Bridges To Understanding

I recently learned about Bridges To Understanding through another popular organization, Teachers Without Borders (TWB).  This year TWB has decided to adopt Bridges To Understanding’s youth programs and educational curriculums since the non-profit organization, founded in 2001, will be dissolving (http://www.teacherswithoutborders.org/programs/teacher-programs/peace-education/bridges-understanding).  The Bridges To Understanding’s vision was to “empower and unite youth worldwide, enhance cross-cultural understanding and build global citizenship using digital technology and the art of storytelling” (http://www.facebook.com/bridgesworld?sk=info).

I thought it was interesting to see how Bridges’ two core curriculum-based programs, the Bridges Ambassador Program and the Bridges Global Citizens Program, connected students across the globe in a way most educators (especially those in a public education system) would never accomplish in the traditional classroom setting.  The Bridges group laid the groundwork for a “network of established partner schools and community organizations in Seattle, Peru, Guatemala, South Africa, India and Cambodia where [their curriculums] have been adapted to insure cultural relevancy” (http://www.facebook.com/bridgesworld?sk=info).  The first curriculum, the Ambassador Program, teaches children how to create digital stories about their daily lives, local culture/traditions and community.  With the help of Bridges staff, teachers lead discussion forums on conflict and resolution as well as environmental sustainability issues through both a local and a global lens.  The second curriculum, the Global Citizens Program, works on a more international approach by bringing together partner schools around the world into a classroom-to-classroom discussion forum to talk about important global issues.  This allows students to view others’ videos while sharing their own stories, photography and ideas (http://www.bridges2understanding.org/programs/programs.html).

Contextually, this peer-to-peer learning can be implemented at any age level.  In our global environment, the use of digital technology is something many young children are learning far more quickly than in the past generation.  I think both science and humanities teachers should be encouraging technology-based curriculums such as this one into their classrooms since it not only broadens the children’s skill set for the future workplace (arguable one goal of education), but also gives them the opportunity to explore a vast amount of new information available online.  Technology is typically applied in science classes, but by introducing online discussion forums into humanities classes, students are able to personally clarify the local context of the broad cultural content they learn.  By giving youth a protected informal setting, educators can eliminate some of the psychological barriers preventing students from asking questions in the formal classroom setting while increasing the perceived self-importance of other individual youth who take pride in speaking about their culture; perhaps, for many, this is the first time a foreigner has taken an interest in their lives.

The Bridges organization has added a resource called the Bridges Passport Program for educators to help implement their curriculums with ease.  This program provides educators with access to “ten youth-produced digital stories, with accompanying story guides, for classes to explore rich multicultural content” in the context of any existing curriculum (http://www.bridges2understanding.org/programs/programs.html).  After the merger with Teachers Without Borders, educators can also access both of the Bridges’ curriculums through the TWB website.  The only logistical setback would be that individual classrooms would need access to either a computer, camera or a TV to view and create the digital stories.  I would suggest taking the last class of each week to focus on a global issue presented within the content youth learned in class that week.  Educators can alternate between using a story guide to watch and discuss an international student’s video one week and having their students create videos to post online the next week.  If there are time restraints on watching videos or creating videos which is probably more likely, educators should encourage students to meet outside of school to discuss possible global issues in their local community and think of ways they can incorporate these themes into both a video and the lessons they are learning in class.  The application to already existing class material is key.

This resource is geared heavily towards conflict resolution and human rights education; hence, it would fit well into humanities classes.  Pedagogically-speaking, educators would use this to build trust across cultures and community building.  This resource allows students to explore alternative perspectives on global history and learn how they can reframe it to incorporate means of peace.  Bridges To Understanding specifically works to “develop students’ cross-cultural understanding, as they discover differences and similarities in the challenges faced by their peers in other countries” (http://www.facebook.com/bridgesworld?sk=info).  This requires students to not only become leaders to actively discuss issues in their community, but also active listeners to other students’ problems.  On a practical level, they must also become familiar with technology.  I believe the Northern Virginia public school system would make an excellent candidate as well as George Mason University for implementation of these programs since we have public access to many forms of technology.

Resources:

http://www.bridges2understanding.org/ – The Bridges To Understanding website

http://www.facebook.com/bridgesworld?sk=info – The Bridges To Understanding Facebook page

http://www.teacherswithoutborders.org/programs/teacher-programs/peace-education/bridges-understanding – The Teachers Without Borders website

How about a day for peace?

Actor turned filmmaker Jeremy Gilley founded Peace One Day after realizing that there was no starting point for peace, no day of global unity, no day for intercultural cooperation, and no day for when humanity came together. Gilley felt that if we united as one then that might be the key to humanity’s survival. He started his advocacy for his Peace Day by writing letters to every state leader, their ambassadors, Nobel peace laureates, NGOs, faith based organizations, and other various organizations. Then in 1999 his dream of Peace One Day came true. In 1999 all the member states of the United Nations adopted the 21st of September as Peace Day. This day is recognized as an annual global ceasefire and non-violence day.

Jeremy Gilley’s Peace One Day is recognized every year, but unfortunately the day hasn’t gotten the full attention it deserves. Gilley was to make a statement with Kofi Annan on September 11, 2001 to advocate for his event, but because of the attack on the World Trade Center the statement never happened. However, the events on September 11, 2001 made Gilley work even harder. He was even more empowered and inspired to move forward with Peace One Day. This led to Gilley, along with actor Jude Law, to start work for peace in Afghanistan. Because of the pair advocating for Peace Day the Taliban sent him letter and said they would observe the day, and not engage in violence. The Taliban doing this led to 1.6 million people vaccinated for polio and violence on that day was down by 70%.

Due to this success Gilley has initiated a new plan for 2012, a Global Truce Day. This day will show younger generations that we can make a stop to violence with small acts of non-violence in our everyday lives. Gilley wants to utilize all kinds of resources from dance to social media and globally network with government, intergovernmental, and education leaders.

Gilley’s idea of utilizing education into his plan for 2012’s Global Truce Day helped persuade me to write this blog post about his event. Gilley wants to get young people to be the driving force to inspire individual action, so he has complied an educational resource for teachers to implement non-violence and other peace concepts into the classroom.

I can see this educational resource implemented in almost every formal grade level classroom. The students would need a little background on what conflict is, so because of this, starting at the fourth or fifth grade level would probably be best. However, this could fluctuate determined on how the students are influenced by conflict in their everyday lives. By implementing these resources in a classroom setting these children can practice non-violence in their schools, and also bring what they learn outside of the school setting and teach others.

Ways to use this resource:
Gilley includes many different types of lessons in his educational resource. This comprehensive resource includes 21 one-hour lesson plans for exploring issues of peace, nonviolence, and the protection of the environment, with extended projects for Peace Day on September 21st. I think this resource would be best integrated by first starting with showing Gilley’s documentary for one day of class, doing the lesson that corresponds to that, then moving on to the individual lessons maybe once a month until the actual Peace Day on the 21st. The students could help plan how they want their school to recognize and celebrate the event. In addition to using Gilley’s lesson plans I think it would be important for each teacher to incorporate their own discussion in their classrooms on non-violence, and other peace education areas. This would help each individual classroom relate to what types of conflict are going on in their societies.

The goal of each lesson, whether it be with Gilley’s lesson plans or the teacher’s, would be to spread knowledge about ways to bring about peace in small ways. These can be from their knowledge on non-violence to their knowledge of eco-resolution. Each lesson will more than likely encourage a student to go out and spread what they learned to another, and therefore spread the movement of peace.

“We should oppose violence in all situations and of course there’s no better way of bringing that about than through the power of education.”-Jeremy Gilley

Resources:
Peace One Day website: http://peaceoneday.org/
Peace One Day’s educational resources: http://peaceoneday.org/teachers/