In 2005 in an eighth grade charter school classroom in Southeast, Washington, DC, Eric Goldstein was impacted by a conversation between himself and his students. This inspired the creation of a non-profit organization that now reaches thousands of students around the globe. The students complained to Eric, their teacher, that school had little to do with what, as they say, “was happening in real life outside of school.” He heard what they said - he “got” it.
In the weeks that followed this conversation a new entity was created - One World Education. It is an organization that publishes middle and high school student writing about culture and local and global issues on their website, www.oneworldeducation.org. The organization also offers middle and high school teachers from DC, Maryland and Virginia professional development and compensation to design the One World Curriculum around the student-authored material, which becomes the primary source. The curriculum is then made freely available to teachers. The One World Curriculum provides middle and high school teachers with project and literacy-based lesson plans on core academic subjects and 21st century skills designed around the primary sources that are written by teenagers.
The idea for this approach arose from that initial conversation. When searching for lesson plans that offered a youth perspective on the topics he was teaching, Mr. Goldstein found close to none. The one youth-written primary source that he did find, he used to design his own lesson plan. When he used this he found his students were more engaged, asked more questions about the content, and shared their response, that they could relate to the author of the article. This reaction was something Eric never experienced with other curricula he used.
He decided to ask those students to write about the topics and issues they cared about. Topics of their writing tended to be mostly about their ethnic origins, countries they have traveled to, and issues in their neighborhoods. Goldstein asked two things of the assignment. The students had to write about a personal experience with a place, issue or topic and they also had to provide information they thought would be valuable for other young people to know.
Goldstein’s plan was to improve his students’ literacy skills through a peer editing process. When students wrote about things they cared about they were more than when engaged in graded assignments, and they were hopeful of what would happen next. This writing was then adapted as curriculum with these same students, an idea that has grown from one classroom to many around the city.
Last year, 2009, One World Curriculum was piloted in five schools in the Washington, D.C. area with 200 students in order to assess teacher satisfaction and student engagement. “I knew this model of students learning from the writing of other students worked from my own experience, but we needed to see if it worked on a larger scale,” Goldstein shared. Teachers spoke of increased student engagement, assignment completion, and fewer classroom disruptions when using the One World Curriculum. The pilot results have been an incredible boost for the young organization that is looking to private foundations for funding.
With the pilot’s evaluation Goldstein’s beliefs were validated and it is when he knew the curriculum had the capacity to impact a wider audience. Although the organization works primarily with individual schools and teachers, they have started conversations with DC Public Schools to have the One World Curriculum formally adopted by the district. “Teachers need resources that engage students and sends a message that youth perspectives are valuable. Students need to feel their voices and ideas are heard and taken seriously. The One World Curriculum allows both to happen,” Goldstein offers. In the organization’s first four months of teacher memberships, over fifty teachers in the DC region have registered and are using the One World Curriculum.
During their first full year of operations, One World Education launched a Culture and Global Issues Reflection Contest around the city. Over 115 students submitted written Reflections. Six students became One World Education Student Ambassadors after having their Reflections published on the site within the curriculum. One Ambassador shared, “ I can’t believe that thousands of students around DC are learning about fresh water issues from my Reflection.” Another student said that, “One World Education is where MySpace meets National Geographic.” Another contest is starting in January of 2010.
Goldstein, after starting One World Education, is enjoying his role as executive director. The organization currently has two employees and a dedicated team of volunteers and interns. The organization also has a Community Program that partners teachers with after-school programs, builds journals for students to write outside of school, and offers leadership classes, called LearnShops, for students and teachers. The goal of the organization, according to Goldstein, is to open Reflection submissions to students around the country in another year, and after that to serve as an online outlet for students around the world to share and learn about core academic subjects and 21st century skills from people their age. This is another variation on the theme of “Teachers never know how far their influence reaches”.
Visit www.oneworldeducation.org for more information on One World Education.