GFA’s culture and intellectual life are beginning to coalesce around the World Perspectives Program (WPP) in ways we hadn’t imagined would happen. In the program, classroom work is always front and center in terms of grounding the students K-12 academically, but the WPP is also bringing the community together in other ways, and several initiatives have captured the imagination of our students, thus focusing their energy on an area of special interest.
Our recent WPP symposium was an extraordinary day with global thesis students presenting studies on topics ranging from Big Cat conservation in Iran, to water shortages in China, to water conflicts between Palestine and Israel, to lifting the medical embargo in Cuba. The 20 /20 team presented their work, and our keynote speaker discussed overarching questions for American foreign policy and the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
Building on our partnership with International Education Exchange (IEE), GFA recently hosted two teacher-trainers from Rwanda, who came to learn from our teachers. They also brought their unique perspective and culture to our school and said they were inspired by our “smart, hard-working students and their confidence and ease speaking in front of crowds and asking probing questions.” Last summer a GFA English teacher traveled to Rwanda to work with IEE in government schools to help create more student-centered classrooms. This summer three GFA teachers will travel to Rwanda to continue this work.
We also have begun a partnership with Bermuda Institute of Ocean Research (BIOS), an internationally acclaimed facility where our students can be summer interns. BIOS has an international data bank that measures data, especially on carbon levels at different water depths. Students can also do coral reef research and other ocean sciences. With this partnership, a student can begin his/her research at BIOS, continue at GFA, and then loop back to BIOS, establishing a mentor there to follow their work.
Several Upper School students were so inspired by Jacqueline Novogratz, our fall Coyle Scholar, that they began a GFA chapter of the Acumen Fund, the only high school in the country to do so. The Acumen Fund is the intersection between business and philanthropy, with a vision that one day every human being will have access to affordable healthcare, water, housing, energy, agricultural inputs and services and be able to make choices that will unleash their full human potential. Almost 20 Upper School students are involved, and they planned a fundraiser this spring, A Cappella for Acumen, which raised almost $5,000.
The Big Green Bus from Dartmouth, an old Greyhound bus powered by alternative fuel, will be on campus in June to raise awareness about alternative energy. A GFA alum at Dartmouth is working with GFA’s Eco Club to organize an event.
This summer, many GFA students and faculty will be taking trips to South Africa, Peru, and the Island School in the Bahamas. Other years, trips have gone to Senegal, UK, France, Spain and Costa Rica.
It turns out that Our World Perspectives Program is encouraging the 21st century skills identified by Dr. Tony Wagner: collaboration, critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, imagination, curiosity, communication and entrepreneurship. And it’s not just happening in the classroom.