History Department Transforms Curriculum to Include Globalization
Whereas freshmen in History I used to begin their year learning about Walmart, this year the History Department has “shifted a bit, partly because Walmart has actually changed in the past few years with respect to workers’ rights,” said Ms. Ellen Baker, an Upper School history teacher. The History Department has decided to shift to a very relevant theme in today’s economy: globalization. Students learn about the benefits and detriments of globalization, as well as the effects it has on both a global and local scale. Students studied workers’ rights, free trade, trading policies, global inequalities, and climate change, among other things, and have even been “tracing the production of a t-shirt, as a single commodity,” learning about all the steps that go into the production and sale of it. To complement this unit, teachers Ms. Baker and Ms. Elizabeth Pillsbury are hosting several trips that put students in contact with the topics they’re studying. The field trips, altogether called “Globalization Day,” are scheduled to occur on October 19th, with a group of about sixty students. It occurs on the same day as the Storm King Art Center trip, a trip all studio art students attend. Globalization Day gives students not enrolled in studio art a chance to embark on an exciting field trip as well. This day is a “pilot program,” which is why only half of the grade will attend. However, the history department’s intention is to make Globalization Day a yearly occurrence.
One trip includes a meeting with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a network of domestic workers such as nannies and housekeepers, to study the migration of workers and how these people fit into our economy. Another is Upwardly Global, an organization that helps immigrants find professional level jobs through training and networking. Students might be visiting and touring Port Elizabeth, a “big shipping port.” They hope to visit Hain Celestial headquarters on Long Island to discuss global markets, sustainability, labor, and quality control, seeing as they are “procuring stuff from all over the globe and selling stuff all over the globe.” Students will also hopefully be able to talk to someone from Goldman Sachs about capital on a global and local level, in order to see how capital affects neighborhoods. For example, they will discuss predatory lending in Brooklyn, a topic that returns in Constructing America. Ms. Baker and the history department are also already looking into setting up more opportunities for next year’s Globalization Day.
The goal of these trips is to immerse students in the unit and go deeper into the topics they’re studying through the use of “experiential education.” Students will make connections between their studies and real life situations, and utilize their experience throughout the rest of the year, as well as throughout their Riverdale education. In addition to this day, the history department is also looking into expanding Globalization Day to coincide with advocacy groups during the Constructing America junior trip to Washington D.C. Overall, a lot of planning and work has been done to ensure that Globalization Day not only teaches Riverdale’s freshmen, but provides them with meaningful and memorable experiences to bring back to the classroom.