reading culture – this has been one of the most impressive things as it was not a major focus before.  Learning to spend more time reading with the children has been one of the things we have done more since we moved to South Africa.  Research shows that reading is important for brain development especially as children grow.  It is also a very important culture for adults to build into their lives.

We have endured loneliness and staying away from our close family in Uganda.  As a way of contributing to our local community in Uganda, I am creating a package for the very poor families in our neighborhood; collecting clothes and toys for women and children as gifts for their Christmas.  My family hopes to put a big smile on the faces of these vulnerable women and children as they receive the much needed clothing and toys for children to play.  We look forward to our trip to Uganda.

We are learning to build a family with a global view of life and I believe this will position us to be better people not only for Uganda but for the entire world.

More about Allen Kirungi:

Allen is a Ugandan development worker with a specific focus on education, children and gender issues.  Married and mother of two, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Management.

I had the privilege of meeting Allen and her sister in 2000 while Allen was here in San Jose, CA benefiting from Gift of Life International.  Through the power of social media and email we have remained in touch and enjoy sharing frequent updates from abroad.  I anticipate someday we’ll have the occasion to reunite in person!


Something to be proud of!

Keep Calm and Volunteer

I was recently inspired by the 20th Anniversary of Americorps. My second job out of college was as an Americorps volunteer. My first job was teaching English in Spain, more on that later! During my Americorps tenure I worked with the Marcus Foster Educational Institute building and implementing community and school based support programs. I can remember being most proud of the work I did coordinating peer tutoring, volunteers and family outreach in the Oakland public schools. My year of service was a time of amazing growth for me personally and professionally. No education can provide such profound learning and growth than being put out in the field, building your skills, finding resources, collaborating with others and trying new things to solve complex issues. During this time I was paid a monthly stipend and at the end of my service I was given an educational award for continuing education. The rewards were numerous!

Here in the United States I think we have something to be very proud of, something that represents democracy at its best. And that’s the investment we have made in volunteers and the emphasis we make as a society about the importance of volunteering. Volunteering represents active citizenship, community building and team work at its best!  Americorps, Teach for America, Vista, and the Peace Corps are all examples of where our national government has made volunteering a priority. I think we can be extremely proud of this and share with the world our lessons learned and best practices.

Volunteering not only feels good, but it many cases new skills can be developed and new connections can be made. Volunteering helps strengthen communities, build new supports for under-served communities and leverages the strength and energy of individuals to work as a team. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, “Over the past two decades we have also seen a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones. This research, which is presented in a report titled The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have also shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering, whether because they are more likely to face higher incidence of illness or because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing.”

Now is a great time to encourage volunteerism in your community whether it be in your local school, shelter, community center, library or assisted living facility. And for those looking to go beyond their borders, you can always consider an international opportunity. Below are resources to share and to help inspire others!

Where to find national and international volunteer opportunities:

Ideas or resources to share?  Contact World Wonder today!


Guest Blog – The Smallest Global Citizens Know No War!

Two adults holding hands with little girl.

Val and her grandniece in Ireland.

Recently my hubby and I took a trip to Ireland with our nephew, his wife, and their one year old. She’s my pal! We tagged along to watch our grandniece while her parents, ‘the kids’ we call them, attended a friend’s wedding in a castle. Who gets married in a castle? The answer is the Generation X’ers*. Those powerhouse individuals who are abundantly smart, highly energized and nonconforming. Although well-traveled, I thought this trip would be an adventure and it was!

Observing this trio easily maneuver airport security, foreign money exchanges, language barriers, travel routes, pubs, people, ancient ruins and war-zone streets with their toddler was invigorating for me. It ignited a ray of hope that had been waning. I’m convinced that our children (you) will set the stage for a more loving, stronger and tolerant earth to raise global citizens.

Our trip revealed a classroom in every crevice, like a universal design for learning (UDL) setting where there are no boundaries and multiple representations of our senses are in full throttle. We drove beautiful Irish landscapes and sad barren streets. We were stopped by animals (cows and sheep crowd sourcing) that taught me strength and endurance for the sacredness of land. Music enriched my ears with stories that held further curiosity. Ancient castles appealed to my interest in world history. Spoken languages taught me humility. It is amazing when you stop and listen with all your senses, especially your heart, how information can unfold into deep learning like never before.

My nephew was particularly interested in Northern Ireland. Opposed to this, I was out-ruled. Now, I understand the lesson for me and readers of this blog. Both war-torn cities and their people had seen the worst in their government, leaders, and neighbors. Hatred built on religious intolerance and lack of basic civil rights had sunk deep into children who grew up to be adults with “scars” deeply blazing.

Image of a mural.

Political mural in Ireland.

We saw segregated schools, barbed wire playgrounds and anti-protest murals in dark graphic proportion. Each screaming names of women, children, and men murdered for a cause and depicting some awful chaos. We encountered protest bonfires piled high on a city street ready to commemorate the past. Yet, as we pushed our Ave’s stroller into a pub to share a meal, meeting stares from locales, as our eyes met, a calm, deeper understanding passed between us. “This child knows NO WAR. She is here without bias to learn — not to relive the past, but to see what the future may hold.”

Having this experience renewed my pledge to the world. Today, I will set an example to honor the teachings of my young family and my pal, little Ave. I will look at the world from her perspective and see NO WAR ahead. I will ask for peace in my heart and envision it placed directly into the world’s hands – your hands. I will encourage understanding, acceptance and tolerance to create kinder habits.

Whether you venture across the world to teach or are a professional teacher, loving parent, adoring aunt, neighbor, youth pastor, or government official – you are responsible to offer your hand in peace. It is up to us to encourage a different world and I know we can do it!

Here are some thoughts and resources to help you set a path of global citizenship – one that we can be proud of and deserve.

  • Tap into stories, video, art, posters, props, and music to introduce children to other cultures.
  • Create a reader’s theater where children might act out other’s life experiences to help them “feel the part.”
  • Invite discussions of real-world events to help children understand what’s happening around them. Value their ideas and creative solutions. They have the answers.
  • Seek opportunities to connect with all faiths, colors and ages using technology. (See 50 uses of Skype)
  • Embrace learning individuality. Squash hatred and bullying.
  • Emphasize learning is for all people, no matter their disability, race, or religion and teach social skills to children.

*Generation X’ers are individualistic, self-sufficient, digitally literate, professionals, worldly, and value choices.

Valerie Chernek is a freelance PR and Social Media Marketer for the Ed-Tech Industry. She lives in Maryland and has worked for several leading software publishers and non-profits. Val is a strong advocate for teachers and children with disabilities and a literacy tutor in her community. She has written articles about technology for learning and has a thriving Twitter account to share educational news and best practices.

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Brain Booster!

sign in multiple languages

Language exploration at the Exploratorium (San Francisco)

Two things inspired me recently. A recent visit to the Exploratorium and my daughter’s first week in Spanish immersion. At the Exploratorium I noticed how they have done a beautiful job of integrating global languages into the descriptions of various exhibits. By providing information in multiple languages, the Exploratorium has created a space of exploration in a global context that is accessible to a multitude of communities and cultures.

I also got inspired watching my daughter in Spanish immersion for the first time. I have been fascinated by her progress in just one week. I can tell her brain is being challenged in a good way, you can almost see the sparks flying!  I keep thinking, how can this be a bad thing? She’s learning something new every day and building a skill that she will most likely take with her the rest of her life. It makes me wonder why we don’t encourage more foreign language exploration and instruction in our schools. This inspired me to look at the research. And what I found is that learning a foreign language can actually boost your brain. Bilingualism is good for you. It makes brains stronger. It is brain exercise.

According to a NY Times article published in 2011, bilingual individuals have a more efficient executive control system in their brains. This basically means that bilinguals can often multi-task and focus easier when faced with multiple distractions. Research has also shown that bilingualism can help forestall the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the article, “Bilingual older adults performed better than monolingual older adults on executive control tasks. On average, the bilinguals showed Alzheimer’s symptoms five or six years later than those who spoke only one language. This didn’t mean that the bilinguals didn’t have Alzheimer’s. It meant that as the disease took root in their brains, they were able to continue functioning at a higher level. They could cope with the disease for longer.”

Supporters of bilingual education often site the following statistics:

  • By 2030 China will be the largest economy and will grow to 20% larger than the US economy by 2050.
  • In a recent survey, some 40 percent of companies reported that their international sales were growing more rapidly than their domestic sales, and more than 60 percent expected this trend to increase over the next 10 years.
  • Over the next 40 years 60% of the G20 economic growth will come from Brazil, China, India, Russia and Mexico alone.
  • By 2050 25 percent of US residents will be Latino.

Proficiency in foreign languages and an understanding of other cultures used to be “nice-to-haves” but these have really become essential skills in the twenty-first century. To quote Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, “We must improve language learning and international education at all levels if our nation is to continue to lead in the global economy.”

How can you encourage young people to explore foreign languages?

  • Visit your local library and check out CDs, DVDs, and books in foreign languages. Expose children and youth to various languages and make it fun!
  • Build foreign language learning into your daily routine. Create vocabulary lessons during your walk to school, at the park, dinner time, bath time, or during play time.
  • Visit local restaurants or stores where foreign languages are used on the menus, products or by staff and have your child listen and observe.
  • Encourage language exchange between young people. It’s an awesome feeling to be understood in a foreign language!

More ideas can be found by checking out these additional learning resources:

Ideas, comments or resources to share?  Contact World Wonder today!

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Human Right? Privilege? Both?

A group of children smiling

Cheerful girl amongst the boys (South Africa 2010)

For many young people around the world the first day of school can be an exhilarating, slightly scary, much anticipated day! I am having a blast watching my daughter get so excited about school, toting around her backpack proudly, meeting new friends, learning the new rules of her classroom, sitting with the big kids in the cafeteria, and getting exposed to the many people and resources that will play a huge role in her future learning.

I also recently watched a TED talk by Shabana Basij-Rasikh about her plight to educate Afghan girls (by the way, TED Ed is a fantastic resource for incorporating multi-media and hot topic discussions in the classroom). The dichotomy of watching how excited Skye is about school and the battle that millions of girls are faced with every day just to get access to basic education is one of those topics that as a woman makes my inner soul enraged!

One of the things that I believe as Americans we often take for granted, is that we live in a country where access to education is a human right. And what I think of as a privilege as well. According to Care International:

  • 31 million girls are currently out of school.
  • A woman’s earnings will be 10-20% higher for every year of school completed.
  • Children with educated mothers are 2 times as likely to go to school.
  • Some 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries acquired basic reading skills.
  • Over the past four decades, the global increase in women’s education has prevented more than 4 million child deaths.
  • Some countries lose more than $1 billion a year by failing to educate girls at the same level as boys.
  • Getting all children into basic education, while raising learning standards, could boost growth by 2% annually in low income countries.

So why does this matter? I think that here in the U.S. we can be an influencer. We can demonstrate to those countries that deny girls access to education based on their gender to think differently. To educate girls can only bring positive. Studies show that when boys AND girls are included in education, nations gain economically, politically, and socially.   It only makes sense. Women make up 51% of the world population. If nations exclude half of their population from getting an education I can only imagine their national economy, security and social landscape will suffer as well. I think we can influence other nations to consider changing their ways. There are thousands of organizations working globally to change this and I think every voice can make an impact. What will you do to make an impact? What can you teach your child or youth about this topic that will inspire them to act? Here are a few organizations offering some fantastic resources for learning, talking and teaching on this very important topic.


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Global Space

Children's art hanging on a colorful wall

Children’s art (Thailand 2008).

I was recently inspired by the work of local teachers to create learning spaces that inspire creativity, increased collaboration among students, and improved outcomes.  Edutopia produced some incredible videos highlighting the work of these teachers.  Another fantastic tool was produced by IDEO. Here you can download a tool kit that will guide you in the redesign of your learning space. This inspired me to think about how we can incorporate global learning and awareness into a space, whether it be a classroom, office, home or public environment.  Here are some ideas that might inspire you to globalize your space!

  • Hang papel picado or origami cranes along walls or outdoor spaces.
  • Frame maps, flags or images of global languages and fill a room with a playful mix of geography and cultural icons.
  • Drape colorful and ethnic fabrics over furniture, on the wall or outdoor spaces.
  • Add color and sparkle with accessories like pillows from India, vases from Asia, baskets from Africa, and ceramics from Latin America.  You don’t need to spend a ton of money or travel far to find these items. I know in my community you can visit stores like Cost Plus, Home Goods or Global Exchange and find treasures from India, Mexico, Thailand and Kenya.
  • Fill glass jars with knick knacks from travels, coins, beads, milagros, chop sticks or shells and display them around a room. Make a trip to your local flea market and I bet you’ll find lots of treasures from around the world.
  • Create temporary exhibits. I’m in love with photo clips that you can hang on a wall. Cut out pictures, postcards, flags, and images from around the world and display them. 

Ideas, comments or resources to share?  Contact World Wonder today!

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