World Heritage Education Program spreads awareness about cultures
Teachers and students are reflecting on their own backgrounds and learning about cultures from across the globe, thanks to the Philadelphia World Heritage Education Program.
The program is just one initiative to come out of the Philadelphia World Heritage City Project, which began after the city was designated in 2015 as the nation’s first World Heritage City. The project is operated by the City of Philadelphia and the Global Philadelphia Association, which helped the city win the designation. GPA has partnered with other organizations, including some of the cultural centers at the University of Pennsylvania, to help implement its programs.
“I feel as though these education initiatives will provide some context for [people in the community] to understand world heritage, why it’s important, and then also connect them to other World Heritage Cities around the world,” said Nikia Brown, GPA’s world heritage coordinator.
The program is divided into three parts that will reach teachers and students and cover a range of material. The projected cost of the entire education program is about $60,000.
The first part is the World Heritage Week Pilot program, which was hosted in May by Andrew Jackson Elementary School. The event provieded a sample of what representatives from the education program envision having throughout Philadelphia’s schools – a chance for students to engage with different people and activities about culture and heritage. Brown said that the three-day event included several speakers and performers, as well as visits to the Penn Museum and Franklin Institute. During the event, teachers also drew from a collection of lesson plans known as the Philadelphia World Heritage Toolkit – developed by teachers last summer – in order to enhance their classroom activities.
Brown said, “I feel like the toolkit and preparing educators on how to adequately implement those lessons will be helpful in erasing those stereotypes and giving students the opportunity to think critically about their own culture as well as the culture of others.”
Sylvie Gallier Howard, chief of staff at the city’s Commerce Department and co-chair of the initiative’s education committee, said that they hope to expand the program to five more schools next year.
“I think it’s a real pride-building initiative [for students] to have pride in their own background and share that with others and to see their own collective identity as Philadelphians,” Gallier Howard said.
The second part of the program — a curriculum-writing workshop — will also integrate the topics of identity and heritage into the classroom. In this two-week workshop, which will kick off on July 11, two curriculum developers from the School District and 10 educators will come together to develop new lesson plans that will address issues specific to Philadelphia and place them in a global context. Brown said that the group plans to develop about 100 lesson plans, which the District will adopt as part of its redesigned social studies curriculum.
For Gallier Howard, the fact that the curriculum redesign and the education initiative coincided – something she said was “serendipitous” – allowed for greater collaboration between the District and the World Heritage City Project.
“It was critical for us to have this be at a School District level," in order to maximize the scope of the work and impact as many students as possible. Individual charter, private, and parochial schools are also participating.
“We wanted to make sure that it reaches all Philadelphia kids.”
To spread the word further, the third part of the program will involve posting its lesson plans on the Online Resource Center, which will connect teachers to other resources as well and serve as a central place for information about world heritage. Because the center is a virtual tool, Brown said, the resources will be available to afterschool programs and other organizations.
Zabeth Teelucksingh, executive director of Global Philadelphia Association, said that she can already see the program achieving some of its goals.
“[We’re] very confident that we’re making global citizens of the world here in Philly,” she said.