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Editor’s Note: By first focusing on local issues, students can more readily engage with global issues. Jennifer D. Klein, head of school of Gimnasio Los Caobos in Colombia and author of The Global Education Guidebook , shares that connecting with local indigenous cultures is one way to make the local-global connection more powerful.

By Guest Blogger Jennifer D. Klein

"We share a sacred endowment, a common history written in our bones. It follows … that the myriad of cultures of the world are not failed attempts at modernity, let alone failed attempts to be us. They are unique expressions of the human imagination and heart, unique answers to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive?" — Wade Davis

I’ve been reading Wade Davis’ The Wayfinders recently. Combine this with living in Colombia since July 2017, and I find that my beliefs about what global education is supposed to look like have shifted. While humans are inherently prone to seeing the world from where they’re standing, I have always worked to avoid a U.S.-centric view of global education. Now I sense that global education has to include local connections, meaning that we need to ensure students engage with the diversity of thought and knowledge in their own indigenous communities as a part of understanding the tapestry of perspectives, needs, and life experiences, so many of which might offer us solutions to our most pressing borderless problems. I have strong memories of my early learning experiences with Native Americans as part of my education in the Open Living School in Colorado. Growing up in a Navajo region meant we engaged with local communities regularly, and my teen peers and I even stood with protesters for water rights. The fact that these memories are so tangible today, over 40 years later, comes from how powerfully transformative they were in the moment. Because I had these experiences early, they became a natural and integral part of my world view, whether I was conscious of it or not, and they offered a sort of cultural pluralism I still try to live by.

A focus on ancient wisdom is all the more urgent today, as The Elders project has suggested repeatedly. All over the world, our indigenous communities offer us ways of living in sustainable harmony with the planet, new ways of seeing our relationship with nature. Our failure to listen is evidenced across our overindustrialized, overcongested planet. All over the world, the clash between modern and ancient cultures continues, and indigenous cultures, less well represented in government and policy, usually lose those conflicts. All around us is evidence of the need to ensure our students learn not to just tolerate but also to respect and learn from these cultures and their elders. Connecting to Indigenous Communities

Community partnerships with local indigenous cultures are key to connecting students with local leaders. Most communities have outreach or educational coordinators or teachers interested in connecting their community with yours, and they can help facilitate direct experiences for your students intended to humanize and reveal the wisdom of their cultures. Partnerships with such communities should always include a chance to see their observable culture , such as their dance, dress, music, artistry, and food, but should also include opportunities to learn from their ideas about community and family, sustainable living, our responsibility to nature, and the future of humanity. Educator Resources

When it comes to understanding indigenous thought in communities beyond those we have contact with locally, there are many global education organizations helping schools connect. The Global Oneness Project […]

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