Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca talks with freshman Gage Porcaro during a visit to Rutland High School on Friday.
RUTLAND — A new program at Rutland High School encourages students to take a global view in the 21st century.
Vermont Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca visited the high school Friday to observe interdisciplinary collaboration in action and discuss a new global studies program.
“Think of it as a college major at a high school, where students take a certain path of classes and they also have to do some kind of global service project,” said social studies teacher Jen Kravitz, who is spearheading the new program.
“I don’t know of any other program in Vermont that has a global focus.”
Students will be required to study a foreign language and perform 50 hours of globally focused community service, such as writing letters for Amnesty International or raising money for clean-water projects, Kravitz said.
Freshman and sophomore students are already globally focused as they tackle topics from multiple subjects. This past fall, the freshmen read the Indian novel “Nectar in a Sieve” by Kamala Markandaya in English class and studied Eastern religions in social studies, with their studies culminating in a project on the subject of tolerance. Sophomores studied the French Revolution in social studies and read “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic novel about the Iranian Revolution.
“It sparks a sense of community among the students and also among the teachers,” said social studies teacher Jennie Gartner.
Vilaseca visited Gartner’s class as her students were kicking off a new unit about the Islamic Golden Age and the Renaissance. He later sat down with Gartner, Kravitz and Principal William Olsen to discuss how the high school might reach out to international high school students, building upon the student exchange between Rutland and Ishidoriya, Japan.
“To be able to talk about World War II with a student in Japan would be interesting,” Kravitz said.
Kravitz also asked about the possibility of setting up a distance-learning relationship with Vilaseca’s birth country of Cuba. Vilaseca addressed the many hurdles such a project would encounter, from governmental interference on both sides to more nuts-and-bolts issues such as Cuba’s last-century telephone and Internet technology.
“The Cuba schools get a lot of requests from American schools. Then the U.S. schools realize the hassles involved and pull back,” Vilaseca said. “But the biggest issue is access, just being able to communicate.”
The program — with or without Cuba — is scheduled to roll out next fall.
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