Category Archives: Global Studies

Meet Our Teachers: Lesley Jorge

Lesley Jorge teaches French in Upper School and Middle School, having joined the Morgan Park Academy faculty this fall after 13 years in a similar role at a K-12 school in Evanston.

She holds a B.A. in English and French from Butler University and a Master’s in curriculum and instructional design from Wichita State University.


What do you enjoy most about teaching?

For me it’s all about the kids. I feel so lucky to have found a profession where I get to interact in an important and meaningful way with teenagers. I love being around these young ladies and gentlemen. Their passions, perspectives, and voices have so much to offer the world. Plus, they keep me young!

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Meet Our Teachers: Tara Gorry

Tara Gorry teaches Spanish in the Upper School and Middle School, having joined Morgan Park Academy this fall from Montrose School, an independent school in suburban Boston.

She holds a B.A. in Spanish and English from Colgate University and an M.A. in Hispanic Studies from Boston College.


Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

In addition to being an excellent school with strong academics, MPA attracted me with its culture of inclusion, sense of community, and focus on thinking internationally. While it is important to celebrate where we come from and what ties us together, as a language teacher, it is so important to me that a school looks outside of itself to explore other countries, meet other people, and learn to respect different ways of life.

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Meet Our Teachers: Derek Smith

Derek Smith teaches English and Social Studies classes in the Upper School and is our Director of Service Learning. He is teaching American literature and consumer economics this school year, his sixth at Morgan Park Academy.

Mr. Smith holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master’s degree from Framingham State University.


What do you like best about teaching at Morgan Park Academy?

I enjoy how much autonomy and flexibility we are afforded as educators. I’ve created courses from scratch about Middle Eastern literature and about graphic novels, for example, and we’re reintroducing a speech class next spring. The encouragement to create new classes and to make use of our strengths enables and pushes us to continually grow as educators.

I also love our small community and the connection I have with students, including the opportunity to make connections outside of the classroom. As teachers here, we do not lose touch with our students once they graduate and move on to college and adult life.

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Summer Service Learning in Ecuador


Our journey into the Amazon rainforest was a long one: two flights, an eight-hour bus ride, and a boat ride before we reached the Minga Lodge on the Upper Napo River in northeast Ecuador. But it was worth every minute.

We were thrilled to represent the MPA faculty and school community on a remarkable service trip this summer, volunteering with fellow teachers from throughout the U.S. and Canada on a life-changing development project through the ME to WE charity program.

To say that we gained a fuller perspective on life and community is an understatement.

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Summer Adventure at the Grand Canyon: Our Top 5 Moments


An important part of each student’s experience at Morgan Park Academy is tied to our mission to prepare the global leaders of tomorrow and our belief that learning can and should take place outside the classroom. This comes to life most vividly in our school-wide Global Week each March, our immersive world languages program with optional international trips — and most recently, our travel opportunity for middle school students each summer.

This summer, a dozen sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders joined my fellow Humanities teacher Sandra Burgess and me to explore the Grand Canyon and the wondrous state and national parks of Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.


We experienced so much in five days! As Ms. Burgess put it, “You know you’re on a great trip when every day your students say, ‘I changed my mind; today has been my favorite day.'”

Somehow, though, we managed to pick five experiences that stood out as the top highlights from our trip! Continue reading

The World Needs More Rockwell

Norman Rockwell would have loved MPA. Way ahead of his time, in the 1950’s, he viewed himself as a citizen of the world. He would have appreciated our diversity, our global perspective, and our acceptance of one another. As Americana as Rockwell was, he was also a man who understood the interconnectedness of the world he was part of, the need for global understanding, and a man who, through his talent, cleverly forced his fellow citizens to come to terms with the injustice, discrimination, and bigotry in the society of which they were a part.

rockwellitHis painting “Golden Rule” (pictured right) is a famous image that was created for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. This beautiful image is not unlike the United Nations, the organization it was produced to commemorate, or MPA for that matter, in that it is both multicultural and ideal in the sense that it is reflective of a world in harmony and a reminder of our shared humanity. The “Golden Rule” first appeared on April 1, 1961, as a dedication to the United Nations to “reflect his appreciation for humanity as a citizen of the world.” Think of what a revolutionary idea that was in the 1950’s! The UN later adopted Rockwell’s image and today, a mosaic of it hangs in their headquarters in New York City, reminding us that, “it is about narrowing the gap between the world as it is and the world as we want it to be.”

Rockwell painted this at a time that challenged the world as it was and, in retrospect, helped to define what we, as Americans, actually wanted the world to be: The 60’s, a decade that addressed the injustice of social issues. Segregation. Integration. Bus boycotts and sit-ins. Religious intolerance and women’s rights. The War on Poverty. The Greensboro Four, Rosa Parks, Kennedy, and MLK. A time when “Do Unto Others” was too frequently interpreted to mean “Do Unto Others who look like you.” And here was Rockwell, confronting the hypocrisy of the world around him and creating this beautiful image of an America he envisioned –  a collection of global peoples, laying it out for the rest of America to digest and, in the comfort of their own homes, reconcile who they were, with who they wanted to be. The world today needs to take a fresh look at Rockwell.

On October 24, the world will commemorate the UN’s 71st anniversary. All these years later, we are still striving to answer Rockwell’s challenge and close the gap between who we are as Americans versus who we want to be. Are we the nation Emma Lazarus saw or are we a divisive, bitter people, fearful of our neighbors? The UN can help us reconcile these differences. Its creation out of the most catastrophic and deadliest war in history, its mission to maintain peace and security, and its additional responsibilities of fostering self-determination of peoples and promoting basic human rights around the world make it the model schools should look to when we talk about global education, the continued strive for a world of peace, and our interpretation of Rockwell’s image of the “Golden Rule.”

Last year the UN developed 17 goals for sustainable development which take aim at transforming our world by 2030. Putting an end to poverty and hunger, guaranteeing education, teaching about responsible consumption, reducing inequality, and the rest of the goals remind us that we are all connected and are deserving of these basic human rights.

In order to accomplish this and introduce global awareness in the classroom, here are some ideas we should consider when working with our students:

  1. Understand that education is about relationships. It is a human experience and human beings are complex. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the type of college one chooses has little to do with success later in life, but connections to the real world, becoming a “do-er” in the educational process, and finding at least one teacher who challenges you, does!  
  2. Empathy is critical to a strong global program. Without it, it fails. Understanding the perspective of others is critical and powerful to building peace.
  3. Cultural humility is key. As teachers, we need to create experiences that allow our students to understand that the world they are a part of is big. This generates humility, which creates the space for empathy to develop.
  4. Reflection is critical to the learning process and the creation of global citizens. Use reflection activities in the learning process such as:” I used to think” and “Now I think…”
  5. There are multiple opportunities to globalize our curriculum. This requires continued reflection and support of all teachers, not just those in the humanities.

As we approach the UN’s anniversary, it is my hope that we see this as an opportunity to take a good, long look at Rockwell’s image, its message, and reflect on the kind of person and educators we aspire to be.

By Colleen Amberg

Ms. Amberg teaches Middle School English and Social Studies. She is also the Director of Global Learners Program.


Ways to Help Kids Learn More While Traveling

School might be closed for the summer but your kids’ brains are still open for business. Summer travel is a great way to stretch they ways we learn.  As a child my family drove all over the United States and eventually travelled to farther flung locales around the world. Learning was inherent in the activity but my sisters and I also knew that my father would expect us to remember and be able to explain quite a bit about what we had seen and observed.  As a kid I was always a fast reader and as a result I often finished a given museum exhibit before my father did.  Each and every time that happened I knew that he would quiz me on a few facts because he didn’t believe I had actually read the signs.  –In fact, he continues this habit even today! As an adult having been both a Project Week trip leader and parent, I have experimented with a variety of ways to capitalize on  and focus the way kids learn while traveling. Learning on vacation need not be a form or torture. Here are 10 ways to help your kids learn more on this summer’s vacation and have fun doing it:

claire1.     Map it out: Oftentimes we just tell kids “we’re going to drive Washington DC!”.  Instead, get out a map and show them where you will be driving, where you might stop and then look at a map of your destination and discuss the neighborhoods you will go to.  Help them to get familiar with distances and the relationships between the various places you will go. Discuss the changes in scenery you expect and why the scenery changes.  Then, when you are driving they can compare predictions to reality.

2.     Make big sites manageable.. When going on a big trip with lots of important sites make up a mini guide for your child.  Highlight one or two major sites for each day with a question for them to answer or a feature for them to look at.  Be sure to follow up in the evenings and ask them about it.  It you are out looking at nature, make them a mini guide book with pictures of the key animals, birds, or plants you might see so they can identify them and become ‘experts’.

3.     Food always helps. When I traveled for project week a favorite activity was the evening quiz game.  Kids collected interesting facts about what we saw and after dinner took turns asking questions with skittles as the only prize for correct answers.  You would be amazed at how intense the competition could get to be the quizmaster and earn the biggest pile of skittles.

4.     Being in charge is fun. Let your child be the tour guide.  This means that they get to choose the route for the day (or partial day) of a driving trip.  Getting out a real map of the interstate and a guide book, they plot the route, figure out what stops they want to make (and how long it will take to get there) and then, guide book in hand, get to lead you around their chosen stops.

5.     Use your resources.  National Parks always have a junior ranger program with engaging tasks for kids and families and usually some small reward for completion. We have a great collection of buttons and badges from our nations parks.  Smaller museums often also have treasure hunts or other activities for kids. On spring break my daughter earned glass marbles and a postcard at various museums near Boston. Just ask.

6.     Encourage metacognition.  Give your child a journal and leave time in each day for writing down what they saw and did. Encourage them to write about what they thought and noticed as well.  Sharing observations and comparing family responses can spark a deeper understanding of the meaning of what they saw. More tech savvy kids might prefer writing a blog. If they take digital pictures along the way as well they could end up with fodder for a digital travelogue or even a movie.

7.     Encourage creative thinking.  Maybe your kids don’t want to keep a journal.  Give them a sketchbook.  Stopping a couple times a day to allow sketching will build the other parts of their brain and encourage slowing down and taking a closer look.  Comparing what family members chose to draw from the same spot can lead to great conversations about point of view etc.  Not an artist?  How about taking pictures of the same thing from five different angles? Or having them make up a story behind the famous site they just visited—what was it like for a child in this town 100 years ago or a servant in this famous mansion etc.?

8.     Be an anthropologist.  Ask every family member to try to talk to one local every day and ask a few questions about daily life where they live and record their findings.  Compare their lives to your own and to the way others in the same town/city live.  This not only lets your kids practice talking to others but also improves self-awareness and a true understanding that while lives might be vastly different on the surface, hopes and dreams are mostly the same.

9.     Get off the beaten path.  Try to eat in a local diner, drive through a residential neighborhood, play in a local park etc.  See how the people who live where you are tourists live their lives.  How is it the same?  How is it different?

10.  Be reflective.  When you get home, have the family create a greatest hits collection.  Vote on the top 10 things you saw, weirdest food you ate, or most interesting thing you learned.  Pretend you have to move– which of the places you visited would you choose and why? Going over what you did and learned once you return home cements the learning—and the fun.

By Claire Concannon, Upper School Humanities Teacher