Students in Mary Ann Harriman’s foods class are learning about honey, and how the sticky sweet stuff is used in Greece. They might even try making baklava later this semester.
It’s just one example of what many teachers at Rhodes Junior High School in Mesa already do — infuse their regular classroom instruction with global lessons, Harriman said.
But a group of teachers at the school want to take it one step further. They’re trying to make Rhodes an “international school,” which would focus on preparing students for working in a global economy by including world issues, cultures and connections into all classes, from math to family and consumer sciences.
Mesa Unified School District officials gave the school’s International School Steering Committee, made up of a handful of teachers and a couple administrators, permission to start researching the idea. A few teachers visited similar schools in other parts of the country this summer, said Mike Cowan, associate superintendent of educational services.
Three teachers were also able to attend seminars in Minnesota that focused on topics such as helping students to study their ethnicities, and teaching about Asia with film.
Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, sponsored a bill that would fund “international schools” during last year’s legislative session, and the idea was touted by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne. Lawmakers didn’t fund the programs, but that hasn’t stopped the staff at Rhodes, who are seeing if they can find funding from other sources.
The plans are in the early stages, and nothing is yet set in stone, stressed social studies teacher Jeannine Kuropatkin.
For now, they’re researching ways to infuse cultural lessons into the curriculum, and ways to make partnerships with foreign exchange groups.
Already, the school is planning to host some Chinese children on a visit later this year.
And Kuropatkin has been chosen to travel to Saudi Arabia later this year on an educational tour.
But before anything gets off the ground, the staff must create a curriculum plan, which they will share with Superintendent Deb Duvall.
They are also planning an informational town hall meeting for the community in late September, where they can gauge interest.
They must present the plan in fall to the district’s governing board, which has the ultimate authority of approval, Cowan said.