The sophomores in April Garcez’s Global Studies class were given weighty goals: understand pressing global issues, grasp the current events that surround them, sharpen their critical thinking and writing skills.
The course requires students to learn about the United Nations, human rights issues, climate change, international trade, and U.S. relations with China and the Middle East.
But how does a 15-year-old take on the world in one class?
Next Thursday evening in Pike, these Global Studies students will demonstrate what “real world” learning means when they present their semester-long projects to the Mayfield community. The capstone assignment called on them to create an NGO—a non-governmental organization—as a way to show their understanding of a global issue.
An NGO is any non-profit, voluntary citizens group that involves people focused on solving a problem through humanitarian work. Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, World Vision, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are among the giants.
Mrs. Garcez introduced her students to the concept of “design thinking” to create their NGO. The process, popularized at the Stanford University School of Design, calls on students to think outside of textbooks by delving into problems through the prism of those who are affected. This empathy, combined with research, leads students to define the problem, brainstorm solutions, and come up with a prototype to help solve it.
Mrs. Garzez asked her students to think of an issue that they were passionate about and interview at least one person impacted by it. The second part of the NGO project was research based. Students were introduced to a learning technology app called “Noodletools” to create a bibliography, note cards and an outline to produce a five-to-seven page paper. Based on their interviews and research students created their NGO, a mission statement and business plan for it and a budget.
“I’m always surprised to see the topics the students choose to research,” Mrs. Garcez said. “They are curious about everything, but their particular interests reveal their personal journey in life.”
Moved by the plight of her own family member in New Orleans, Ella DesHotel ’20 created an NGO called hurriCARE to help families through the devastation of hurricanes. Ella's NGO is a network for mayors in Louisana that would help them to distribute goods to disaster victims. This network would also enable mayors to communicate and discuss strategies to help those members hit hardest hit by a hurricane.
Lauren Robles ’20 is interested in increasing the number of Latina leaders and interviewed Thelma Martinez, who served in the Obama Administration as assistant secretary for elementary and high school education. Her paper examined the barriers Latinas face in the workplace. She created an NGO called “Leading Latinas.”
Lauren said the project was rewarding because “not only did I learn about my culture, but I’m inspired to personally make a difference by helping other Latinas become leaders.”
Maddie Lewis ’19, a junior who took Global Studies last year, took her NGO assignment to the next level with "Actions Not Words" by bringing it fruition in the community.
Inspired by her AP Bio class, Maddie describes herself as “an advocate for fighting climate change.” She believes that learning to protect the environment must start at a young age, so she created an NGO in Mrs. Garcez’s class last year called KAPOW, for Kids Awareness to Protect Our World.
Maddie, who is also a Girl Scout, realized that her NGO “could actually happen” as she begin deliberating about her Gold Award project.
“I thought it through and Mrs. Garcez helped me,” she said. “It took a lot of planning and work, but I was able to build the curriculum based on my NGO project.”
Maddie designed lessons for children introducing them to the complex issues of climate change—changing weather patterns, its impact on animals and food production.
She set up a YouTube Channel for her videos then presented her curriculum to children who participate in Families Forward, a Pasadena social service organization.
For her outstanding work, Maddie not only received her Gold Award, but her project has also been singled by out as “exceptionally inspiring” by her region leaders. Maddie has been nominated for the Girl Scouts National Young Women of Distinction Award, for a Gold Award project that demonstrates “measurable and sustainable impact” to address a challenge related to a national and global issue.
We like to say at Mayfield that the world desperately needs the ingenuity, smarts and love that our girls have to offer. Maddie and her Global Studies classmates are the proof.