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WeConnect: A global youth citizenship curriculum

Citizenship is a concept commonly used in the field of youth development. It typically refers to young people being positively engaged in their communities. But what happens when you add global to citizenship?

By adding this word, the scope of youth citizenship grows vastly and helps us re-imagine the arena in which youth live, learn, work and play. Global citizenship has been described as a continuum that ranges from being aware of the interdependent nature of our world, to understanding how local and global issues affect the lives of people around the world, to taking action to create a more equitable world. We see global citizenship as an outlook on life, a belief that people can make a difference, and a way of behaving that follows suit.

Jessica Pierson Russo and I have developed a resource for youth-serving organizations and schools entitled WeConnect: A Global Youth Citizenship Curriculum. It's a program model and curriculum designed to show youth that they are participants in a global society, inspiring a sense of understanding and confidence in relating and connecting to other people.

WeConnect was developed with middle school-aged youth (grades 6-8 and ages 11-14) in mind but can be adapted to suit both younger and older age groups. The program model is designed for nonformal education settings such as after-school programs or clubs. It includes a coordinated series of experiential and interactive exercises that prepare youth to thrive in culturally diverse settings--whether these settings are part of their school day, home life, social life, or workplace--by giving them the opportunity to learn and use culturally responsive skills and knowledge that stem from international education, which is one specific form of cultural education. The curriculum presents lessons that will help guide youth beyond knowing that we are citizens of the globe to an acknowledgement of our responsibilities to each other and the world around us. They help youth examine their everyday lives and move them to take action that leads toward positive change.

The exercises are organized into four phases of building cultural knowledge and skills:
  • Phase 1: Exploring
  • Phase 2: Stretching
  • Phase 3: Challenging
  • Phase 4: Connecting
Youth can and do play an active role in creating a culture of global citizenship, which is a vital aspect of developing a peaceful and prosperous human civilization and nurturing the growth and development of young people.

Our publication, WeConnect: A Global Youth Citizenship Curriculum is for sale on the National 4-H website. Thank you to the Minnesota 4-H Foundation for funding this publication.

-- Jennifer A. Skuza, PhD, assistant dean

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  1. Global Citizenship within youth work and youth development techniques can be utilized in many forms of youth development. Integrating new techniques and mindsets is a must when it comes to our work. To do this, we need to first introduce the idea and concept to youth. We need to invite them into the ideas and ignite their thoughts, suggestions and ways to integrate into their daily lives.
    As youth workers are facilitators and a means of guiding the learning of youth, implementing new projects within a community may be a place to start. Global Citizenship is a way to lead youth to an impacting way of life and "to create a more equitable world" (Skuza). I feel the WeConnect curriculum serves as a guiding tool to further develop youth's understanding in their role as Global Citizens.

  2. Hi Paige -
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    I look forward to learning about how you might apply WeConnect to your practice with youth. I love your language about "inviting" youth into ideas. In return, youth may "invite" other peers and adults in a similar manner.
    Keep me updated on your use of this resource.

  3. Thanks so much for creating this fantastic resource, Jennifer and Jessica! I have used WeConnect many times in a variety of contexts (youth retreats, clubs, anti-bullying workshops facilitated by teens, etc.) Most recently, however, we used a series of the lessons from the curriculum to help us intentionally prepare the youth in our Fond du Lac/Metro Cultural Exchange. Both groups engaged in the same lessons ahead of time, and this meant that when the highly diverse group met in person, they were equipped with similar language and skills. In addition, we used several of the lessons all together as a group. Using WeConnect enabled us to move beyond a "tourist" exchange to a truly transformative exchange experience. I am excited that it will now be getting a national audience!

  4. This is a rich resource to move our work into meaningful interaction around global citizenship. I am anxious to re-explore the "connecting" phase for some of the work I do with adults. Guiding youth to acknowledging our responsibilities to each other and the world around us really resonated with me. Kathryn's phrase about moving beyond the tourist exchange also had an impact on my thinking about how to use the WeConnect resources. Congratulations on this fine work.

  5. Hi Margo -
    Thanks for the support! Developing this curriculum has been such a great learning experience.
    You mentioned the connecting phase and the work you do. I just wanted to let you know that I have used some of the exercises (with adaptation) with adults and the results were very positive. In particular, I use lessons 9 and 10 from the Stretching phase. So check those out too.
    Take care - jennifer

  6. Hi Kathryn -
    Thanks for the endorsement. I appreciate hearing about how you have applied the curriculum. I will definitely share your program design idea (the exchange) with others as we take this curriculum on the road.
    The preparation you do with youth prior to plunging into cultural experiences is fantastic. It helps young people get so much more out of the immersion. Hats of to you!

  7. What a great resource! Thank you Jennifer and Jessica for developing it! I love Kathryn's reference to potentially using this to enhance and provide more meaning to an interstate exchange program. I know that ours could definitely use something like this and I'm guessing that others' also could. I honestly believe that there is a great need for global citizenship education, not only for our youth, but also the volunteers that support all aspects of our program. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this curriculum and explore all of the great opportunities we have to implement it!

  8. Adding the word "Global" will help youth see their full potential as a citizen. With access to technology youth today have such an opportunity to discover the world. They don't have to physically leave the community to experience what it really means to be a global citizen. This curriculum will be a great resource for adults to use with youth to help guide this experience. As a practitioner having this kind of resource will help my work as well as the work of other youth workers to open the experiences of youth.
    Global citizenship is important for all ages from early youth to adults. I was pleased to see the break down of age appropriate activities to help the young youth grow into a global citizen.
    Thank you for this work and if there are future thoughts, curriculum or pilot ideas I would love to help connect staff in the rural settings to not only give a rural experience but help open the eyes of the youth, families and staff in the rural settings on being a Global Citizen. Thank you for your work!

  9. Hi Darcy -
    That is such a good point about volunteers. I appreciate your perspective and interest in embedding global citizenship into your work.
    Let's talk!

  10. Hi Brian -
    Thanks for your willingness to help advance this work in rural settings. You have my wheels turning and I will definitely be in touch to discuss ways to extend the reach. Thanks for your support! Your expertise is going to add so much to this effort.


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