- Union County Public Schools
International Studies program at Rea View and Stallings elementary schools connects students to the world
We live in a global economy with international trade supporting nearly 39 million U.S. jobs, according to a 2019 Business Roundtable study.
That number is expected to rise, leaving many employers increasingly looking to hire graduates with cross-cultural skills who can work with clients from all over the world.
That’s why, with a goal of preparing their young students for a more global and interconnected workforce, Stallings and Rea View elementary schools are introducing a new international studies program in their schools this year.
“Students really need to learn about the world – the geography, cultures, languages. We have families from all over the world and that’s something to be celebrated,” Stallings Elementary Principal Laura Gaddy said. “We can be better citizens by learning more about the world around us, and that’s what we want for our students.”
When most people think about international studies, the first thing that may come to mind is learning a new language.
While both Rea View and Stallings elementary schools are currently rotating semester-long French and Spanish language instruction to students in kindergarten through fifth grades, that’s only one tiny piece of how international studies is being implemented in the schools.
Both schools have included a special Integrated Studies time into each school day – a time when each class spends time learning more about a specific continent throughout the year. This is especially important, Rea View Elementary Principal Jennifer Parker said, as this expands students’ world views and exposes them to different cultures.
Additionally, drawing heavily on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Goals – which include no poverty, quality education, reduced inequalities and more – teachers are also integrating these life and aspirational goals into their curriculum in kid-friendly ways.
For example, Gaddy said, one of the UN Sustainable Goals is “Zero Hunger.” As a STEAM lesson, first grade students could learn about farming fish and growing food.
“Being a global citizen is more than just learning a language. They’re understanding how issues impact people all over the world, they’re seeing things from different perspectives, they’re looking at the world critically and analytically – this is what we want for our students. This is what I want for my own children,” she added. “We just want to expose students to ways they can help the world at the same time they’re learning about the world.”
At only two weeks into the new school year, the international studies programs are already going strong. Professional development sessions have been occurring throughout the summer and will continue during the school year. Gaddy and Parker also regularly collaborate to brainstorm ways their programs can continue to grow.
Hallways and the overall school environment are even in the process of being transformed to reflect more of a global environment.
By bringing the international studies programs to their schools, Parker and Gaddy say they hope to prepare their students to compete on a global level.
“No longer are students competing at a national level for jobs, they’re going to be competing on an international level,” Parker said. “We’re trying to give our students the skills they need to be able to communicate, collaborate and connect with others which will allow them to be successful in a global market.”