The Real Meaning of Global Education?
By Kathleen McNamara
March brought with it an embarrassment of riches for me. I feel very lucky to have been a participant in the “Istanbul to Athens” spring break trip run by Mrs. Sweeney and to serve as a chaperone for the 9th grade trip to China. One of the major recommendations of the NYSAIS accreditation team is for Tuxedo Park School to continue defining and delivering to students the skills and mindset of forward-thinking, globally-minded citizens, a mandate ideally paired with our school’s rich history and tradition. I am happy to report that TPS curriculum and opportunities are indeed focused on the future and the world outside even as we celebrate our school’s 112-year history. I have long heard claims of global education made while serving on independent school leadership teams as well as on evaluation teams looking at school curriculum—but it has historically proven difficult to find in the actual curriculum. Not so at TPS. These two unique opportunities abroad highlight some of the ways we are making good on our claim of espousing a true global view of the world, a perspective we foster without sacrificing the traditional hallmarks of a TPS education.
First, our family travel trips at Spring Break: Mrs Sweeney has been organizing these for the last few years, taking over where Madame Abrahams left off. Opportunities exist for families to sign up for an international trip and travel together through EF Tours (education first). This year’s group included thirty people and there were three families where grandparents were part of the equation; we ranged in age from 8-80! There were two second graders, a third grader, a fifth grader, multiple sixth and seventh graders and an eighth grader, in addition to a few alum and many parents, and together, we embarked on a journey through the bustling city of Istanbul, down the coast of Turkey and across the Aegean Sea to Athens. We visited mosques and museums, palaces and historic landmark, local artisan workshops and many, many eateries. We learned together and created memories together. It is a unique way for families to see a new part of the world, to have children hang around with school mates and yet still have a family experience. While I traveled solo, I enjoyed floating in and out of the families comprising our group, and experiencing new places with them.
My memories focus on the call to prayer in Turkey, the spice market, the weaving school and the visit to Ephesus in Turkey. In Athens–a place I have traveled before with students–I was thrilled to be able to visit the new Acropolis museum, recently opened and in the shadow of the site it details and archives. It was such an amazing experience to watch the archeological process being documented.
The 2012 Freshmen Trip to China was one of the educational highlights of my life. As someone who has traveled almost exclusively in Western and Eastern Europe, I was captivated by how exotic and foreign things seemed in China. Our intrepid Freshmen took six plane flights over the course of ten days. We traveled to Beijing, then Xi’An and finally, Shanghai. We ate marvelous new foods, climbed the Great Wall, visited the pandas at the Beijing Zoo, visited silk and pearl workshops, learned Chinese calligraphy, saw the Terra Cotta Warriors and stood on the highest observation deck in the world atop the Shanghai World Financial Center.
One both trips, EF Tours provided careful guidance and knowledgeable local guides who gave us safety tips and bargaining pointers; they taught us to be reverent of these most spectacular sites and to appreciate the insight that came with our visits to them. I am pleased to report that on both trips, TPS students represented their families, and their school, very well.
Global Education? Yes, we are indeed preparing our students for their multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-faceted futures…and by means far beyond just these fascinating trips abroad. From our Primary School’s annual Cultural Studies, to language study including French, Spanish, Latin, Chinese and Arabic, to vigorous coursework in world history and geography, to the global perspective of our faculty, we making good on our promise that TPS nurtures and prepares the next generation of global citizens.