Bringing the World to West Virginia

Over 10 years ago, a group of West Virginia University Extension Agents dreamed of global education lessons that would allow youth to “see the world”. It was apparent to us that while the U.S. had become increasingly more diverse, some areas continued to be less diverse, including our state of West Virginia. We knew there was limited global education curricula among land grant universities (LGUs) across the United States. This began our journey to create global education materials and lessons for youth and adults.

A globally minded workforce needs skills that demonstrate an appreciation of differences in food, culture, and language. This workforce should also be able to evaluate global issues and challenges as well as understand the interconnectedness of the world around us. Using West Virginia as an example, even rural and less diverse locations can have a large global connection. Below is a map of international businesses in West Virginia. These international businesses impact our communities and require a workforce with not only the technical skills but the cultural know-how and sensitivity to work with different people groups. While we advocate greatly for international travel, we realize not every youth will be able to have that experience. Therefore, we strive to bring the world to them, through our global education lessons, and we use this map to highlight how the world has already arrived within our communities.

A map displaying dozens of international businesses in the state of West Virginia

Exposing Youth to Other Cultures

The WVU Extension Service has identified global education as important for today’s youth. The WVU Extension 4-H program created 37 global education lessons around five subject matter areas. These lessons have been peer reviewed through the National 4-H Curriculum process and are tied to national content standards. These lessons have often served as a jumping off point to expose youths to global cultures through special interest clubs that teach youth about life skills with an international twist. For example, youth learn how to cook while sampling various types of cuisine from Irish to Indian or learn how to budget for their first home, while learning that homes around the world can look very different from their U.S. equivalents. Global learning, at its best, incorporates international education into everyday skill building. In-person programming may have been severely restricted over the past year, but virtual programming has allowed us more ways to take youth around the world. 4-H will continue to offer virtual international programming, even when in-person activities resume, so we can reach as many youths as possible with global education experiences.

Why It’s Important 

Global citizenship is needed now more than ever, as society is constantly changing and characterized by global interrelationships and increasing cultural diversity. Notable hallmarks of this showcase a world’s population climbing towards 8 billion people, spread across 193 countries over seven continents. Advances in communication connect family, friends, and businesses unseen before in modern society. While this makes the world “smaller” in certain ways, there remains a need for global education for youth and adults, to better understand the world in which we live. For example, in the United States, over 340,000 undergraduate students study abroad each year which approximates to one in ten students (Open Doors, 2019). While this number continues to increase each year, the cost of traveling overseas to experience a country and its culture is unattainable for the majority. Therefore, these lessons aspire to bring the world into 4-H Club meetings, classrooms, and other places of education to increase awareness and skills of the world around us. It aspires to introduce global education to all ages – elementary school, middle school, high school, and adult audiences through hands-on activities and lessons. It is our hope that you enjoy these lessons as much as we have enjoyed authoring it. We thank you for utilizing it to help youth and adults become more informed global citizens.

 

To learn more about the WVU Extension Service, check out the links below!

West Virginia 4-H Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WestVirginia4H

WVU Extension Service Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WVUExtension

Instagram: @wv_4h

Global Education Skill-a-thons: https://extension.wvu.edu/youth-family/4h/publications/skill-a-thons/global-education-skill-a-thons

Global education online matching games: https://extapps.wvu.edu/games/match/map.cfm


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Alexandra Coffman
4-H Extension Agent at | + posts

Alexandra Coffman has been a WVU Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development in Grant County since 2016. She graduated from WVU with a BA in History and a minor in German, an MA in Public History, as well as an MA in International Relations from Collegium Civitas, Poland. Throughout her time as an agent, she has prioritized global education and has both designed and assisted with many global education programs, educational material, and trips.

Tina Cowger
4-H Extension Agent at | + posts

Tina Cowger started as the WVU Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development in Marion County in 2008. She graduated from WVU with degrees in Foreign Language-Spanish, Secondary Education, Industrial Relations, and a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Due to her interest in international programming, Tina is very active with citizenship programming and has taken various lead roles in the global efforts of WVU Extension.

Julie Tritz
4-H Extension Agent at | + posts

Julie Tritz has served as the 4-H Extension Agent in Wayne County, West Virginia since 2009.  She has co-led four university-supported educational experiences to Ireland through the WVU Extension Service. In 2017, she became one of two Assistant Directors for the West Virginia 4-H Program devoting 25% to administrative responsibilities. Prior to her time in West Virginia, Julie served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco for two years and spent over five years in Ireland completing her doctoral dissertation in Rural Development at the National University of Ireland, Dublin.

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