Three King School teachers have earned prestigious Global Expression and Thought (GET) Prizes from a leading organization for best practices in global education for K-12 schools.
Teachers Aman Samra and Emily Decker collaborated on the vision and content for their Grade 2 Geometry unit. Ran LaPolla collaborated with alumna Mimi White ’20 for the Upper School Themes in Global Art lesson. Both submissions were rooted in authentic experiences, meaningfully connecting the students' lives to the world around them.
“Our King School GET Prize submissions were special as both developed through a collaborative process, which fosters creativity,” said Director of Global Education Laura Bowe. “This recognition of King’s global curriculum honors the work of our colleagues, Aman, Emily, and Ran, designates their submissions as exemplary, and highlights the value our school places on global education.”
The contest is conducted by the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), more than 300 member schools representing 17 countries were invited to enter curriculum into the contest. This year the organization recognized two lower and middle school submissions and two upper school submissions.
World languages faculty member Dr. Gilles Chosson created King’s Global Education Program thirteen years ago. With his guidance, the program is deeply integrated into King’s identity and aligns with the school’s strategic plan. Bowe and Karen Raidt now lead the program, partnering with teachers across the divisions to develop curriculum and professional initiatives, co-curricular opportunities, global travel programs, and community partnerships that integrate global education and global perspectives into the student experience.
“In the Lower School, culturally responsive teaching immerses students in purposeful learning experiences,” said Bowe. “In the Middle School, guiding questions around identity and perspectives prompt students to examine their place in the world. In the Upper School, faculty support global studies distinction scholars as they engage in an intensive interdisciplinary course of study.”
Decker and Samra collaborated on developing a lesson for Grade 2 that explores the concept of how geography shapes the way people live. Drawing from another lesson in which the students studied about the Ndebele, a South African tribe, they recognized the use of shapes that tied the community together. This led them to consider other ways shapes are used by cultures in flags, mosaics, geometric vases, kente cloth, and more.
“As we researched more about the history and purpose of these things, we determined our unit drive, which was to use shapes to tell a story,” said Samra. “I think what really helped me in this process was that I have had the opportunity to travel a lot, study art and architecture in college, and see a lot of things, and so I tried to use my personal experience to help make ties.”
The teachers created information sheets about each art form, which students used as they conducted their own research. The unit continues to evolve through student response and professional development.
“At the National Council on Social Studies Annual Conference in Philadelphia, I was introduced to the Adinkra symbols, which originated in Africa,” said Decker. “We added lessons on the symbols to the unit this year, and students chose symbols that highlighted their individual identities. We also had a Zoom meeting with artist Ebenezer Akakpo after I read an article about him in Yankee magazine. He uses the Adinkra symbols in his jewelry and artwork to celebrate identity and individuality.”
LaPolla’s class was born out of a conversation with a student and examines historical and contemporary situations about race by studying works of art from five different racial groups that are seen through the eyes of the artist. The unit she submitted is called Race in Art and is part of the Themes in Global Art curriculum.
“Mimi White ’20 was very interested in art around social justice, and I wanted to create this course,” said LaPolla. “I approached her to see if she would be interested in helping me create the curriculum, and she really helped shape this class. She was essential, and she was able to bring the perspective of a student and that of a person of color.”
In the Race in Art unit, students explore the idea of race as a social construct by using five paint colors which they use to match the skin tones of the five artists studied in the course. Students also match their own skin tones, too.
“This topic can be hard to discuss, and the unit is meant to allow students to access the concept of race from a very different approach,” said LaPolla. “The conversation comes from a positive take on identity and is a celebration of that but provides a window into other worlds while creating a feeling of camaraderie as the class starts to interact around it.”
The unit builds a classroom community, according to LaPolla, providing a safe setting to discuss difficult concepts that ultimately examine historical and contemporary situations about race.
White assisted LaPolla in teaching the class for the first time in the Spring of 2020, earning independent study credit for her work.
“Mimi made me a much braver teacher,” said LaPolla. “I stand up there and say things with conviction that I would not have had without her perspective and help.”
Bowe is excited by the momentum of the Global Education Program at King.
“We are thrilled that the intentional approach and passion our colleagues Aman, Emily, and Ran bring to their global education work may inspire other GEBG member schools in their own work,” she said. “This is a wonderful honor and a tribute to global education being a signature program at King School.”