Global travel is part of Shaker Heights schools learning experience | Guest Columns

Twenty-one of our students spent spring break helping to pave a road in a Vietnamese village. Meanwhile, a few dozen students were visiting Robben Island prison near Cape Town, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. A few weeks ago, approximately 50 students traveled to Costa Rica to learn about that country’s culture and ecosystems.

For Shaker Heights School District students, the whole world is a classroom. This semester alone, about 140 students and more than 30 teachers and administrators are taking six trips around the world for language study, service projects, and cultural exchange programs. In addition to Vietnam, South Africa and Costa Rica, these trips include:

• Ten students traveled to France for language immersion and cultural exchange with Shaker’s sister school in Rouen.

• In June, 20 students will go to Japan as an extension of the Asian Studies class, which this year focused on Japanese culture and history. Asian Studies is offered each year and alternates between Japan, India, China, and South Korea. Earlier this year, Japanese students from Takatori-Kokusai High School visited Shaker Heights High School.

• Also in June, 16 students will travel to Goslar, Germany, to meet with students at Shaker’s sister school there. The exchange is in its 46th year – the longest exchange between an American and German school.

Writer Tim Cahill notes that the best way to measure a trip is by number of friends, not miles. To this end, the trips our students take are much more than just sightseeing trips. As an International Baccalaureate district, international travel is central to the district’s mission of providing a world-class education focused on hands-on projects, inquiry-based learning, and community service.

We also believe that all students who want to participate in international Shaker trips should have this opportunity. In keeping with our commitment to equity and inclusion, the Shaker Schools Foundation’s International Travel Endowment campaign helps remove barriers to participation. This semester alone, 41 students received travel scholarships through the fund. To contribute to the campaign, please visit shakerschoolsfoundation.org/travel-assistance.

Global education and international travel have long been part of the Shaker Heights Schools experience. For many years, our band and orchestra have performed in venues around the world from the Great Wall of China to the Eiffel Tower to ancient ruins in Greece. Shaker’s students helped repair a school on a floating village in Cambodia, and helped residents of a small town in Morocco build a community center and garden.

The truth is that we live in a global society, and the process of globalization is changing our lives. Climate change, conflicts and energy dependence are some examples of how global issues affect us all. Education plays a crucial role in understanding such issues. However, studies by the National Geographic Society and others show that too many American students lack understanding and knowledge of different people, places, and cultures – skills they need to succeed in the modern world.

David Glassner is superintendent of the Shaker Heights City School District.

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