What does it mean to be a global citizen?

Our Year 6 students have been inquiring into a range of countries in the Asia Pacific as part of their exploration of what it means to be a global citizen. The central idea is that to be a global citizen, we need to understand and engage with our neighbours. They prepared a range of questions to help them understand our neighbours and then they engaged!

Here’s an example…

What’s the story? (Edna)

The session was planned for 2.30pm Melbourne time, but I reached the library a bit earlier to find a group of kids already chatting excitedly. Tahni, Alex, Ronnie, Ruby, Jaimie and Elijah were about to connect with Craig and his Year 4 class in Saigon to further their inquiry into Vietnam.

Craig’s Year 4s were quite delightful, as was the entire session! Craig fielded the tougher questions and encouraged his students to respond to the ones they could. Theirs is an international school, but they explained that their life and school are not typically Vietnamese. It was great to hear the authentic Vietnamese voice of NguyenU Phuong, the Vietnamese Teacher’s Assistant providing her perspective too. Craig seemed a bit surprised at his students’ ability to identify and describe difficulties faced in their country, such as Dengue Fever, flooding and traffic congestion.

The Aussies talked quietly amongst themselves in between, comparing the responses with their own lives here. Their questions showed that they had already done some research and they connected what they heard with prior learning. As well as wanting to know about school, festivals and daily life, their deeper questions related to government and social inequities, big ideas from earlier units of inquiry.

The session went on longer than expected and the Year 6s loved every minute of it. As they gathered their belongings to go back to their classes, I heard their comments:
‘I got so much out of that’, ‘All my questions were answered’, ‘I didn’t even know there were PYP schools all over the world’, ‘The kids were sooo cute’, ‘You learn so much more this way, than from just looking stuff up’….

What’s the other story? (Craig)

As with many students attending international schools, our students come from upper middle class to upper class homes. The students see what they have and their lives as being ‘normal’. It is quite common for families at our school to have housekeepers, nannies, drivers, security guards and the like. Other children come to school on the back of a motorbike, which is the most common form of transport used in Vietnam.

To prepare for the session with the Year 6 students in Australia, my students were asked to think about the questions over the weekend so we could brainstorm and share ideas prior to the Skype conference. I was quite pleasantly surprised by the thought the students had put in and some of the contributions that they’d made. My students reminded me of the mosquito borne virus, Dengue Fever, which has affected the families of at least 7 of my students, including my wife. They also came up with the flooding that we deal with on a monthly basis due to king high tides on the Saigon River. I wish I was that switched on to the world around me when I was 9 years old.

While my students recently completed and video recorded many personal interviews as part of  their current unit of inquiry, the Skype conference with Year 6  students from Edna’s school has given me the inspiration to try something similar when we’re inquiring into cultures and religions. I have former colleagues teaching all over the world who might be willing to support my students as they continue accessing primary sources. Instead of reading books about religions in February,  the students inquiring into Judaism can Skype with students at Edna’s school, those inquiring into Islam can talk with students from my former school in the Middle East.

I think by the time the conference had come to an end, everyone had taken away something positive – what could be better than that?

6 thoughts on “What does it mean to be a global citizen?

  1. What could be better than that? Exactly! What a great way to finish this post – authentic learning between people from different contexts about their own lives – who else is better to share information than those people who live it daily?! Just as one of your students said Edna…thanks for sharing this story 😀


  2. Great article – you might be interested in this Academy Award Winner – Best Documentary “Strangers No More” about a school in Israel with students from 48 countries. Amazing film on ultimate Multicultural Edu that make you really think…!!! HBO on December 5th, 2011 at 6:45PM



  3. Dear Ms. Edna Sackson,
    My name is Charlie and I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed reading your post about the meaning of being a global citizen. I love how your students had the opportunity to connect and talk with a school in Vietnam. I wish I could have had this chance when I was in middle school. Also, your idea about chatting with different schools about their different religions sounds like a great idea. Your students could immerse themselves and learn more than they ever could from reading a book. I wish you all luck and I hope you have a great week!


  4. This is a great thing! There are some programs that delve even deeper than skype. Some companies have software for an online classroom and a full curriculum that students in both countries share! It is kind of like Facebook for an exlusive group of students. Pretty cool stuff. We got to work with a class in China. No live video because of the time difference, but we got to talk with the students there using comments, recorded video, blog, pictures… I don’t know who makes it, but we call it nimbus. I wish we got to skype live though!


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