How We Do It

Global Learning (GL) educates for peace and justice through a variety of programs, including School Enrichment Programs, Global Leaders, After-School Learning Initiatives, Global Action Tank, and Student-Centered Teacher Training.  While each program is unique, there are some organizing and educational principles common to all GL programs.

Global Learning’s Organizing Principles

We work on teams. Teams of between ten and twenty-five volunteers staff each Global Learning program.  Global Learning teams work and live together in collaborative and cooperative environments.  GL volunteers engage in community-driven, inclusive development that honors the expertise, resources, and leadership of all involved, particularly those who live in communities most directly affected by poverty.

We reflect the communities we serve. More than fifty percent of each Global Learning team is local.  In other words, most of our organization is from our program sites in Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua.  These volunteers use their local expertise to guide Global Learning in their own countries and many also work as foreign volunteers in GL programs in other countries.

We facilitate multicultural learning experiences. While at least half of each Global Learning team is from the program’s host country, the other portion is from the broader international community.  GL volunteers represent more than twenty-four countries including El Salvador, Malaysia, Iran, Romania, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Belarus, Japan, Montenegro, Ecuador, India, Germany, and Zimbabwe.

We diversify the field of international development. Global Learning is dedicated to providing opportunities for qualified volunteers traditionally under-represented in international development leadership positions.  GL volunteers are diverse in age, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, culture and socio-economic background.  More than 70% of Global Learning volunteers are people of color.

We share leadership and responsibility. Global Learning programs are leadership opportunities for all involved.  Each GL team is guided by a pair of local and foreign coordinators who are dedicated to empowering all volunteers through democratic decision making, delegation, and consensus building.  Global Learning volunteers embrace the challenges of creating organically as peers, crossing cultural divides, and collaborating as true partners as crucial steps on the path towards peace and justice.

We collaborate bilingually. GL volunteers teach in a language of programs’ host communities, so all volunteers speak a host language at least at an intermediate level.  However, all meetings, trainings, and informal team interaction are translated in a language of the host country and a foreign language (i.e. Spanish and English).  This provides a rich language learning experience and ensures that all voices are heard.

We provide extraordinary opportunities for volunteers, particularly those who are young adults. In order to recruit bright minds into community-oriented peace and justice work, Global Learning makes a special effort to offer opportunities to learn, lead, and serve to volunteers before they graduate from college.  Our university student volunteers, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, represent more than 40 universities worldwide.  Teachers, graduate students, parents, doctors, scientists, and other professional adults also volunteer on Global Learning teams.

We make our programs financially realistic to volunteers from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Global Learning offers free food, housing, school materials, ground transportation, and fieldtrips for all volunteers (local and foreign) during programs.  Our U.S.- and European-based volunteers are responsible for purchasing their plane tickets and fundraising $600 for Global Learning.  Volunteers from our host countries in Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua do not pay anything to travel to work with Global Learning.  The organization pays for all plane tickets, visa costs, and border fees.

We maintain strictly platonic relationships with coworkers and remain drug and alcohol free while volunteering. Global Learning volunteers are role models for thousands of children and receive special privileges from the communities in which we work.  The investment that Global Learning and its community partners devote to each individual volunteer is high.  While working with Global Learning, volunteers represent the professionalism of the organization and respect the cultural norms of the host communities at all times.

Global Learning’s Educational Principles

We recognize education as a keystone in poverty reduction. We rethink, reform, and revolutionize education in economically poor communities to address inequality and injustice.  We take into account historical, geopolitical, and socioeconomic realities that influence the field of education and teaching practices in particular.  Through the relevant content of our lessons and our empowering teaching methods, we educate for peace and justice.

We partner with schools and communities.  Global Learning has partnered with more than 25 schools that host community-specific Global Learning programs in Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the United States.  Community collaborations have included support from local mayors’ offices, community youth groups, and PANI (a children’s advocacy organization in Costa Rica).  Global Learning only works where we are welcome and invited.

We believe in our students. Global Learning volunteers believe in the potential, creativity, and multiple intelligences of all students.  We treat our students with respect, courtesy, encouragement, and empathy.  We aim to be our students’ allies, mentors, friends, and supporters.

We use student-centered, interactive, and democratic teaching methods. Every Global Learning lesson starts with what students know, feel, think, notice, and wonder.  Volunteers use active pedagogy that engages students’ minds, hearts, and hands.  With Global Learning, students make decisions, vote, share their opinions, investigate, teach others, and collaborate with peers.  Global Learning helps students have a voice and be empowered to take care of themselves, their communities, and their planet.  Global Learning prepares students for proactive global citizenship.

We participate in “horizontal” education. Contrasting the traditional, vertical relationship between student and teacher in which instruction flows from the top (teacher) down to the student, in Global Learning programs, volunteers and students construct learning along side each other in a more equitable, “horizontal” relationship.

We provide cutting-edge teacher training. In Global Learning’s teacher training, volunteers and other educators working in public schools create their own theories of education (after reflecting on the purposes of education); study the historical, geopolitical, and socioeconomic realities that influence the field of education and teaching practices in particular; learn tangible student-centered teaching techniques that help students think, learn, believe in themselves, and be active world citizens; and engage in practice and reflection in order to improve their skills as educators.

We teach during school hours and after school. Volunteers receive special permission from local governments, regional school officials, and local school staff to teach in classrooms during school hours in Global Learning School Enrichment Programs.  Our After-School Learning Initiatives (which include various projects including after-school enrichment classes, summer programs, and projects in an orphanage) take place outside of students’ normal school day.

We team-teach with eight or more diverse adults in each classroom. Reflecting the diversity of our organization, teaching teams are composed of volunteers from the local and international communities.  Volunteers collaborating as teammates in the classroom provide a powerful demonstration for students of how diverse people can respect each other and work together equitably.

We learn with students in small groups. Because we teach in teams, average volunteer to student ratio in Global Learning classrooms is one to four.  Volunteers work with students in small groups that facilitate personal attention, individualized teaching, and students learning collaboratively with each other.

We provide the supplies and materials necessary for hands-on learning. Global Learning solicits donations of art materials, maps, visual aides, science equipment, and other supplies necessary to ensure that each student in our programs has an interactive learning experience.

We offer curricula in a variety of subject areas. Global Learning lesson topics are tailored to students’ passions, are relevant to their lives, build life skills, and compensate for schools’ limited resources.  Global Learning’s varied, interdisciplinary lessons include combinations of art, music, environmental education, math, foreign language, science, human rights, history, geography, multicultural studies, and other subjects requested by teachers.  GL programs make school fun, inspiring, and useful.

We engage in reflective teaching practice. Using an innovative teacher-to-teacher feedback process and auto-reflective activities, Global Learning volunteers are educators who learn and better their practice continually.

We role model the life opportunities education can provide. Global Learning programs shine a light on path-setters from children’s local and international communities.  Through their university study and dedication to Global Learning programs, our volunteers demonstrate that pursuing education opens professional opportunity, personal development, and avenues to contribute to peace and justice.