A main theme of our on-line learning community is about exploring global connections, which ties in well with Paul’s overarching goals for his Out of Eden Walk. As the National Geographic website puts it: “when his seven-year journey ends, Paul will have created a global mosaic of stories, faces, sounds, and landscapes highlighting the pathways that connect us to each other—a unique archive of our shared humanity at the start of a new millennium.”
As an initial activity to encourage students to explore ways in which local neighborhoods might be connected to global forces or trends, we asked them to look closely at one of a selection of photographs (see the gallery below). Adapting a Project Zero “thinking routine,” we asked:
a. What do you see in this photo that might indicate that we live in a globally connected world? Please make a list. It is fine to mention things that you are not sure about. You may also want to ask questions about the photo. What do you wonder about?
b. For each of the items on your list please answer the following question: What makes you say that it indicates that we live in a globally connected world?
c. What are two things you could do to find out more about what you noticed in the photo?
What emerged from this activity were some thoughtful, close observations about global connections. For example, Annabeth from Mumbai examined a photograph of Sao Paulo, Brazil. First, she mentioned people’s clothing: “skirts, shirts, trousers are now the norm almost everywhere, including my own country.” She also noticed “the traffic and the cars,” the “kind of tall, glass buildings [that] are found in all major cities,” “the posters and signs” advertising “international brands, movies, and television shows,” the sign for the international bank HSBC, and the “satellite towers in the background.” She commented, “I wonder how the culture in the people of such a city would be apparent to others visiting when it so similar to many cities of the world, and whether it would be able to flourish when there are so many global influences.”
Later, in an interview, Annabeth described how this activity helped her form a new, closer way of thinking about global connections: If I normally looked at a picture like that I would never think of the things I thought of. When I was told to analyze the picture, I think of global connections. Otherwise it’s just a regular picture with buildings and people, but now it’s just so different and interesting…what about this little detail and what about that thing. I was just analyzing it so much and that was fascinating because that’s not something I would have done otherwise at all.
We also asked students to add to the observations of another student to build on each other’s learning. There were some interesting exchanges of ideas between students around the theme of global connections. As seen below, students appear to be engaging in a dialogue of co-constructed meaning:
Kylie from Canada: This photo, taken in Mexico, shows a pile of trash on what appears to be a beach. Different types of waste are displayed in this picture, such as plates, bottles, containers, and plastic bags. A variety of brands are shown as well, but Coca-Cola and Spongebob particularly stand out as they are internationally recognized icons. This shows that we live in a globally connected world because these products could end up in the landfills of any country, not just Mexico. While both of the brands that I mentioned before are both American, the materials used to make the physical product could have come from other parts of the world as well. Most of the products in the picture are plastics, which are typically made from oil, and the oil could have been obtained from countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia. Thus, our world is truly globally connected through trade…
Shinelle from India: Hi Kylie, i think you made a very good comment. i agree with your view and would like to add that the two main factors which i think cause this common sight of a littered beach. These are 1) WASTEFUL PRODUCTION by companies, OVER CONSUMPTION by us people and 2) Lack of infrastructure for garbage disposal…
Alex from Massachusetts: Hello, i think it was really interesting of you to point out the fact that this picture represents a global connection! If you hadn’t pointed that out i probably would have just looked at this in a negative aspect considering it is a pile of waste but you found the deeper meaning in it which i think is really awesome! It is still unfortunate that people would litter that much on such a beautiful place like the beach in your case…
In interviews with students, we asked them about their favorite and least favorite activities during the project. We were intrigued to find that this activity – more than any of the others – polarized opinion. For example, Annabeth’s classmate Sauron said it “provoked me to think a lot more at an issue” and “caught my attention.” Teacher Brenda Ball wrote in the previous post LOOKING DIFFERENTLY AT THE WORLD: WHAT OLDER STUDENTS CAN GAIN that this was one of her favorite activities. She appreciated how her students were able to discover ways in which “our lives are intertwined no matter where we find ourselves on this planet.” On the other hand, some students said that this felt like the most limited or prescribed of the activities we had designed. A couple of students noted that they had found themselves trying to figure out the ‘correct’ answer, which was certainly not our intention. Others commented that the range of responses was less varied for this activity than for others and therefore revealed less about their peers’ points of view. Some of these comments have helped us gain clarity on what was powerful about some of our other activities – and are informing our discussions as we revise our materials for our upcoming new platform.