2018 Brings a Focus on Bicycles

We survived the “bomb cyclone” snowstorm here in western New Hampshire and the temperature today is a balmy 3F (-13F with the wind chill) but I’ll ignore that. This is much warmer than Monday’s low of -29F.  What better thing to focus on in my Global Studies class than studying the importance of bicycles and planning a June cycling tour?

This term my high school Global Studies class is focused on the importance of bicycles in the global community. People ride bikes for sport, health, transportation, education, commerce, medical care, among myriad other reasons.  What sparked this focus in my colleague, Story Graves, wanting to organize a student cycling tour to Canada. I had an open block where I needed to teach a class this term so we offered a Global Studies class that culimates in a June cycling tour from Orford, NH to Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Students actually signed up for the class and some have already committed to training and fundraising for the 600-mile round trip ride. Our goal for the tour is to challenge and inspire student learning, confidence, and global awareness.

While I have been riding bikes as a triathlete for past 10 years, I had not deeply considered how important bikes are for everyday life in many parts of the world. Living in a rural area means that I drive. EVERYWHERE.  My bike is used solely for workouts, racing, or social events.  I even drive my bike to places where I want to ride.  Teaching this class has opened the door to a new emphasis on cycling as life for millions of people worldwide.

Here is one story that changed my thinking. Enjoy and stay tuned for updates on our learning and global cycling adventure.


Photo credit: http://www.wbur.org. Story by Karen Given



Rivendell Academy welcomes Emily Dakin


My colleagues at Rivendell Academy know some incredible people. One such person, Emily Dakin, was a guest speaker for my Global Studies and Holocaust & Human Behavior courses today.  Emily came to us via my colleague Jenny Ellis.  Jenny and Emily go way back and the other day, Jenny informed me that Emily was back in the US for the holidays and would I like her to come in and speak?

Emily had just arrived back in Vermont from two years as the Senior Humanitarian Advisor at USAID –  Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance in Juba, South Sudan. Yes, South Sudan.  South Sudan is the world’s newest country established in 2011 after a civil war with northern Sudan.  Since late 2013, South Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war between the two major ethnic groups. As a result of this conflict, 3 million South Sudanese civilians, predominantly women and children, have been displaced from their homes and villages. Over 1 million have fled to the bordering countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan. Two million displaced people remain in dire need of food, water, sanitation, and health care.  Emily’s job was to advise the US Ambassador to South Sudan on the situation of displaced people and coordinate aid efforts between the US and various NGOs.  This is difficult work as the country’s infrastructure makes it very challenging to get aid convoys where they need to be in a timely manner. In addition, traveling through certain parts of the country requires careful negotiation among warring factions.  In spite of these and myriad other challenges, Emily is proud of the work she and the United States has done to mitigate food insecurity and provide much needed healthcare and sanitation for the displaced civilians of South Sudan.

After her holiday break in Vermont, Emily is headed to Baghdad, Iraq where she will continue her job as Senior Humanitarian Advisor. There she will advise the US Ambassador to Iraq and work to continue coordinating humanitarian aid for displaced Iraqis.  It was great for our rural New Hampshire and Vermont students to hear from someone who grew up in a small, rural town and how she is making a humanitarian difference on a global scale while representing the United States.

According to their website, USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.  “We partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.” They are the agency that provides and coordinates civilian foreign aid in conjunction with the President, the Secretary of State, and the National Security Council. US United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power release the following statement about Emily on #worldhumanitarianday, Emily Dakin, has demonstrated extraordinary leadership steering USAID’s response efforts in South Sudan, where the obstruction of humanitarian work and attacks on humanitarian workers have been frequent and ruthless. Fifty-seven humanitarians have been killed since the conflict erupted in December 2013. These are men and women just trying to deliver assistance to 6.1 million people in need and to prevent the deaths of some 250,000 severely malnourished children. The crescendo of violence visited on aid workers and other civilians on July 11 at the Terrain Compound and across Juba has horrified and sickened the world. Even as the local political leaders abdicate their responsibilities to their own people, we are steadfast in our resolve to pursue accountability for those who attack aid workers and relief for the suffering of the South Sudanese people.”


Summer Reading part 2

New England BoundSo this wasn’t a part of my original stack of summer reading books (see Summer Reading part 1 post), I happened to stumble across this while browsing on Amazon for something else so I purchased it (along with 4 other books – yikes! I have even more to read now…).  This was worth the read.

Published on June 7, 2016, Princeton assistant professor Wendy Warren focuses in great detail on the origin and institution of slavery in New England.  Normally, we don’t think of slavery having deep roots in the earliest days of colonial New England but Dr. Warren’s copious research and documentation shines new light on how slavery and the slave trade emerged as a significant part of the economic, political, and social structures of New England.

This is also a deeper look into globalization. One of the things I want to be more intentional about with my 9th grade American Studies students is globalization through the context of  17th, 18th & 19th century America. This paragraph on page 113 really struck me:

“The work of colonization had proceeded thus: Indians and Africans had replaced each other in ways orchestrated by settler colonists, for the purposes of profit and expansion. The Atlantic slave trade was a process, consisting of a series of moments in which people of diverse nations and cultures (African elites, European merchants, Indian adversaries) all agreed, at various times in different places, to capture and commodify other people. If enough had said no, the system might have faltered. but people predictably, tragically, said yes, in Europe, in Africa, in the West Indies, and in New England, and their individual moments of agreement helped facilitate, in the seventeenth century, a global trade. The eventual decision make by other people to say no, more than a century and half later, would create a continental rupture.” 

This is not a book for my 9th grade students to read. It could work with strong junior or senior readers and is certainly appropriate for college students.  I have to figure out how to take some key excerpts like the paragraph above and embed them into my instruction. There are also excellent primary sources referenced so I will seek out those documents for students to work with.

I might also use NPR’s Fresh Air interview with Wendy Warren with my students. Having them listen to a segment of the Terry Gross’s interview may be a good entry point into our study of slavery. Fresh Air Interview Transcript





The BBC Tracks Trends Global Identity

This is a fascinating post with data that would be great for my Global Studies students to analyze and reflect on. Thanks to Patrick Walsh and his Bigger Picture Blog. Mr. Walsh is currently a Fulbright Fellow in Finland. Check out his website and Facebook page: Global Schoolroom

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Educating Students for the Globalized Present

Here is a question for you.

Different people identify themselves in different ways. In your own case, would you say your most important identity is as …

01 – A member of a religious tradition
02 – A citizen of [Country]
03 – A member of your race or culture
04 – A resident of a community or area (smaller than country)
05 – A citizen of the world
06 – None of the above, other
99 – Don’t know / no answer”

This question is from a new poll of some 20,000 people in 19 countries, commissioned by the BBC World Service, asking this and a series of related questions. The answers suggest how recent events and trends are shaping identity around the world.

Here is a chart tabulating answers to the question above:

BBC Self-Identity

From GlobScan (for the BBC), Global Citizenship A Growing Sentiment Among Citizens Of Emerging…

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Summer Reading part 1

It’s summer vacation. Finally.   In addition to more time for relaxing with family, cooking decent meals, working out, and attempting to garden, summer also means that I have a stack of books I’ve been meaning to read, reread, or finish reading for a long time.

Summer Reading 1



Yesterday I got through book #1:  Yong Zhao’s Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization. ASCD, 2009.

Catching Up or Leading the Way

Dr. Zhao was the keynote speaker at the Rowland Foundation Conference at the University of Vermont which I attended last fall after receiving his book at the Teachers for Global Classrooms Global Symposium in February 2015.

Rowland foundation 2015

One of the questions that he poses in his book is What knowledge is of most worth in the global and digital economy?   This is an important question given another of Zhao’s points, “what can we do to help our children live, work, interact with people from different cultures and countries?”  Schools need to seriously consider, especially given current presidential campaign rhetoric about “Making America Great Again”, how students develop global perspective and citizenship. Zhao writes on page 113, “As citizens of the globe, they need to be aware of societal issues, to care about people in distant places, to understand the nature of global economic integration, to appreciate the interconnectedness and interdependence of peoples, to respect and protect cultural diversity, to fight for social justice for all, and to protect planet Earth – home for all human beings.”   This is a long and difficult list to tackle in most public schools given all of the other pressures teachers face and it certainly can’t be done by social studies teachers alone.

As I continue my summer reading stack, this is the big idea that will continue to be first and foremost in my mind as I plan my courses and student learning experiences for next year.


Teaching About the European Union

I’m back to blogging after a few month hiatus. School started in August and time has just flown by and this is a late start on my New Year’s blogging resolution.

This year, I started teaching a new global studies class that includes a focus on current issues in Germany and India. With our study of Germany, we had to include a look at Germany’s role in the European Union. Come to find out, I really didn’t know as much as I thought about the EU so I had to do some research and found that the, European Union official website has a wealth of information. This is the link  for the Teacher’s Corner which includes grade level resources about all aspects of the history, development, and role of the European Union.



As part of our Teachers for Global Classroom coursework, we had to create a Pinterest board.  According to Pinterest for DummiesPinterest is an online pinboard, a visual take on the social bookmarking site. Unlike other social bookmarking sites, such as Digg and StumbleUpon, content shared onPinterest is driven entirely by visuals. In fact, you can’t share something on Pinterest unless an image is involved.  In other words, it is an online cork board where you can pin and categorize images that interest you.

Pinterest is a great resource for images related to all aspects of Global Education and pins can take you to the source website of the image. Check out my board here: (while the images embedded only reflect pins for prom planning, there are actually global education boards there I promise!) You can also find other great resources for all aspects of teaching and learning.  Warning: Pinterest is addicting!

How to video:


Half the Sky & A Path Appears

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, are a Pulitzer Prize winning husband and wife team who, in addition to writing for the New York Times, have written a number of fantastic books. Two of my favorites are Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity.  Both are FANTASTIC resources for the global ed classroom. The entire text or just excerpts of relevant chapters can be used with high school students and more advanced middle school readers.

half the sky cover pic

path appears cover picWorking with Independent Lens and PBS, Kristof and WuDunn  filmed two documentaries that provide an unforgettable look at the extraordinary people they met and places they traveled while researching the books. Both the books and the documentaries slap you in the face with significant and seemingly unsolvable problems of gender inequality, human trafficking, child slavery, violence, and poverty. In the midst of these horrific situations, you will meet exceptional individuals who resiliently maintain hope and care for themselves and each other while taking massive steps to make the world a better place.

Half the Sky Trailer

A Path Appears Trailer

Teacher’s Guides

Half the Sky

A Path Appears Text

A Path Appears Documentary

3 Cities of India

Bangalore view 3

View of Bangalore from the Lemon Tree Hotel


A Delhi Street


Morning Drive Downtown Kolkata

Growing up in rural NH and having lived in Maine, Vermont, and now back in NH, I am used to a rural lifestyle. My husband, sons and I live in a small house and own 25 acres of land with a large yard, a pond, hiking trails, forest, and we can’t see anyone from our property. My commute to school is an easy 2 miles. For other major services like gas stations, banks, grocery stores, and so forth we have to travel between 3 and 20 miles.  We do a lot of driving but driving is easy because there is little traffic unless we drive in a more urban area. The region is beautiful in every season and we enjoy spending time outside with only the sounds of the birds and wind.  The population density of Orford, NH where I live is 9 people per sq/km. The population density of the state of New Hampshire is only 57 people per sq/km.

Then I went to India for 3 weeks and spent time in Bangalore, Kolkata, and Delhi. Life is different.

Now, this wasn’t my first experience visiting a city as a country mouse. I’ve spent time in many American cities like Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Seattle. None of those cities really compare with Indian cities. The combined populations of those American cities doesn’t match up to Bangalore, Kolkata, or Delhi.

Let’s start with population and density:

City Population Density
Bangalore, capital of the Indian state of KarnatakaKnown as the Silicon Valley of India 8.52 million with the greater metro area above 10 million(this is similar to the New  York City metro area) 10,100 people per sq/km(New York’s density: 2,000 people per sq/km)
Kolkata, capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Former capital of British India. Oldest operating port of British India. 4.4 million in city proper.Greater metro area is 14.1 million and still rapidly expanding. 24,760 people per sq/km
Delhi, capital of the Indian nation. 16.3 million people in the greater metro area and still expanding. 11,050 people per sq/km

It is an understatement to write that there are a lot of people in India and especially in these rapidly growing urban areas. People are everywhere.

There is little evidence of organized city planning. There are some grand boulevards, green spaces, major monuments and temples, modern airports, multinational corporations, luxury shopping, all mixed in with slums, middle class neighborhoods, hotels and restaurants, schools, local businesses, and sidewalks teeming with food carts, tiny businesses, tea stands, and people living and sleeping on the streets.  People of all stations in life just go about their daily business.

I mentioned traffic in an earlier post. Traffic in Kolkata and Delhi is even worse than in Bangalore. Horn honking contributes to the noise and is used as a means of communication to warn pedestrians, rickshaws, and other obstacles of your oncoming vehicle. In the US, horns tend to be used more to express a driver’s anger at a particular driving situation.

Trash is another ubiquitous sight in Indian cities. Every vacant lot that I observed was filled with trash. It was common to see a loose cow or dog rooting through trash piles evident on the sides of roads and sidewalks. While there were trash bins in some locations, they weren’t as widely available as they are here.  Waste disposal is one of India’s many paradoxes.  For a country that has such massive human resources in science and engineering, waste disposal and clean water are still an issue.

Another urban paradox were the museums. Our hosts generously took the time to bring us to the Indian Museum and the Marble Palace which are 2 of Kolkata’s major museums.  Both had priceless artifacts and paintings but the methods of artifact preservation really need to be upgraded. The impressive Marble Palace was not air conditioned and given the heat and humidity of Kolkata, the extensive collection of paintings were not in good condition.  The Birla Industrial and Technology Museum had some of the best science and math exhibits I’ve ever seen in a museum. This was the first time I’ve seen exhibits with manipulatives that explain different aspects of electricity or calculus. While I didn’t understand everything I was looking at, it was still pretty awesome.

Prior to this experience, I viewed cities through my American “lens”. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are three of our oldest cities and all have had their growing pains.  There are always issues with trash, traffic, people, etc. in any city. Driving in Boston is chaotic and doesn’t always make sense but when one spends enough time there, it starts to make a little more sense. This is true for Indian cities as well. By the end of our week in Kolkata, we could walk around with a much better understanding of our little neighborhood, what was going on there, and that people go about their business of living their lives.