The following article was written by Director of Communications at Norfolk Academy, Esther Diskin, to recount the first-ever Global Goals Day at NA:
Global Goals Day:
“No Poverty” Is Goal #1 For A Day Of Envisioning And Exploring
Norfolk Academy’s 9th-12th graders started the week with Global Goals Day, an action-packed educational exercise about envisioning strategies to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for people around the world.
Classes were suspended for the day as students dove into hands-on workshops, discussions, lectures, and debates about the problems that arise from shortages of food, shelter, money, and opportunity. They considered the roots of these seemingly intractable problems and then explored possible solutions.
The entire day was organized and led by students in the Global Health Fellows program of Norfolk Academy’s Center for Civic and Global Leadership. The fellows have been planning the day’s activities for months, and they chose to focus it on the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development established by the United Nations. Goal #1 is “no poverty,” and the array of goals arising from that clear, ambitious gambit include ending hunger, ensuring clean water, providing quality education, and developing responsible consumption and production.
While the 23 Global Health Fellows spent months planning the event and sweated every detail, they received energetic support from other student groups, including Girl Up Club and Feed A Friend Club, as well as other students in Fellows programs, particularly International Relations and Literacy Fellows. “From the beginning, it was important to the Global Health Fellows to include other student groups in the design and facilitation of the day,” said Price Hall, Director of the Global Health Fellows Program and Norfolk Academy’s International Programs.“They wanted to embrace the passion and commitment to action exhibited by so many of their peers around campus and to set the tone for a day that was truly student-run.”
Global Health Fellows kicked off the day with a short assembly to introduce the agenda and frame the day. Students played two United Nations’ videos, including a humorous one featuring the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, quitting in the middle of a race, and Apollo astronauts reversing course midway to the moon; the video outlined progress on world problems to pose the question: “So why would we stop halfway?” A slide presentation followed, with fellows explaining each Global Goal, and students in the audience were challenged to use their mobile phones for a speedy Kahoot quiz about world poverty and health issues.
All students participated in three 45-minute workshops along four learning tracks: Good Health and Well-being; Climate and Energy; Economy and Infrastructure; and Education, Peace, and Equality. While fellows designed each of the workshops, faculty members helped lead some of them, particularly in areas where the faculty members had specific experience.
Scott Fowler and Elizabeth Glassman, Middle School science teachers, led a workshop about creating usable, practical water filters. Fowler opened by showing students pictures from his trip to build wells in Togo, in West Africa. Before getting the new wells, villagers drank rainwater that collected in open concrete cisterns with insects, animal waste, and algae floating in them. “You wouldn’t let your dog drink out of it,” Fowler noted.
In that workshop, students used simple supplies—plastic bottles, cheesecloth, cotton balls, coffee filters, baking soda, sand, and soil—to try to build a filter to clean water collected from a drainage ditch behind the school, and they quickly understood the immense challenge of purifying water to a potable level.
Paul Feakins and Jay Leach, who teach history and government in the Upper School and have EMT certification, held workshops on medical assessment, treatment for traumas like gunshots, and gave a tour of an ambulance. “I have always believed that the more we teach students about how to care for one another, the more empathetic they will become,” Feakins said. “I am a huge fan of CPR training for all high school students.”
Other workshops covered issues from feeding a family on food stamps to ecological relationships. “I really liked how quickly the students were able to think about how to implement small changes to make a difference around N.A.,” said Sarah Goodson, who teaches math and biology in the Upper School and led a workshop about composting. “They also realized how difficult it can be to change the culture.”
The afternoon session began with a performance by Dance Director Elbert Watson, who choreographed three dances on themes of the day. For his final dance, Watson used a backdrop of photos of Norfolk Academy students doing service projects around the world and in Tidewater.
Afterward, students tackled a case study about the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, where more than 880,000 refugees have flooded over the board due to the Syrian Civil War. Students competed in teams to find solutions for devising improvements to care in refugee camps. They wrestled with how to budget for shelter, food, clean water, medical care, and education to a traumatized population. Each team submitted a video outlining their ideas with a Chick-Fil-A lunch offered as the tantalizing prize for the best proposal.
During the closing assembly, students heard a videotaped message from Dr. Paul Farmer who, as the co-founder of Partners in Health, is a revered figure in the global health movement. Farmer, who had taped the message specifically for Norfolk Academy, encouraged students to persevere. “I would cheer you on in thinking about the big picture as well as the small, humble steps you can take,” he said.
Senior Elizabeth Lilly, one of the six students in the first cohort of Global Health Fellows, closed the day by calling on everyone to take seriously the role of global citizen and the opportunity to change the world. “Global citizenship transcends barriers of race, gender, and religion,” she observed. “It ties the whole world up into one beating heart—one thick, hardy muscle of principled agitation and progress.”