By Victor Stekoll, MS Teacher
Although the 8th grade World Studies class may appear to be a history of America from 1900 to the present, one of its primary goals is to encourage students to understand the U.S.’s role in the world and to reach out in a global way and stand in the shoes of another country, another people, and another environment.
From the very first studies of the Spanish American War and World Wars I and II, the students begin and continue to see the world through their own ideas and feelings and recognize how other countries view us and how those countries view themselves. Through our study of fascism, communism, and capitalism, they see the battles waging between countries and systems; they investigate how we organize our societies and how we apply ethical values to our ideals. Many students are highly motivated in their study of World War II because it is the first time that they study the whole world instead of just the United States.
As we study the Civil Rights Movement in America, we also look at the advances of rights in Europe, South Africa, China, and the Middle East. Students realize that human rights cover a great deal of territory, as expressed in the Declaration of Human Rights that was largely written by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1945. The 8th graders learn that these rights have expanded in scope as human societies have evolved. In their study of the Cold War, they recognize the dimensions of a conflict that reached every corner of the globe.
Just as they took an American citizenship survey on the first day of school, 8th graders also develop skills in global citizenship as they study global development and the environment. Students review the Rio Earth Summit and Kyoto, and see how the definition of “stewardship” was transformed into sustainable development in the 1990s. Their awareness of the global society that they live in can be exemplified by their choices of research papers. Students have chosen to write about the effect of technology and globalization on music, global warming, Facebook, world wildlife, human overpopulation, the environment and eating meat, security versus privacy, and the impact of robotics on human society, among other topics.
The 8th graders’ final project in World Studies is the Model United Nations (MUN). Each of the 8th grade students represents a country for three weeks, and researches and prepares speeches and rebuttals of important global topics in the fields of education, the environment, war and peace, nuclear issues, terrorism, and disease. For much of the MUN history at Green Acres, we have focused on the UN Millennial Goals, but we have even moved beyond those now. The 8th graders also participate in a plant experiment that runs through the last month of school. It attempts to simulate world economic development over the last hundred years.
As students leave Green Acres and go out into the wider world, we hope that they are prepared to take on the big challenges that the world presents, think critically about their beliefs and opinions, and act on what they think and believe, becoming a part of the solution and not part of the problem.