2008-02-28 / News

Educator links students to world issues

By Michaela Kennedy

Chris Walsh Chris Walsh Retired public school teacher Christopher Walsh may have left the classroom, but his commitment to bringing top class global education to students across Rhode Island continues forward full steam. Walsh, an island resident, is the state coordinator for Capitol Forum, a program that allows high school students to deliberate about the role they believe the nation should play in an international environment.

Capitol Forum is born from Global Rhode Island, a non-profit organization designed to provide international education to students within the state. Walsh retired from teaching a year and a half ago, and has worked with Global R.I. on other projects. "They were looking for someone to take over the coordinating," Walsh said about the forum.

Walsh supports the kind of community action education that gets students engaged in a civic arena. The conference, attended by almost a dozen schools around the state and held at the State House, encourages the youth to speak out about what they believe the role of the United States should be in the international environment of the 21st century. Walsh supports the event as a step toward introducing more world themes in public education. "We don't do a very good job of it, given America's role in the world. It became more important for our students to be more aware of other cultures, what's happening in the world," he said.

Global R.I. is part of a larger international organization called Plan USA that aims to better the lives of children in need throughout the world. Plan USA is a supporting partner in Capitol Forum. "They provide us support through grants, like the Pell Center," Walsh said.

Walsh was a social studies teacher in a high school, and later transferred to a middle school. The former instructor took opportunities found in the faces of the eighth grade students before him and introduced the world to the youngsters. Walsh taught an introduction to social sciences at the eighth grade level. The students where he taught at Cole Middle School in East Greenwich showed appreciation for his themes. "When I had the opportunity for examples, case studies, I would use other cultures. I have students come back and talk about what they remember. They talk about those kinds of things."

Walsh is no stranger to travel. He grew up in Germany when his father was working for the U.S. Army. When he reached seventh grade, he was sent off to a Jesuit boarding school in Ireland. After graduating college, Walsh spent a year from 1969 to 1970 in Nepal, serving in the Peace Corps. "There was not a lot of western impact then," he adds.

Walsh hopes to affect local approaches to education in a global way. "The major effort is to get more international education into the schools. It's very difficult for teachers in training to go abroad because of the practicum," he points out. University students working towards teacher certifi- cation are not allowed the option of studying abroad without setting their certificate back a year.

Additionally, Walsh works with the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia, an initiative funded by the Freeman Foundation to encourage and support teaching and learning about Asia in world history, geography, social studies, and literature courses.

Walsh is a good example of an educator who thinks locally, and acts globally.

For more information about NCTA seminars and activities, visit online at www.nctasia.org. To view the schedule for Capitol Forum on March 10, go to Web site www.globalri.org.

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