The Nicholas Sparks Foundation is eager to share resources that can help teachers, administrators, parents, and students learn more about the world.

As part of its mission to expand access to global learning, the Nicholas Sparks Foundation is eager to share resources that can help teachers, administrators, parents, and students learn more about the world. Many wonderful organizations work to promote global education, and we are delighted to share their information on this page.

(Please note that our mention of any company or organization on this page should not be construed as an endorsement of its products. Rather, these links are provided to help visitors to this website explore the full range of global education resources available on the Internet.)

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One of the goals of the Nicholas Sparks Foundation is to help teachers incorporate global learning into their classes. We want to encourage teachers at all grade levels and in all subjects; accordingly, we are eager to highlight the inspiring work of teachers who help their students understand the world in art, literature, science, and math classes, as well as the more obvious subjects of history, geography, and social studies.

The Nicholas Sparks Foundation has undertaken a project to create our own classroom resources in the form of short “Around the World” films that teachers can use to get students thinking about how they can discover the world without leaving their hometowns. This project was inspired by Around the World in New York, published in 1924 by a Romanian immigrant named Konrad Bercovici. In this book, Bercovici asserted that a person who lacked the means to travel could nevertheless learn about the world by talking to New Yorkers of different cultural backgrounds. In an effort to recreate Bercovici’s experiment, we have filmed groups of students in their hometowns as they show each other a place which is meaningful to them. Across five cities, we have involved students of African-American, Burmese, Burundian, Chinese, Colombian, Congolese, Ethiopian, French, Hmong, Indian, Iranian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Nepalese, Palestinian, Russian, and Vietnamese heritage. Currently, four of our films (“Around the World in Raleigh”, “Around the World in Seattle”, “Around the World in Milwaukee”, and “Around the World in New Bern”) are available to view online. These films are accompanied by classroom discussion guides, which are linked below. We encourage teachers not only to show and discuss our films, but also to ask their students how they would go around the world in their hometowns.

We also use this page to collect links to resources made available by other organizations.

By far the most extensive listing of lesson plan ideas for global education is maintained by the National Geographic Society’s Education department. The Partnership for Global Learning of the Asia Society also curates a collection of formal lesson plans, most of which focus on teaching students about Asia. Other great resources include TeachUNICEF, which publishes teacher resources about important topics from around the world, including a series of “global citizenship briefs” to educate students about current crises; a site collecting global education case studies maintained by the government of Australia; and Project Explorer, which produces short videos from around the world, many of which are accompanied by lesson plans.

A useful platform for sharing ideas is the Learning Center of VIF International Education, a company based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

A few of the most interesting classroom resources are available on the private websites of individuals. For example, several teachers at the Town School for Boys in San Francisco maintain blogs about their classroom experiences, including kindergarten teacher Ashley Miller and middle school math teacher Kristen Goggin. Another great resource is the site of geography professor Seth Dixon, who offers many suggestions for teaching students to analyze maps. Houston teacher Becky Morales maintains Kid World Citizen, which offers ideas for teaching multiculturalism to young students.

One useful book for teaching young children to empathize with people of other cultures is Homa Sabet Tavangar’s Growing Up Global, which offers many suggestions for international activities.

The education division of the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) not only maintains educational programs in many countries, but it also publishes information about these initiatives, including the curriculum resources they have developed.

The World View program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill maintains a useful page with lesson plans from many outside organizations, as well as its own program to lend foreign currency kits to schools and teachers.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has an education page featuring resources for teaching geography and geology, including many lesson plans related to maps and mapping. The USGS also focuses on using Geographic Information Systems in the classroom.

Population Connection sponsors a page titled Population Education that collects resources and lesson plans for teaching about demographics and population distribution. Their team is also available to provide workshops for teachers interested in teaching about population trends.

Outreach World is an online community bringing together universities and research centers from around the world to collect resources for teachers and students. Its resources are searchable by country, subject, and grade level.

Many organizations have devised standards for measuring global learning that complement or go beyond the national standards of the Common Core. Among the most useful sets of standards are the National Geographic Society’s National Geography Standards Index, the Asia Society’s Global Competence standards, the curriculum standards of the National Council of the Social Studies, and the skills highlighted by the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills. The Asia Society’s Partnership for Global Learning joined with the Council of Chief State School Officers to publish a report titled Educating for Global Competence that synthesizes some of the research behind these standards.

Several online platforms work to connect schools in different areas to collaborate online. These networks include iEARN-USA, TakingITGlobal, and the Learning Center of VIF International Education. iEARN also launched the “Connect All Schools” platform, which has as its goal to connect every school in the United States with an international partner by 2016, in keeping with the vision Barack Obama in his June 2009 speech in Cairo. Reach the World links classes with college students who are studying abroad who can share their experiences with younger students. Finally, the Asia Society manages the International Studies Schools Network, which brings together public schools into a network of schools that focus on international issues.

For the latest information about new trends in global education, consider joining up with the Global Circles initiative, which maintains permanent discussion groups related to program evaluation, student assessment, best practices for travel programs, online global learning, and independent school partnerships.


In the past decade, programs offering foreign travel opportunities to students and teachers have proliferated. Many companies work directly with schools to design travel opportunities that fit their unique needs and can be easily integrated into the existing curriculum.

Companies or organizations offering short-term student travel programs include Atlas Workshops, Ardmore Educational Travel, EARTH Academy in Costa Rica, EF Tours, Envoys, the Global Youth Leadership Institute, Lindblad Expeditions, Máximo Nivel, Rustic Pathways, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Studies Abroad for Global Education, Walking Tree Travel, and the World Leadership School.

Schools that need to raise funding in order to implement travel programs will have to be creative, though there are many available opportunities. We hope that you will be inspired by the story of a former teacher from Anacostia in the District of Columbia, who raised money to take her class to Costa Rica. In order to fund this trip, this teacher turned to Donors Choose, which is one helpful option for teachers in public schools.

While most schools work with outside vendors to arrange student trips, a few schools with longstanding programs organize their own programs. One such school worth highlighting here is the Evergreen School in Shoreline, Washington, which has designed its entire eighth-grade curriculum around a class trip to a non-Western country each year for going on three decades.

For summer-, semester-, or year-long programs, check out CEIBA in Guatemala, CIEE, Global Leadership Adventures, the ISA High School, and School Year Abroad.

There are also several travel programs that provide fellowships for teachers, including the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program through the National Geographic Society, the Fulbright Teacher Exchange program through the U.S. State Department, the summer programs through the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a series of programs administered by the Institute of International Education.

Several programs offer travel opportunities to individual students, rather than working with entire schools. Such programs include the International Student Volunteers organization, One World Now! in Seattle and Hawaii, Global Glimpse in San Francisco and New York, the People to People Ambassador Programs, and the World Affairs Councils of certain U.S. cities.

As more and more students have begun to travel abroad, it has become increasingly important to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of global education programs. Not enough work has been done on this key issue, but the Nicholas Sparks Foundation is one of many organizations working together to figure out how travel programs can be most effective. One of the most sophisticated efforts in this direction is the Program Evaluation circle of the Global Circles organization. That circle is led by Matt Nink of the Global Youth Leadership Institute. Another person conducting interesting research on the effectiveness of study abroad programs is Aric Visser, a doctoral candidate at the Universidad de Zaragoza in Spain, where he also works with the School Year Abroad program in Spain. Finally, the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN) hosts an annual institute at which employees of affiliated schools share ideas for best practices with global travel programs.


Many online resources collect and analyze data related to poverty in the United States. Much of this data comes from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey. The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes available statistics about rural areas in the United States, including a useful section on the “geography of poverty.” The Rural Data Portal, sponsored by the Housing Assistance Council, maps data at the national, state, or county level. The research section of Spotlight on American Poverty contains a considerable amount of useful analysis.

For data specifically about the state of North Carolina, the Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh offers the most thorough county-by-county data, as well as a series of useful publications.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund works especially with “persistent-poverty counties,” which are counties where 20% of the population has lived below the poverty line for four consecutive censuses over a thirty-year period. 85% of persistent-poverty counties are in rural areas, and 84% are located in the South.

In July 2013, the New York Times put together a useful interactive map based on a study by the Equality of Opportunity Project at Harvard University, which helped describe the links between rural poverty and a lack of social mobility. One of the not-so-surprising conclusions of the Harvard study was that social mobility is correlated with the quality of local schools.

The National Center for Education Statistics sponsors a program on Rural Education in America, which curates data on education in rural areas. The Rural Information Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture also maintains a website with resources on rural education.

For education statistics on a worldwide level, the website of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is a useful first stop. Most of the statistics available through this site compare the education programs of different countries. The UIS tracks the performance of different countries in meeting the Millennium Development Goals for education and publishes an annual “Global Education Digest.”

Data about global education in particular can be difficult to find, but there are nevertheless some great resources. One relevant site is Mapping the Nation, which presents an interactive state-by-state map with data about globalized curricula, including study abroad and foreign language education.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero also has an ongoing research initiative in Interdisciplinary and Global Studies to understand how global education programs can best help students.

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