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Squared galek draws a plein air sketch during an excursion centered on recreating the odyssey
How can learning be transformed by taking students into the world?

THINK Global School

Marker New York City, USA
THINK Global School is a travelling high school where students live and learn in four countries a year, making unforgettable connections between their education and the world around them.
Introduction

What is THINK Global School?

Jamie Steckart
“Incorporating the innovative pedagogies of THINK Global School does not require vast resources, only the courage and will to open the door of the school house and venturing forth in one's own backyard.”

Jamie Steckart, Head of School

Traditional schooling is an isolating affair. Students are put together with very little exposure to the diverse communities in which they live and are graded and judged not by their creativity but on how well they can recall very specific content.

The lack of agency and autonomy for both teachers and students has led to a real sense of disengagement within both groups. Rarely do students engage in learning with “real” people on “real” problems where the answer comes in many forms. We need to redesign experiences in our educational programs to promote creativity, collaboration, and communication to prepare our students for the needs of the future.

THINK Global School believes that project- and place- based learning is a medium for deep learning and that increasing student autonomy provides a greater sense of connection and purpose for students. Through travel, students experience real world issues and engage within the communities that they live in each term. By gaining an authentic global education, students develop the skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary to become the changemakers of the future.

Each school year, THINK Global School students live and learn in four countries, and each eight-week term is a chance to engage in community-focused projects that develop not just skills and knowledge, but a deep understanding of the country and culture they are immersed in. The community literally becomes their classroom and its denizens their teachers.

The cornerstone of project-based learning at THINK Global School is the Teacher Designed Modules (TDM). Rooted in a specific country’s place, students choose one intensive seven-week project. Each TDM is a multi-disciplinary project that is woven into the community. At the conclusion of each TDM, there is an additional week of project work in preparation for a public performance of learning. Members of the community, including local experts who shared their findings with students on the projects, are invited to this event and it is an ideal time for parents and family to visit the school as we celebrate student learning.

Multidisciplinary projects weave traditional subjects into real world learning. Expert members of the community engage with our students in authentic ways and add invaluable meaning to their experience. With these connections the school aims to build long-term relationships and ongoing projects within the communities they visit by returning annually. In this way, projects are more sustainable and the effects can be longer lasting. Currently, the school is wrapping up the first year of a project with African Conservation Experience in Botswana by researching animal density and ecological issues in the Greater Okavango Delta.

Outside of the projects, students learn about local cultures and develop an
understanding of communities which differ from their own. There are opportunities to learn languages, eat and cook different foods, and read novels by local authors in the very setting they were written in and/or about. THINK Global School believes that by combining academic study with cultural immersion in a local community, students gain a connection to the world that will drive them to improve it.

 

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Intended Outcomes
547
Views
15 - 18
Age Group
2004
Established
Resources Needed
The resources required are dependent on the scope of the project - like the implementation time, different projects need different resources, so it is difficult to pin down the exact needs per projects. Our students often use their three technology devices during projects (iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro) and project-based learning software, in our case Edio, to log their findings and track their learning.
HundrED Criteria
innovativeness
impact
scalability
There is only so much that can be learned within the four walls of a classroom, where teachers are largely reliant on lectures, textbooks, and internet materials. THINK Global School believes that engaging in place-based learning and allowing students to engage directly with a wide range of cultures, peoples, and artefacts is the key to a global education.
Place-based learning allows students to use all five senses in their learning and visits to sombre sites like Srebrenica in Bosnia allows them to converse directly with those affected by tragedy, and as THINK Global Schools has found, these encounters can shape our students lives in a significant way, often motivating them to create meaningful change in the affected places.
While the travel aspect may be problematic for many schools and especially the younger grades, the innovation technique can be used at all levels, scale and scope are age dependant. The approach is being used, to various degrees, by a range of schools worldwide.
Steps

How do you implement it?

01

Rationale

Rationale No one expects the classroom teacher/administrator to vault into the intensive school reform design that characterizes THINK Global School. Yet it is surprising how little teachers, administrators, and students know about the communities that surround the four walls of their school.

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We know as educators and citizens that the problems facing our communities may be local in effect, but stem from global issues. It is imperative that the institution of education takes an active role in solving these problems through real-time application. Our neighborhoods, communities, states, and countries desperately need the creative energy of the young people entrusted to our care, yet we provide very little opportunity for our kids to take an active role in making change.


“Creative neighborhood leaders across the country have begun to recognize this hard truth, and have shifted their practices accordingly. They are discovering that wherever there are effective community development efforts, those efforts are based upon an understanding, or map, of the community's assets, capacities and abilities.” 

Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets," by John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight.

02

Pre-experience research

Understanding your community

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Before walking out the door of your school you need to understand the communities your students will be interacting with as they design and complete projects and field experiences.

Begin by mapping the assets of your community. Use the attached resource tool to help you create such a map. I recommend using a mind mapping tool to record your findings. At TGS we use MindMeister.

Size and scope determine the length of the project. Advice: Start small! At THINK Global School, due to the logistics of travel, implementation time can run into the months as we scout locations, make contacts with experts, and attend to other logistical needs. But as mentioned, these projects can be scaled to fit the needs of any community, and implementation times will differ greatly by the size and scope of the project. Some schools might need one month, others one week.


Asset_Mapping_Tool.pdf
03

The Task

Now that you have completed the asset mapping of your community, begin with this driving question: How can we implement a field experience to explore a small piece of our community in depth?

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Select learning targets (standards) you want the students to master after completion of the experience. The longer the experience the more targets you can incorporate. If you’re feeling collaborative, partner with a colleague who doesn’t teach in your subject area. You’ll be using our Project-Based Learning Template for planning purposes. The document has all the links and resources with a place for your creativity to run wild.


b. Decide on a Summative Assessment: See these Assessment Resource documents for guidance and ideas. Here is a great external link for Assessment Ideas.


c. IMPORTANT NOTE: The above documents and links are for the use of planning day projects. For the scope of this tool kit, we limited field experiences to those where students go home at the end of the school day. These​ ​concepts​ ​are​ ​scalable​ ​for​ ​all​ ​ages​ ​of​ ​students.​

NOTE: Adding overnight/travel elements brings a whole list of planning areas and concerns/considerations. We recommend partnering with experienced professionals if you want to add that element to your school day. Feel free to contact us at TGS if you need further guidance.


Assessment_at_TGS.pdf
04

Insights

Insights Helpful hints to make the transition to a THINK Global Schools model

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Be open to the idea that as a teacher you don’t have all the answers.


b. Always start small and then scale up.


c. When it is feasible, allow students to take the lead: the same planning documents can be given to students to have them plan their own projects. As mentioned before, at TGS the Changemaker Curriculum requires students to develop 40% of their own learning guided by their advisors.


d. Let your students voices/passions drive the activity.

Other Informational Links:
a. Overview of TGS
b. How use Technology at TGS. TGS is an Apple Distinguished School


c. Teacher Designed Module Catalogue


TGS_Module_Catalogue.pdf
Community

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Innovator
Used in
15 Things to Do Before You Graduate THINK Global School

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