Educating students to be personally and professionally successful in the 21st century is a main goal for Carolina Navigators, a program of the Center for Global Initiatives in the Office of International Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The Center for Global Initiatives is a catalyst for the innovative work of faculty and students, entrepreneurial and nimble in its approach to fostering initiatives that deepen knowledge and understanding of our complex world. The goals of the center are to cultivate ideas that have the potential to reshape intellectual communities, bridge disciplinary boundaries to generate diverse perspectives and engage external audiences in the University’s global activities. Through external engagement, the mission of the center’s K-12 classroom speakers program, Carolina Navigators, is to prepare all North Carolina students to become informed and effective members of our global community. Since its inception in 1996, the program has served over 125,000 students in 52 counties across North Carolina.
Carolina Navigators enriches the education of both UNC and K-12 students through engaged international learning. The program provides cultural resources and interactive classroom presentations by Carolina students who have international expertise. These presenters are either international students studying at UNC or American returned study abroad students eager to share their experiences and able to tell their younger peers the value of learning a foreign language and gaining understanding of other cultures.
Carolina students benefit from the program by having the opportunity to share their international experiences while practicing public speaking and teaching skills. New presenters must attend a training session and many also chose to enroll in a related academic service-learning class, Intercultural Education in K-12 Classrooms. The course gives UNC students ideas for integrating their own international experiences and knowledge to further the education of K-12 students. Topics studied include language immersion, intercultural communication tools, international math, globally focused professional development for teachers, and best practices for global education currently underway in our state. Enrolled students contribute service hours to Carolina Navigators. Last year the course enrolled the capped maximum of 14 students who contributed 573 hours of service and drove 2288 miles to deliver 109 presentations to 4,047 children over the course of the spring semester.
K-12 students and teachers benefit from trained guest speakers who provide learning beyond the textbook on international topics and cultures. Hands-on engagement with guest speakers helps students achieve a better understanding of global cultures and events and stimulates greater interest in related classroom studies. Over the 2008-2009 academic year a total of 39 Carolina Navigators made 348 presentations to 10,617 students and 451 teachers in 44 schools and 10 North Carolina counties to reach these goals.
With support from the U.S. Department of Education, the program developed an Evaluation Tool Kit and an accompanying manual to determine the extent to which K-12 international outreach programs achieve their desired outcomes and meet the expectations of teachers, students, presenters, and program administrators. Evaluation data from teachers has shown Carolina Navigators is successful in teaching cultural awareness and sensitivity, providing first-hand international exposure, enhancing classroom learning and participation, and providing another perspective. Students reported learning specific cultural facts, similarities and differences in cultures, new language or skills, geographic knowledge, and a new awareness or deepened perspective on global issues. A complete statistical analysis and a written program evaluation report can be found on the program’s website. This evidence shows the program supports attainment of many 21st century skills and global competencies for successful 21st Century students identified by NC’s Center for International Understanding such as being culturally aware, aware of world events and global dynamics, effective communicators across cultures, and collaborative members of multicultural teams. (global competencies for future ready students)
Through technology the program is increasing its capacity to reach under served and economically distressed rural counties in our state by offering virtual presentations. Last year alone Carolina Navigators did 85 presentations in low income Title I schools receiving financial assistance from the US government. In order to further increase these numbers, Carolina Navigators is now partnering with the UNC Study Abroad Office and the North Carolina Center for International Understanding to bring live virtual presentations from around the world to classrooms in far reaching corners of North Carolina who may ordinarily be under resourced due to economic and geographic disadvantages. Interested UNC students studying abroad are being paired with participating K-12 classrooms to deliver one cultural presentation a month through live web conferencing from their host country. Once students return to UNC, they will visit their partner classrooms in person for a final presentation. These presenters are also available to make virtual presentations to other requesting teachers across the state. In addition, the program is developing a bank of online resources related to its culture kits and presentations, and connecting their topics to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study to extend the reach and usefulness of program resources to teachers.
Another very popular aspect of the program among teachers has been the culture kit collection. Culture Kits are a collection of tangible items from a country obtained by international and UNC-Chapel Hill travelers. Each item is accompanied by a description highlighting the item's use or significance. These kits are especially practical for elementary students who have a greater need to touch and see items in order to learn, but are applicable to other grade levels as well. The kits are shipped free of charge to requesting NC teachers. The current demand for these kits has been difficult to accommodate and wait lists are kept. In the coming year the program hopes to add many culture kits to the collection and also create duplicates of the most popular ones in order to keep up with teacher demand and increase circulation of these materials throughout the state.
Building on the success and reputation of Carolina Navigators, institutions across the state and nation have requested materials to start or enhance a program of their own. In June 2009 Carolina Navigators hosted a national workshop for K-12 classroom speakers programs. Thirty participants from universities as far away as Hawaii, New York, Texas, Michigan, Illinois and Florida gathered to learn from the center and receive Carolina Navigators materials. Materials provided included an evaluation toolkit, presenter handbook and training DVD, service-learning course syllabus and models for utilizing the latest technology. The program was also recently showcased in the March/April edition of International Educator, NAFSA’s magazine for international education professionals and at sessions in NAFSA and US Department of Education conferences.
K-12 international outreach programs such as Carolina Navigators plant the seeds of intercultural understanding and provide exposure to international people and places. The program provides teachers with cultural resources and guest speakers they would not otherwise have access to, helping to enhance global readiness for today’s students in an ever-changing world.
For further information, please contact:
Tara Muller, Program Coordinator
Center for Global Initiatives
Office of International Affairs
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill