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Little and large

Focusing on your local community can help explain the global issues affecting the planet, says David Rosenberg

How do homegrown food and your local football team relate to global issues such as immigration and fair trade? We ran a project called local2global, backed by our local authority, which put globalisation squarely on the agenda and included speakers from campaign groups and weekly sessions, beginning each lesson with a short PowerPoint presentation to introduce a stimulus, images and questions.

To open discussions on immigration, I showed images of my family who fled Eastern Europe 100 years ago. I asked the pupils to complete profiles of themselves. They recorded where they were born, where their parents had grown up and any international connections. They discovered that some families had moved between cities, others between continents.

One class teacher commented that the children had often not realised they had relatives from the same countries as others in the class, and it affected their relationships.

When we discussed food, pupils talked about the fruits they enjoyed and where they bought them.

I asked them to make some paper bananas and played the role of the local buyer. The first child wanted pound;1 per banana, but as they began to compete their prices fell as low as 10p. This helped them grasp the pressures on small local producers.

A speaker from Traidcraft, a fair trade organisation, divided the class into plantation bosses, workers, a shipper, importers and the supermarket retailer.

Each group had to decide which proportion of the price of a 30p banana they deserved. When they learnt about the pickers' lives and their earnings per banana (1p) compared to the supermarkets' (13p), they became passionate about fair trade.

A session on the pupils' local football team (Arsenal), with support from Alive Kicking, a development charity, gave them a better knowledge of where their favourite footballers were born, and where and how footballs were made.

The workshops included quizzes, debates, role-plays, circle work and practical activities. Homework included interviewing an elderly neighbour about how the area had changed, or a manifesto of children's rights.

The final week focused on their hopes for a better world, expressed in posters, drama and 3-D models. Four children created a mock-up of their ideal environment, which replaced Islington's concrete with parks and gardens, an accessible recycling centre and a bike hire stand.

These lessons taught practical skills such as group work and researching and debating topical issues. Pupils also learnt to recognise and respect diversity, to reflect on their identities and to discuss current events.

David Rosenberg teaches part-time at Hanover Primary School in Islington, north London. He is a writer and education consultant.

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