LIMERICK — Spring-Ford Area School District is moving forward on a global studies program, partnering with Arcadia University and a school in Ireland utilized in the district’s Limerick to Limerick student exchange program.
In a presentation to the school board Oct. 28, Spring-Ford Area High School Principal Pat Nugent explained the program with the assistance of Arcadia officials and Irish school officials who spoke live at the meeting through webcams.
“In the eight years I’ve been sitting at this table, this is probably the most exciting program we’ve put forth,” said Board Vice President Joe Ciresi.
According to Nugent, one of the main adjustments to the global studies track is the rewriting of current social studies courses to also include global studies components, such as ninth grade’s U.S. history and global studies and 10th grade’s Modern U.S. and global studies.
“It’ll basically be a four-year opportunity, but students can jump in now. There are some things they can do presently,” Nugent said.
World languages will be a requirement in the track. Supplementing the languages already available at Spring-Ford, which include Spanish, French, German and Mandarin Chinese, classes in Portugese, Italian, Russian and Latin are scheduled to be added.
The Russian and Italian courses would also include instruction on the culture of each country.
School board member Ed Dressler questioned why Arabic was not included in the added languages due to its influence in the world.
Nugent said an Arabic course the district is “comfortable with” academically has not yet been found.
“It’s something we should look at,” Board President Tom DiBello said, agreeing with Dressler.
Another piece of the global studies track would be an Advanced Placement course called “Human Geography,” which the school board unanimously approved for addition to the high school’s course offerings soon after Nugent’s presentation.
Additionally, classes in international business and journalism will also be offered.
The journalism classes will actually be offered through the Irish school Spring-Ford has partnered with, Colaiste Chiarain.
Matt Kelly will teach the courses via webcam to Spring-Ford’s students.
“The areas we are concentrating on are broadcast and digital journalism,” said Colaiste Chiarain Principal Noel Malone via webcam to the board during the presentation.
Kelly said his classes are “very popular fourth year” programing and he has already had a “very successful collaboration” with Spring-Ford in putting together the possible courses.
The University of Limerick in Ireland has also expressed interest in taking part in the programs.
Nugent described the possibility of having such a relationship with Colaiste Chiarain “exciting.”
For several years, students from Colaiste Chiarain have come to the U.S. in the fall for two weeks, then a group of Spring-Ford students heads to Ireland in spring to complete the exchange. The program has been dubbed Limerick to Limerick.
One potential issue with synchronizing courses with the Irish students and teachers would be the time zone differences. A class beginning in Spring-Ford at 9 a.m. would be a 2 p.m. class in Ireland.
Additionally, Spring-Ford is partnering with Arcadia University in Glenside because of the school’s reputation as one of the best in the country for studying abroad.
“We look forward to building a strong relationship,” said Erik T. Nelson, the dean of the school of continuing studies at Arcadia.
Spring-Ford students in the global studies program will be able to dual enroll with Arcadia to achieve four-year credits in classes such as introduction to international studies and global citizenship.
Courses at Arcadia will be offered at a discount to Spring-Ford students at $750 per course, not including the textbook price.
Arcadia’s experience in sending students abroad will be utilized. Every spring break, Arcadia sends nearly entire classes of students abroad to places like the United Kingdom.
Although the global studies program will likely begin in the 2014-15 school year, some of the courses will not be available until the 2015-16 school year.
“This will be a phase-in to a degree,” Nugent said.
Nugent described the Oct. 28 presentation as a look at the work which has already been done over the past year to set up the curriculum and logistics of the planned global studies tracks at the high school.
“I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent finalized,” Nugent said, but “I feel good about where we are.”
More than just administrators have been involved, Nugent said, with Spring-Ford’s social studies department putting in work as well. Professors from Arcadia spoke to the Spring-Ford teachers about how to “infuse” global studies into current U.S. courses in Spring-Ford’s classes, according to Nugent.
Board member Dawn Heine said setting up a global studies program at Spring-Ford was one of the first “marching orders” given to Keith Floyd, Spring-Ford’s director of curriculum and instruction, when he was hired just more than a year ago. She thanked him for his work.
New Assistant Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kimberly Bast has been a part of the shaping of the program and gave a presentation on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) following Nugent’s presentation.
DiBello said the global studies program will help give an edge to students who “are going to be competing for jobs globally.”
“We’re looking at Spring-Ford graduates prepared for the world that lies ahead,” Nugent said.