The world today is beset by far-reaching and pressing issues of war, ethnic conflict, social inequality, and environmental destruction. Our children cannot grow up in a bubble; therefore, they must be given the tools necessary to not only cope with these worldwide problems, but to contribute in some way to the solutions. As parents, we have a collective responsibility to raise good global citizens who can help lift the world out of the darkness of terror, poverty, intolerance, and pollution.
An introduction to the values of fairness, equity, empathy, conservation and peace can and should start early. Elementary schools generally do not engage students in any continuous or meaningful forms of global education curriculum. At most, teachers may dabble in global education by presenting a lesson focused on the comparison between cultural and religious traditions during the holidays.
Even if primary schools were more successful in the implementation of global education programs, it would not be enough.
Exposure to the concept of global connectedness must begin at home and before kids enter kindergarten. This will help provide young children with the ability to develop an appreciation of other cultures, a respect for diversity, a strong sense of compassion and an understanding of the importance of sustainable living.
There are many ways to begin (and to enrich) global education efforts at home. Here are some of my favorites:
Plant Maps and Globes All Over the House
My boys have had a world atlas map perched upon the wall over their beds since they were babies. It serves as a great reference tool to pinpoint locations mentioned in books and stories. It also comes in handy when we are discussing everything from world cultures and global events, to ecosystems and wildlife.
We have a few globes and countless kids’ atlas books and guides lying around the house. National Geographic has a great selection of map books and atlases at every education level. They are filled with loads of fascinating information about places all around the world. As children mature and become ready to delve into discussions about global issues, a good foundation in world geography will help them link important geographical sites with significant current and historical events.
Seek Out Opportunities to Enthusiastically Explore Other Cultures
I threw in the adverb “enthusiastically” here because I have found that ever since my kids were little, they would mirror my mood and energy level when I would speak to them about any topic. For example, if I casually, and without zeal, mention to my kids that we are going to a local culture festival, then they really don’t show much interest. On the other hand, if look them in the eyes and I explain to them in a spirited and passionate manner why a trip to this culture festival will be an awesome experience, then their interest is piqued. If I go on excitedly about how we will be able to view unique crafts and artwork, hear vibrant music and taste some exotic foods, then they are psyched and can’t wait to get there! Setting a good example by sincerely appreciating and valuing other cultures makes a positive and long-lasting impact.
Empower Kids with Environmental Expertise
Now more than ever people have to learn the basics of sustainable living. Parents must do their part by teaching kids about how to be good stewards of the Earth. A great way to start is by educating them about limited natural resources, and about how recycling and composting help to ensure our planet’s sustainability. Green living is another opportunity for parents to set a good example by leading the way. Teach children how to recycle and compost properly so that they can use those skills throughout their lives.
Joining a community garden provides children with excellent global learning opportunities. Community gardening is one of those things that seems to bring out the best in people. Kids will witness complete strangers from different backgrounds working together for a common purpose. Participants peacefully work together to make the most productive, healthy and sustainable use of a plot of land. My children enjoy getting their hands dirty and performing the duties necessary to maintain their garden plots – pulling weeds, shoveling composted soil into wooden plot frames, planting and harvesting.
Volunteer in the Local and Global Community
Let your kids see you show a genuine interest in helping others in need. There are many opportunities on both local and global levels. One way is to reach out to your local homeless services organization and learn about ways to volunteer or donate. As a fun family project we recently put together care kits (containing personal hygiene items, healthy snacks and uplifting notes), and distributed them to homeless individuals around our city.
On the global front, we have connected with a primary school in India which serves underprivileged children. Through monthly Skype calls, my boys speak with the students and share stories and information about their culture and daily lives. We’ve exchanged culture boxes with them, as well. The students and my children truly enjoy making this global connection. They are thrilled to learn about their cultural differences, as well as discovering the ways in which they are similar.
Reaching out to other communities around the world promotes multicultural awareness. It also provides an easy way to connect children to others in the global community, and to help them see beyond their everyday life. This prepares kids to engage in, and to become productive members of an interconnected world with greater ease.
Teach Kids Empathy and Compassion
In a post about the importance of teaching young children about empathy and compassion, I listed the following five ways parents can cultivate these virtues:
- Show unconditional love to your children, so that they are immersed in empathy and compassion, and so that they know that you love them and accept them for who they are as unique individuals.
- Be a role model and show compassion and empathy towards others so that your kids can see it in action. A parent might say, “Your brother seems upset. Let’s ask him what we can do to help him.” Or “Dad hurt his back. Let’s ask him if we can get him an ice pack to make him feel better.”
- Reduce exposure to violent film, television programs and video games, and discuss why violence and bullying is wrong.
- Teach your kids how to be peacemakers by encouraging others in conflict to listen to each other in mutually respectful and productive ways.
- Give kids opportunities to practice compassion and empathy.
Once children begin to develop their senses of empathy and compassion, they are better able to understand that, although people may have differences of opinion, they also have common emotions, needs and wants. This is one of the best ways to help a child to become a good global citizen as it will prepare them to serve in a leadership role assisting others to work together to solve global problems and bring about meaningful change for a better future.
Please share the ways in which you incorporate global education into your children’s lives.
Jill is the founder of MomsGoneGlobal.com, a website dedicated to helping parents and educators foster global awareness within children so that they may grow up with a meaningful understanding and appreciation of diversity and become good global citizens.
Latest posts by Jill (see all)
- Global Education Begins at Home: 5 Tips to Raise World Citizens - August 25, 2014