Developing Global Citizens

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This webpage is the result of a project completed with my  friend and colleague, John Prezio. Our project was funded by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and is aimed at providing rich ideas and resources for thoughtfully developing global citizens. The vision for Ontario’s social studies, history, geography, and Canadian and world studies programs is: 

“to enable students to become responsible, active citizens within the diverse communities to which they belong. As well as becoming critically thoughtful and informed citizens who value an inclusive society, students will have the skills they need to solve problems and communicate ideas and decisions about significant developments, events, and issues.”  THE ONTARIO CURRICULUM Social Studies, Grades 1 to 6; History and Geography, Grades 7 and 8 (Page 6).Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 10.34.52 AM

Our project focuses on the Ontario Curriculum, Social Studies, Citizen Education Framework and the grades 4 to 6 Ontario Social Studies Curriculum but is certainly not limited to one subject area or to Ontario students. You will find there are many cross curricular connections that are adaptable to any grade level, student and/or subject area. The Ontario Student Achievement Chart was used to guide our assessment and evaluation of student learning. We are pleased to make our resources and ideas available to you. Feel free to use, adapt, change and share! 

The project is divided into four parts: 1) Developing Globally “CONNECTED” Students 2) Board Games and Puzzles, Springboards for Learning 3) Junior Social Studies Curriculum Connections and 4) The “M.A.D” (Make A Difference) Project. Each part is rich with cross curricular ideas and resources. 

PART 1: Developing Globally “ConnectED” Students                                                      In our ever connected world, we believe that the key to developing strong global citizens starts with building a sense of one’s self. In doing so one will appreciate others, their community, environment and naturally, the world.

A Scaffolded Approach to Building Globally “CONNECTED” Students

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This part of the project is intended to provide ideas and activities aimed at developing in our students a sense of self, family, community and global connections. The content is laid out in a scaffolded manner, but by no means does it need to be presented in a static fashion.

***Click on each image to link you to the resource.

Developing a sense of self is the first step to understanding others.

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Our family is our closest and most important connection.

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Our peers, the people who we work and learn and play with everyday are valued and important.

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An understanding and appreciation for one’s community leads to a love of one’s country and one’ world.

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Connecting kids with their environment allows them to explore and learn about “their own backyard”, instilling in them a sense of “place” in their world.

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Creating opportunities for students to connect with their world  allows them to be more globally conscious and aware citizens.

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PART 2: Board games and Puzzles as Springboards for Learning                         We leverage world puzzles and (board) games (both geography based and low organizational) within our classes to build global citizenship. Both “springboards” have been incredibly powerful tools in creating a sense of community in our classrooms while at the same time developing globally aware citizens who have gained a greater sense of the world they live in.

Low Organizational (Board) Games

IMG_7187A variety of low organizational games have proven invaluable in our classrooms! They have been used at the beginning of the year to build community, problem solving skills, collaboration and team building. It is interesting to watch and listen to students learn, play and think together in a “game based” setting.  Much incidental learning takes place while playing the games  for example, reading and following instructions and doing a variety of mental math computations.Our students have also created variations to the games and have also worked to create their own games. 

Geography/Social Studies Based  Board Games and Puzzles                                  Along with the many benefits of using low organizational games in our classrooms, the ‘World Geo Puzzle’ by GEOToys and ‘Explore Canada’ and ‘Explore the World’ board games by Outset Media have helped to build our students’ schema of the country and world in which they live. They have proven to be fun and educational “springboards” to Social Studies and geography inquiries.

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Part 3: Junior Social Studies Curriculum Connections

The Common Theme                                                                                                          Inquiring about social studies throughout the junior grades will have given students Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 2.48.47 PMmany opportunities to see how humans interact with the environment and each other.  Although the curriculum is grade specific, a common theme we have found woven into this project is the social/environmental issue of water as a resource- locally, nationally and globally. Students start this journey in Grade 4, locally with the story Paddle to the Sea, and continue nationally and globally, in Grade’s 5 and 6 respectively.  A  M.A.D. project  is the end goal for our students each year. In grade 4 the focus is on making a difference for a local issue, in grade 5 for a national issue and grade 6, a global issue.

The Junior Curriculum Breakdown

Grade 4

Creating Global Citizens in the Grade 4 program will focus mainly on Canada as its basis.  Therefore, the People and Environments strand is the appropriate choice (rather than the Heritage and Identity strand).  Some of the big ideas (Ontario Curriculum) focus on the interactions of humans and the environment, as well as balancing our needs with environmental stewardship.                                                    

A great springboard and resource to start these inquiries is the novel Paddle to the Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 2.53.51 PMSea (P.T.T.S.), by Holling Clancy Holling.  This story was created in 1942, and is therefore an interesting historical account of a developing Canada.  Click on the link for a brief overview of the story.  Furthermore, typical of its era, the term “Indian” is used throughout.  This could be an interesting point of discussion, setting the stage for the Grade 5 programme (this project will employ The Secret Path, by Jeff Lemire, as a resource).            

The Approach 

One way to use this story is through a daily read-aloud.  Since each chapter is one page of text and one coloured illustration (plus peripheral schematic pencil drawings), one to two chapters a day can be read.  Each chapter is a terrific springboard to much of the content in the curriculum (both social studies and science – Habitats).  For example, Paddle travels to Sault Ste. Marie and spends the winter as he waits for the waterways to become “ice-free”.  He then continues his journey through the locks.  A brief explanation of this by the author can lead to an inquiry by the students of this human invention and how it relates to the economy of an area, physical region, transportation, etc.  Some chapters become more of an inquiry than others.  Therefore, the oral reading can be resumed after a few days of learning.                        


This resource lends itself to many cross-curricular activities.  Here are a few:

  • Music and Drama/Dance – The Log Driver’s Waltz, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
  • Art – creating your own P.T.T.S. models with bark, plasticine, wood
  • Field Trips – Fort William Historical Park, P.T.T.S. park in Nipigon
  • Google Earth – virtual tours along P.T.T.S’s route
  • Genius Hour Projects – these are topics brainstormed by students that connect to the story, a rubric and co-constructed success criteria

Grade 5 

 Creating Global Citizens in the Grade 5 program will again focus mainly onScreen Shot 2017-05-18 at 3.36.26 PM Canada as its basis, using the People and Environments strand.  Some of these big ideas (Ontario Curriculum) focus on the rights and responsibilities of citizens and how they can work with the government to solve issues (both social and environmental).  As well, students will learn to appreciate how perspectives may differ among the people connected to these issues.  A great springboard and resource to start these inquiries is the graphic novel The Secret Path, by Jeff Lemire.  This story and inquiry will enhance the learning of the other social studies strand, focused on the early contact of First Nations and European explorers.    

The Approach

Please visit “Walking the Secret Path” for a detailed account of how I thoughtfully used the “Secret Path” as a powerful springboard for learning with my grade 5/6 class. Many student exemplars, ideas and resources are included.    


This resource lends itself to many cross-curricular activities.  Here are a few:

Grade 6 

Creating Global Citizens in the Grade 6 program will focus again mainly on the People and Environments strand, but with a global perspective (rather than Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 7.42.17 PMnational and local).  Some of the big ideas (Ontario Curriculum) involve the different actions of Canadians globally, and how solving these global issues requires a global perspective.  A great springboard and resource to start these inquiries is the website Exploring by the Seat of your Pants.   This resource allows teachers to “take” their students “virtually” anywhere in the world to meet many people and non governmental organizations (NGOs) who are trying to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. We have found no better way to introduce students to global issues/problems and the people who endeavour to study/solve them. Additionally, Chelsea Clinton’s ‘It’s Your World’ and children’s picture books such as ‘Wangari’s Trees’, ‘The Matatu’, ‘Hope Springs’ and ‘Dear Children of the Earth” are also invaluable for introducing students to global issues. Also, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and Kids Go Global are great “go to” websites.


We have found that the best way to prepare students for such “learning journeys” is with an Adventure Log in hand. My student have utilized both “notebook style” and digital Adventure Logs. Their task is always to build their schema by using their research skills to learn about the place/person/organization they will be visiting. Students formulate deep, rich questions that they hope to have answered on their journey. On the day of our adventure, my students take “field notes” during their “trip”  and then write their take aways upon the completion of their travels.  Over the past 2 years I have taken my students on over 20 incredible adventures and you can too!                                                                                                                                             


This resource lends itself to many cross-curricular activities.  Here are a few:

Part 4: Tying It all Together: The M.A.D (Make A Difference) Project

The intent of the M.A.D Project is simply to have students inquire and research about a local, national or global issue, create a plan of action to make a difference and then SHARE what they have done to encourage others to go “M.A.D” as well. Classes may wish to do this as a whole class project, in groups or individually.

Our classes have done a variety of class M.A.D projects such as “The Give 4 Christmas Challenge”, Schools 4 Fort Mac  and Character Education Videos .

Students have also worked in groups or individually on Make A Difference Projects as well. It is always important that we share what we have done to make a difference. Here is a video of our M.A.D Fair from 2016 and 2017.

We encourage you to initiate Make A Difference Projects in your schools and add your pin to our global M.A.D Map on our resource page!

If our kids realize their potential to make a difference they will change their world!