Engaging Local Students on Global Issues

By Charlotte Guard, Global Classroom Intern

IMG_0833On January 22nd, the World Affairs Council hosted a global health event discussing the impact of the Ebola epidemic on West Africa. First, educators heard from Dr. Matthew Sparke, Professor of Geography and Global Health at the University of Washington, who presented a timeline of the spread of the disease as well as the public and media response to the epidemic. Dr. Sparke also noted the transition of global health management from a local to global scale using disease mapping as an example. Next, a panel of health experts discussed the impact of Ebola on the communities it hit through the lenses of social welfare, international aid, and economics. The panel included Philip Eckoff, Intellectual Ventures; Dr. Ann Marie Kimball, physician and epidemiologist; Eric Williams, Williamsworks; and was moderated by David Townes, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Washington.

The panel addressed a diverse audience, from health care professionals and teachers to interested community members, but what made the group truly unique was the presence of sixteen high school students. Our goal at the World Affairs Council is to provide opportunities for everyone in greater Seattle to be global citizens by advancing a deep understanding of international events and culture. Usually, the task of engaging students is under the umbrella of the Global Classroom which organizes programs such as the Global Youth Leadership Initiative (GYLI) and the World Citizen Essay Contest. However, the Global Health event was a combined effort, with globally-minded students from Seattle area high schools attending the public program. Of the eleven students that attended from Thomas Jefferson High School, two are part the 2014 Global Youth Leadership Initiative. For their Global Awareness Project they started a club called Thomas Jefferson United Nations that meets weekly to discuss issues such as gender equality.

Additionally, five students from Glacier Peak High School attended with their biotechnology teacher, Tami Caraballo. This semester the students are taking a class on the study of disease from the global down to the molecular level. Subsequently, not only were they able to ask interesting and insightful questions, but they were able to share their own knowledge. The students studied the glycoprotein which is the attachment protein on the surface of the virus. Once they understood the molecule they used the JMOL program to highlight the important features and finally were able to use a 3D printer to print their model. They brought their model as a gift for one of our panelists, Dr. Ann Marie Kimball, who plans to visit their classroom!

High school students spend the bulk of their time learning, but rarely do they get to hear from experts in the field or see how information is disseminated outside of the classroom. Attending a World Affairs Council event provided a different venue, apart from school, to learn from and participate in a discussion on a topic of international importance. Ms. Caraballo commented that her students chattered the whole drive back and the consensus was that “global health is a pretty interesting topic which is important and accessible to everyone!” While this may seem like a simple idea, offering building blocks for students as well as members of the community to be engaged in international education is exactly what the World Affairs Council hopes to achieve.

If you are interested in learning more about the World Affairs Council’s Global Classroom program, email Amy Lutterloh, Program Coordinator, at alutterloh@world-affairs.org.