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Global Citizenship Day Brings a World of Issues to Scarsdale

Bonamo-HarrisonHow do our actions as citizens affect our neighbors, the country and the world at large – and what can we do to foster understanding and act in ways that will make the world a better place?

These are just a few of the questions that were raised at Global Citizenship Day at Scarsdale High School on Tuesday October 3, when the entire school attended lectures and participated in workshops examining issues as far ranging as hunger in Westchester County to a nuclear crisis in North Korea.

Explaining the rationale behind the day of events, SHS Social Studies Teacher Heather Waters wrote, "Our goal for the day is to expose our kids to issues that they as citizens and future leaders of the world need to know to impact change. Our hope is that they are moved to act and they are able to have a more global perspective on the rights and responsibilities inherent in being a global citizen."russiaslide

The day began with a lecture by SHS Principal Ken Bonamo, an expert on Russian Studies, and SHS Social Studies Department Chairman John Harrison, who enlightened students on how Russian history laid the foundation for the tension between the U.S. and Russia today. In their talk, titled, "Putin and the United States: A New Cold War," they took a packed group of students through a sweeping history of Russia, touching on the Russian mindset, Russian identity, the Soviet economy, geographic features and ultimately the complexities of Vladmir Putin.

The students in the audience were well versed in world history and gave insightful responses to questions about Putin, economic and geographic challenges to Russia and the current conflict in the Ukraine. The talk concluded with a discussion of the alleged "fake news" campaign by the Russians to sway the U.S. presidential election and some speculation on Russia's ultimate goals. If the students at the lecture are representative of their peers at SHS, then I can predict that Scarsdale students will continue to have a big impact as global citizens!

As I passed the SHS auditorium I found another group of students engaged in a STEAM design challenge. Teacher Lisa Yokana asked, "how do your actions as individuals affect the planet," as an introduction to a workshop on redesigning disposable drink containers, straws, lids and stirrers to decrease waste.

She encouraged each group to spend some time brainstorming and letting ideas flow freely. She said that at this opening stage, "no idea was a bad idea," and encouraged students to build on the design1ideas of others in the group and make rough concept sketches. In the next stage ideas were evaluated and then the group built a prototype of the most promising concepts and presented them to the group.

Concurrently, Holocaust survivor Bernhardt Storch, one of a vanishing breed of those who lived through World War II, was telling his life story to a group in the auditorium. At the beginning of the war, Storch fled his home in Poland as the Germans approached and was arrested by the KGB and transported to a labor camp in Central Siberia. After the Nazis declared was on the USSR in 1941 Storch was released from the camp and enlisted in the Polish Army. During his service he helped to liberate four concentration camps, three in Poland and one in Germany.

Examining more local issues, Nicola Michillo and Kendra Claussen were in the high school cafeteria where they examined hunger in Westchester County. According to Minchillo, more than 10% of families in Westchester live in poverty, a number that's increased over the past 5 years. The two work with HOPE to provide meals to those in need. Through their network of volunteers Westchester County HOPE serves more than 600 meals a week in the soup kitchen and distributes 1,200 bag of groceries a month to the food pantry.

Following the talk, students were given instructions on preparing brown bag meals to be distributed to those in need. Students were told, "Make the meals with the same care you would make your own lunch. Be mindful that someone is dependent on the meal that you make today."

The lectures and workshops continued throughout the day covering a diversity of topics such as refugees, sustainable agriculture, sexual identity, bullying, harassment and more.waters

The day was produced by teachers Fallon Plunkett, Carlos Bedoya and Heather Waters – and from what I could see, students were interested and engaged in a fascinating program.

When will they produce a similar symposia for the parents?

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