In the three decades that Joseph Loftin has been the Head of School, Wasatch Academy has shared a long and rich history with India. Over the past two years, Wasatch Academy has begun cultivating partnerships with the G.D. Goenka World School (GDGWS) in Delhi and the Kasiga School in Dehradun.
The budding partnerships with the GDGWS and Kasiga School are part of a larger initiative that is still in a formative stage, currently called Global Sustainability Education Partnerships. This initiative aims to develop project-based learning opportunities focused on the challenges of sustainability as they appear in different parts of the world (in this case, northern India and the western U.S.). “These real-world challenges serve as both context and content to compel students to explore the commonalities and differences between their cultures and countries and to work together to explore sustainability challenges, generate innovative solutions for a more sustainable future, and gain firsthand insights into our “global village,” states Director of Sustainability & Experiential Education, Dr. Joel Barnes.
Sense of place studies (also known as Place-Based Education) is another important theme in these Global Sustainability Education Partnerships. Every sustainability issue (even the ubiquitous challenge of global climate change) has specific, place-based effects that must be understood from multiple perspectives. Ultimately, students who choose to participate in the program develop a deeper sense of place (of both countries) as a fundamental component of sustainability education. These two themes are both complementary and transdisciplinary, which means they can be integrated into just about any academic discipline and the full spectrum of student interests and class projects.
In February of last year, Wasatch Academy (WA) students had an exciting online exchange with GDGWS students; Wasatch students shared what they learned from their Experiential Immersions and the GDGWS students shared their research into urban gardening and composting. In November, seven WA students engaged in an hour-long tele-exchange class with 14 GDGWS students. Students shared highlights of their learning from two Experiential Immersions, Astrophotography and Geology & Rock Climbing, and the GDGWS students shared their findings from two recent research projects on rainwater harvesting and paper waste recycling.
There are plans in the coming months to host more tele-exchanges with GDGWS focusing on co-creating an anthology of poetry and art. Tentative plans are already being made to have a GDGWS group of students visit the Wasatch Academy campus in the spring of 2020.
Barnes states, “Our collaborations with GDGWS and Kasiga over the past several years have revealed to me, time and again, how incredibly valuable these cross-cultural exchanges are in the quest to envision and create a more sustainable future. These exchanges compel our students to explore the connections between place-based education and sustainability education and to examine the commonalities and differences between our two countries and cultures. This sets the stage for our students to address the urgent need to generate innovative solutions to the immense challenges of the new millennium.”