Exchange Matters / June 24, 2020

Art Meets World

By Hannah Gerth, Global Education Manager, World Affairs Council – Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

The World Affairs Council – Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s Global Classrooms Program incorporates international education into local elementary and high schools to enhance the student learning experience. The program aims to increase students’ critical thinking skills by asking them to think, discuss, and debate current world events and cultures with natives of that country, whom we call “Global Guides.” These presentations help students navigate a globalized world, strengthen map skills, and develop intercultural understanding and awareness.

A Global Guide shows students how to make Rangoli designs. Credit: World Affairs Council – Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

In 2018, the program expanded to incorporate art education projects. This new program, Art Meets World, transformed elementary classroom presentations into cultural art activities.

With an intentional focus to collaborate with Northern Kentucky schools, more than 800 elementary students celebrated cultural diversity and inclusion in the 2018-2019 school year. Students met Global Guides from China, India, Japan, and Mexico, and created an art project respective to each country.

“Art Meets World is a powerful connection that builds community within schools and neighborhoods in an ever-changing international demographic,” said Executive Director Michelle Harpenau.

“WAC provides access to global learning opportunities to [encourage students to] think bigger and be encouraged to explore the world within their city.”

Since the launch, this program has grown and adapted, continuing to reach thousands of students each year.

As schools transitioned to remote learning, World Affairs Council – Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky adapted its programs to match the needs of local students. These typically in-person cultural presentations are now offered online. Easy-to-use templates and instructions include:

  • China: Celebrate the Chinese New Year by designing your own Chinese Lantern.
  • Japan: Dive into the art of Japanese paper folding to create your own origami.
  • India: Create Rangoli designs in honor of the Festival of Lights celebrated in India each year.
  • Mexico: Discover symmetry in the art of traditional sugar skulls celebrated during Día de los Muertos.