Traveller's tales

30th June 2006 at 01:00
William Glover will spend next year in the southern hemisphere building educational links. UK schools can join him

The 21st century is the age of the global village and the political focus is rightly turning East. However, the emerging markets of Latin and South America are areas of growth which will dominate political, economic, environmental and social debate as the century progresses.

Next academic year I am giving up my job as a housemaster in an independent school in Surrey to traverse the southern hemisphere on a unique educational project. From glacier climbing to highland cloud forests, from Zapotec ruins to bushwalks through Australia's rainforest, my aim is to bring not simply geography, but the peoples and cultures that are our neighbours to life for UK pupils.

It is all well and good learning about the world from the textbook, but nothing is more exciting than first-hand experience and the Building Blocks project, a partnership of the English-Speaking Union and Glasgow University, aims to forge links between students across the globe in an attempt to help us better understand each other and the potentially destructive issues faced by the world of the 21st century.

Working with GAP Adventures' Planeterra Foundation, I will be supporting wildlife and community projects in the regions I visit and through Cultura Inglesa I will provide assistance to training centres in curriculum areas as diverse as language learning and e-tailing highways.

The Department for International Development-funded Global Citizenship Unit at Glasgow University is working with the two lead primary schools, New Lodge School in Dorking, Surrey and St Ronan's Primary in Bonhill, Scotland on "finding out about our brothers and sisters". The idea behind this is that pupils keep in contact with me as I travel.

I believe that the people we meet colour and shape the character we become, so as well as volunteering in schools across the project route I will be living as a local, as much as one can, by living with a Quichua family in the Amazon, cattle ranching in South America and farm-staying in the outback.

George Heriots School in Edinburgh, the independent school lead for Scotland, is focusing its work on the Curriculum for Excellence initiative and I will talk to the schools' sixth-formers on cross-curricular projects on the cultures I encounter as I teach, live among and explore the architecture of some of the world's most fascinating civilisations.

From Inca ruins and Mayan sites to Maori culture and the Panama Canal, next year promises to be a voyage of discovery.

For our other secondary partners the project is an exploration of natural history on foot, on horseback, by canoe and, at times, by white water rafting or snorkelling.

I will link directly with students at Our Lady and St Patrick's High School in Dumbarton, Moira House School in Eastbourne and Jubilee High School in Addlestone from glaciers, penguin colonies, hiking to Machu Picchu and Cuba.

I aim to bring alive the unique wildlife of the Galapagos, the giant turtles, the macaws, the koalas, the giant otters, the majestic Andean Condor and the myriad plant and animal life I will encounter.

This project though is about more than the carefully selected schools chosen to be partners. It is an attempt to encourage all students to become successful learners who are confident individuals aware of the need to be responsible citizens who can make an effective contribution to our global village.

The English-Speaking Union offers a wide range of scholarship opportunities to young people and we hope that this project will bring many more of Britain's talented youth to our programmes and contribute to their own growth and the well-being of society by broadening their education through the ESU.

More than 400,000 students across South America will learn English next year by following my blog, backed up by the seminars I will deliver en-route.

In the US, the 21st Century Learning Center in Little Valley, New York, has a curriculum in line with President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, aimed at broadening students' horizons.

I urge any interested student or teacher here in the UK to get involved.

You can email me through the project website.

By August next year I will have "partnered" schools across the globe allowing them to develop relationships relevant to their own needs.

Do come and join me in what promises to be a truly interactive learning journey. Links are available on the website to all partner organisations.

l The exemplar work from the project will be published in the book Building Blocks to be launched in Edinburgh in 2008. However, teachers and students can follow William Glover's journey by logging on to the website at William Glover is travelling at the behest of the English Speaking Union which seeks to broaden the base of its scholarship opportunities

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