AC’s Younger Students Becoming Global Citizens, Too

Posted on March 1st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Students throughout Allendale Columbia School don’t just learn about other parts of the world, they become global citizens, learning alongside their peers in other parts of the world. That’s just as true in Lower School.

Last year, AC first-graders explored the Amazon rainforest and ran a successful fundraising campaign to become stewards of a section of the rainforest equal to the size of AC’s campus. Building on that experience, AC’s Head of Lower School, Michelle Feiss, brought in Paul Hurteau, Executive Director of OneWorld Classrooms and a former Upstate New York teacher, who thrilled current first- and second-graders with stories of his experiences teaching students in Ecuador, complete with photos of the people and wildlife, poems, and artifacts from that rainforest community.

Mrs. Feiss says, “Our children are naturally curious about the world and it is imperative that we foster their understandings and appreciation of one another’s unique culture. At AC we believe that the development of global perspectives from an early age will lead the way to a brighter and more peaceful future for our children.”

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Hurteau conducted a workshop with all of the Lower School faculty. He discussed the importance of global education, which he defines as learning about cultures, geographies, histories, and current issues. Ideally, he said, it emphasizes interconnectedness and diversity, and highlights actions students can take as citizens of the world.

In the faculty discussion, teachers discussed how the global classroom may be a stretch for younger children who developmentally can only grasp concepts related to themselves, their families, and their immediate community. However, Mr. Hurteau said their learning of communication skills and getting along with others are so important to being able to interact with people globally when they are developmentally ready.

He also provided several tools to develop classrooms into global classrooms where teachers regularly guide students to learn with the world (not just about it) and practice active global citizenship. Teachers then practiced using VoiceThread, an online service that provides audio, video, text, and image sharing.

Kate Western, Interim Director for AC’s Center for Global Engagement, says, “Paul’s workshop was all about providing professional development on how teachers can create opportunities to learn with the world. Most PD is based on teaching style, activities, pedagogy, tricks of the trade…whereas this is a really unique thing.”

Mrs. Feiss has spent much of her career in teaching and faculty roles overseas, specifically in London, Germany, and Hong Kong. She and the Lower School faculty have a growing database of school connections around the world that extend opportunities for global engagement and interpersonal activities in Grades K-5.

This year, AC Lower School students are engaging globally in many ways:

  • Second Grade Global Art Exchange: Second-grade artists are working on a global art project to be digitally exchanged with students from One World International School in Singapore. The focus of their project, according to art teacher Linsay Alexander, is “What does kindness look like?”, with a tie-in to the students’ recent Kindness Challenge, and their ongoing studies of bees. Artists at both schools will be spreading kindness with personal imagery illustrating ways to “bee” kind. Our illustrations here at AC will be created on hexagon shaped paper and hung together like the hexagonal cells of beeswax in a honeycomb, using our hive mind to share positive and considerate acts both within our community and abroad. Second-graders will gain a more worldly perspective on how kindness is perceived among cultures.
  • Third Grade Global Art Exchange: Third-grade artists recently created a journal in the art room that will serve as a place to keep thoughts, ideas, sketches, and findings throughout their budding project-based learning (PBL). Ms. Alexander says, “We will begin to explore various ways artists express themselves throughout the world – in both modern and ancient civilizations; and ways that we can visually communicate with our peers about different aspects of our culture and daily lives. Each third-grade artist will complete an illustration in class that will be exchanged with their global peers, allowing us to gain insight into imagery that is of personal significance to cultures other than our own.”
  • Fourth Grade Global Art Exchange: Fourth-grade artists are currently working on illustrations, creating imagery as arts ambassadors that teach their global peers about aspects of their daily life and culture. Fourth-graders will receive art in return from students around the globe, allowing us to gain insight into imagery that is of personal significance to cultures other than our own. “We will share our thoughts, ideas and wonders about these works within the art room, and through the use of online VoiceThread conversations with our partner school(s),” added Ms. Alexander.
  • Fourth Grade Orphanage Connection: AC Parent Holly Nobles and her daughter Daniela are working with the fourth-grade on building a connection with Rehema Home in Kenya, and orphanage in Africa. Laptops have been donated so they can interact through VoiceThread.

These Lower School students are creating a foundation for lifelong global learning. Their older classmates are already taking their global understanding “on the road” in many ways:

  • Making an Impact Class: Upper School students are working to open up the market for goods made in Mexico. They are partnering with community groups in Mexico to acquire merchandise and sell it here in Rochester (at AC Innovation Day, the Public Market, etc.), and then the money raised will go back to support the community center.
  • Mexico Trip: 11 Upper School students will be going to Mexico May 25th-June 4th (May Term) with teachers Maiyen Sulera Freyre and Rodrigo Gutierrez for a language and entrepreneurship experience. In partnership with the Harkness Institute, AC students will collaborate with another group of students at an independent school there and present Shark Tank-type proposals involving social impact in the community.
  • Costa Rica Trip: 12 Upper School students will travel to Costa Rica with faculty members Kelsey Lisi and Aaron Shepard for a science research trip May 20th-28th. They will explore sea turtle, coastal, and rainforest biology, with the team staying in an actual research facility.
  • Wilderness First Aid Training: In preparation for the international trips, AC will host Wilderness First Aid training April 6th-7th, the most comprehensive training for students in Rochester.
  • Senegal Entrepreneurship Exchange: Following last year’s social entrepreneurship-related trip of AC students to our partner school, Enko-Waka International School in Dakar, Senegal, several students from Dakar will come to AC during May Term to work with their peers on social entrepreneurship projects here in Rochester.


“Education shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the maintenance of peace.” -Article 26 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Mr. Hurteau discusses global classrooms with Lower School faculty.

Mr. Hurteau links the importance of global classrooms to World War II, the first event with a truly global impact that resulted in the formation of the United Nations, and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was signed 70 years ago. It says, “The inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” In Article 26, it adds, “Education shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the maintenance of peace.”

The UN also recently established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hurteau says that the key to achieving the first 16 SDGs, which focus on ending poverty and hunger, protecting planet, and ensuring prosperity, is the 17th: partnership, working together, building global community. Hence, his focus on direct interaction with students across the globe.

Before founding OneWorld Classrooms, Mr. Hurteau taught overseas for 20 years. He conducted Arts in Education programs linking hundreds of northeastern US schools with classrooms around the globe. He has worked in schools in Kenya, Namibia, the Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, China (including Tibet), and the Canadian Arctic. A former certified high school English teacher in New York State, Mr. Hurteau graduated from the Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership Program at Boston University’s School of Management.

His non-profit organization, OneWorld Classrooms, has this vision: “OneWorld Classrooms wants all students to emerge from their K-12 years as confident, engaged, competent and caring members of the local and global communities to which they belong. We envision classrooms and learning spaces that, not only prepare students for global citizenship, but provide regular opportunities for students to be active global citizens. We also envision schools where students connect with their global peers in every area of the curriculum and throughout their academic careers.”

The AC Center for Global Engagement at Allendale Columbia is committed to growing and fostering partnerships around the world, exposing students to global opportunities and multicultural perspectives in preparation for college and the global workforce, and creating a culture of global responsibility that allows students to make a positive and lasting impact on the world they will inherit.


John Palomaki

John Palomaki

John is a current parent at AC, an active volunteer, and occasional contributor of stories and photos. John spent a stimulating 10 years at Microsoft through the 90s as a systems engineer and managing executive relations programs. Since then, John has worked with non-profit organizations and has held leadership roles in independent schools in New Jersey and Connecticut in development, communications, and technology. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences (Biology) from Colgate University.
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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Second Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Third Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

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