Around the Globe in Your City: A World Heritage Teacher Workshop

Article by Charlotte Thomas, GPA Ambassador.

On the morning of Saturday, September 16, educators from around the Philadelphia region gathered at the Penn Museum to learn how to incorporate World Heritage education materials into their lesson planning.  The event introduced teachers to the Philadelphia World Heritage City Project as well as to materials that are available at the Penn Museum. Within the Museum lie an abundance of resources that would facilitate the translation of World Heritage studies from isolated cultural experiences to classroom instruction.

The workshop began with presentations from Global Philadelphia World Heritage Coordinator, Melissa Stevens; Director of Learning Programs at the Penn Museum, Ellen Owens; Diversity Program Manager, Hitomi Yoshida; as well as presentations from World Heritage teachers, notably retired William Penn Charter School teacher and World Heritage Education Task Force member, Sarah Sharp.

The first presentation by Stevens outlined the goals of the World Heritage City Project. She began by describing the strategic plan ‘to promote preservation and appreciation’ of Philadelphia’s geographical, historical, and cultural heritage through education and the World Heritage City title. Stevens expanded on the idea that there is a need for students to succeed in a rapidly globalizing world. The best preparation to build this strength involves an education of World Heritage that would provide them with knowledge of different cultures in Philadelphia and around the world.  

Next, both Owens and Yoshida worked through different ideas with educators in attendance to help them best identify and implement the resources in the Penn Museum. Accordingly, the two Penn Museum speakers presented the resources as different galleries available to the public in the museum. One gallery included an exhibit on Syria, among others.

The last presentation led by Sharp described how she and a group of educators also in attendance recently traveled to India and Nepal as a part of the first international Philadelphia World Heritage Education trip. These teachers have applied their visits to World Heritage sites in India and Nepal to their classroom action plans, and shared how they plan to communicate their newfound cultural understandings to students in a curriculum.

Finally, the workshop concluded with two different breakout sessions. The first, led by Owens and Yoshida, was an object-based learning activity that looked at cultures and conflict. The pair explained ways to initiate discussions about such complex topics through the galleries that are available at the Penn Museum. Secondly, University of Pennsylvania teacher and GPA Board Member Anastasia Shown led a Lesson Plan session that guided teachers in thinking through ways to adapt and implement the World Heritage lesson plans and other resources presented to their own curriculums.

Already, pilot programs in schools and community centers have set the stage for future educational and community engagement plans. The Global Philadelphia team and other educational resource providers such as the Penn Museum are working hard to meet the goals of not only the World Heritage City Project, but also those of educators who understand the need to inform young minds of the importance of global understanding.

View pictures of the event.