For the fourth consecutive year, the seventh grade class embarked on a special end-of-the-year interdisciplinary project: the Global Challenge. Seventh Grade Quest: Science Teacher Deborah Bruvik and Quest: Humanities Teachers Mark Gornto and Jake Greenberg together prompted their students to design potential solutions for a UN Sustainable Development Goal as part of the Challenge. This idea was adapted from Mark Wise at West Windsor-Plainsboro Middle School and has since grown and evolved as part of the Quest program.
When discussing the impact of the Global Challenge on students’ social and emotional experiences at MFS, Mr. Greenberg emphasized the importance of cultural competence. “One mini-lesson involved understanding the idea of ‘othering’,” he explained. “While we are certainly offering solutions for people who are struggling in certain countries, we also want to be conscientious and give dignity to those people and identify that we’re not ‘saving’ the country. We focus on looking at the language used in the pitches and what might be misconstrued as generalizing. How do we include the people that we’re serving in what we’re doing so we’re not just making assumptions?”
Issues explored fell into the categories of hunger, the environment, gender/education, global health, clean water, and refugees. Some examples of topics the students explored for this year’s Global Challenge included: identifying solutions for people with food insecurity in Haiti, exploring alternative materials to prevent deforestation in Argentina, creating a petition to raise awareness about girls’ education and access in Burkina Faso, investigating NGO (non-governmental organization) development to address cholera and measles outbreaks in Yemen, utilizing omni processors to decontaminate polluted water in Kampala, Uganda, and developing safer methods of boat transportation to aid Syrian refugees.
Students received feedback on their presentations from faculty members and Upper School Environmental Science students. The Challenge culminated with the opportunity for the middle schoolers to pitch their proposed solutions to an expert in the field via teleconference. Out of the seven experts consulted, four were MFS alumni.
- John Donnelly, Ph.D. ’71, President of Global Healing, Berkeley, Calif.
- Rena Greifinger, Managing Director of MaverickNext at Population Services International
- Katie Doyle Myers, Executive Director of Philanthropiece
- Alexandra Stark ’06, Ph.D. Candidate in International Relations at Georgetown University
- David Nicholson, Senior Director of Mercy Corps
- Melanie Oliviero ’72, Strategic Advisor at Development Alternatives, Inc.
- Sarah Adelman ’96, Associate Professor of Economics at Mount Holyoke College