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Domenic Bellissimo and Cheryl Nicholls-Jones

Title:  Bringing Global Issues to Life in Your Classroom with Common Threads

Session presenters:  Domenic Bellissimo and Cheryl Nicholls-Jones

Organization:  Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation

Contact information:  bellisd@osstf.on.ca

Brief description of workshop:

Common Threads is the name of the international solidarity program of OSSTF which chooses members to travel overseas and study a current issue from a development perspective.  Upon returning, the team designs new classroom material and produces a short movie to accompany the classroom ready resource.

There have been 4 common threads projects to date.  We used the project material designed to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS pandemic and its impact on Canada and South Africa.  We used a power point presentation and the short 20 min video with a brief introduction of the lesson plans included.

Workshop goal:

To provide workshop participants with an overview of the Common Threads projects and resources.

Two key resources that support our work:

Common Threads teams have produced four resources entitled:

  • Globalization, Sweat shops and the Clothes We Wear (Guatemala)
  • From Canada to South Africa:  Combating  HIV/AIDS together (S.A)
  • Tapped Out: The World Water Crisis (Bolivia)
  • Food and Food Security (Brazil, in production)

Issues which we continue to struggle with in our own pursuits of educational activist goals:

  • We choose themes and issues in Common Threads which impact on students in Canada and in the developing world.  That way, we reinforce the notion that these problems exist for all of us worldwide, and not only the developing world.  We don’t want to reinforce the “rich North and poor South” dynamic.
  • Finding ways for educators to bring global discussions into their classrooms without reinforcing stereotypes is the biggest challenge.  Common Threads stresses the importance of finding first hand narratives from those activists who are struggling around the world.
  • There is no dedicated funding or required expectation for doing Global Education and so many teachers feel they do not have time to integrate this work into their crowded curriculum.

Next steps (E.g., Supports [theoretical or practical] that may enhance our ongoing or future practice):

  • Working in partnership with organizations such as UNICEF, the faculties of education and the Ministry of education, we hope to initiate the need for a global education course to become mandatory for all secondary students.
  • We distribute thousands of copies of Common Threads however there is need to have more schools exposed to this resource.
  • We would like to see an educator’s social justice conference being held in every faculty in Ontario.

“Big idea” that we want people to walk away with:

Global issues resonate with our students in Ontario and they can be explored in a way which validates the work being done around the world.  Educators can use Common Threads material in a cross curricular way and begin to engage students on these crucial topics.

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