Global Speaker Series

Bring the world into your classroom.

Sponsored by the Dragons Global Education Fund, in partnership with The Futurity Foundation 501(c)-3, the Global Speaker Series identifies Dragons’ finest global educators and makes them available to speak in classrooms across the country.

Each year, a select group of Dragons instructors spend three months on the road, engaging students in interactive discussions about critical global issues. Instructors often share a unique in-country perspective with students, inspiring lively debates about what it means to be human today.

What are you learning this year? … Are you ready to bring the world into your classroom?

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The Global Speaker Series, Topics 2016-2017

 

Classic Chinese Pop Songs
Speaker: Jody Segar
Synopsis: In a workshop intended for Chinese language students, Jody discusses the importance of song in Chinese politics and pop culture, teaches the class a few classic songs and leads a discussion of their lyrics and meaning.
Dates: January and February
Location: Colorado and upon request

 

Urbanization in China and the Biggest City You’ve Never Heard Of
Speaker: Jody Segar
Synopsis: Drawing on PhD research on rural migrants in the city of Chongqing and more than 11 years of life and work experiences in China, Jody will introduce students to this city of 12 million and discuss migration and urbanization in China today.
Dates: January and February
Location: Colorado and upon request

 

Tiny Homes: Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Speaker: Katie Tomai
Synopsis: From suburban NH to rural Nepal, Katie explores the relationship between the structures we live in and how they shape our communities. She draws on her experiences traveling and building a tiny house on wheels to begin a conversation about how we can look to our built environment to create stronger and more resilient communities.
Dates: December 2016
Location: New England and upon request

 

The 500-year Struggle Heats Up: Maya Activism in Guatemala
Speaker: Richard Brown
Synopsis: Indigenous Maya culture is alive and well in Guatemala. Half the country speaks a Maya language as its first language, and Maya philosophy guides social movements around the country as Maya people continue their struggle to overcome centuries of marginalization and oppression. Rich draws on three years of work with community groups in Guatemala to explain how and why Maya people are risking their lives as, after 500 years of struggle, their voices are having a greater impact than ever.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Massachusets, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia

 

The Forces Behind Migration in Guatemala
Speaker: Richard Brown
Synopsis: Migrants regularly risk their lives, and sometimes lose them, to reach the US from Central America. Rich will draw on three years of work with community groups in Guatemala to explore the motivations that compel people to make the decision to migrate, as well as the social, economic, and historical factors that have led to the recent waves of migration.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Massachusets, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia

 

Rwanda: Rising From The Ashes
Speaker: Zack Siddall
Synopsis: How a country went from tragedy to one of Africa’s top powerhouses. Join Rwanda Peace Corps volunteer Zack Siddall in a discussion on international development and the resilience of the human spirit.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island

 

Coca: The World’s Most Controversial Plant
Speaker: Zack Siddall
Synopsis: For thousands of years the coca plant has been sacred to the people of the Andes. Today the coca leaf is under attack for its role in cocaine production. Globalization, the US war on drugs and many other factors to be discussed are changing a culture that is fighting to hold onto its Incan roots.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island

 

Development 101: What is a ‘Good Quality of Life’?
Speaker: Cate Brown
Synopsis: What is a good quality of life? What is positive social impact? If you care about the well-being of other humans, where is the best place to begin? Cate leads students through an interactive discussion about the foundational questions of international development and human-centered design. Students will be asked to reflect on their own personal values and ‘recreate’ the rules of their ideal society.
Dates: January 2017
Location: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey

 

Basins at Risk: An Interactive Discussion on Coping with Water Scarcity in the 21st Century
Speaker: Cate Brown
Synopsis:What happens if the Colorado River dries up? The Mekong? The Nile? Will we go to war over water within our lifetime? As we face a future with more people and fewer natural resources, many political scientists have hypothesized that the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water. Cate draws on academic research and personal experiences in the Jordan River Basin and the Mekong River Basin to lead students through a interactive discussion about the future of water in shared river basins. Students will participate in a short simulation and have an opportunity to share their own hypotheses about our future. 
Dates: January 2017
Location: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey

 

Damning the Mekong: Gambling with 70 Million Lives
Speaker:  Jess Armstrong
Synopsis: South East Asia is rising, and it’s hungry… For power. Damming the Mekong, the second most biodiverse river in the world, has been put forward by several countries as the solution. But what impact will these hydro dams have on the 70 million people who rely on the river for food, income, ceremony and culture? Having worked with some of the poorest farmers and fishermen in the region for the past four years, Jess will guide students through a series of interactive games and discussions to understand how damming the Mekong will have the greatest impact on the people who rely on it the most
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Northern California  

 

Why Not to Ride an Elephant in Thailand
Speaker: Jess Armstrong
Synopsis:Just imagine how incredible it would be to sit atop a massive 9 foot tall, 4 ton beast while lumbering your way through deep rivers and pristine jungle. This is an experience many dream about when planning a visit to Thailand. But have you ever thought about the actual animal you dream of? Where was it born? How was it raise? How was it trained? In this engaging lesson Jess draws on her experience as a biologist living and working in Asia to discuss the impact of “ecotourism” on elephant populations. She will make you consider your power in preventing the harmful treatment animals all around the world and offer simple solutions to promote sustainable and ethical travel.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Northern California

 

From Banana Leaves to Plastic Bags: We are Eating Asia’s Plastic Waste!
Speaker: Jess Armstrong
Synopsis: 60% of all plastic pollution found in our oceans comes from Asia. Why is that? In countries like the USA following the three RRR’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is common practice, but in Asia, it’s a different story. Jess is an avid conservationist who is passionate about protecting our oceans. From Asia to the ocean and onto your dinner plate, Jess explains why people in Asia are struggling to deal with their plastic waste and how we are eating it.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Northern California

 

The Maddening Mess that Madagascar Calls Mobility
Speaker: Briana Nowak
Synopsis: Transit equity is the ability of a person, regardless of socio-economic status, to move freely from point A to point B. There are millions of Americans who struggle with mobility every day, but there are also millions of us who are fortunate enough to have access to a personal vehicle, public transportation, a bike, and safe infrastructure. In Madagascar, a country nearly the size of the state of Texas, mobility for most revolves around a singular form of transportation: the taxi-brousse. In a taxi-brousse, the same 370-mile journey could take 12 hours or 28! How, you ask? Briana will captivate your classroom with her unbelievable stories of Malagasy transportation, the economic impact on its people, and how it compares to transit in the States. Her discussion will take you on a wild ride that is sure to leave you feeling extra comfy on your drive home.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey

 

So, You Live on an Island…
Speaker: Briana Nowak
Synopsis: Imagine you live on an island. On this island, you farm all the things you eat – rice, beans, vegetables, etc. Unfortunately, everything you grow is highly susceptible unpredictable natural disasters such as cyclones, flash flooding, and drought. On top of that, the forests you use for firewood and charcoal are becoming increasingly scarce, threatening your existence. For a lot of us, this is merely a hypothetical – a potential “so you’re stuck on a deserted island” apocalyptic-type scenario. For those in Madagascar, this is everyday life. Briana lays out the impact that decades of slash-and-burn deforestation is now having on the once biodiverse country of Madagascar. She also considers potential solutions learned from course instruction in India and why this problem affects you.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey

 

Deconstructing “Culture”: A Glimpse at Education in China
Speaker: Kristen Gianaris
Synopsis: How did you last use the word “culture?” Perhaps you used it in reference to a people, a place, or a ‘cultural’ experience. Although we tend to use the “culture” in our daily language, do we really understand all that it implies or is made of? Kristen draws on her experience as an English teacher in China to discuss the construction of “culture” through education in Chinese society and beyond.
Dates: 
January and February 2017
Location:
 California

 

Spaces in Words: From the Streets of Chicago to the Middle East
Speaker: Kristen Gianaris
Synopsis: From Chicago’s streets to the streets of the Middle East, Kristen uses an anthropological approach to explore the way spaces are created through artistic mediums such as music and dance. She draws from her field research in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa region) to understand the social and political construction of language and the arts.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location:
 California

 

Good Intentions with Complicated Outcomes: How to Responsibly Volunteer
Speaker: Kristen Gianaris
Synopsis: To volunteer your time, experience, and money is often a wonderful and selfless gift to the world. However, sometimes these acts of generosity are actually more harmful than helpful. Having spent significant time volunteering in different parts of the world and instructing groups in varying volunteer projects, Kristen has spent the past few years dedicating time to understanding how to gage the impact of ‘voluntourism.’ In this lesson, students will be encouraged to evaluate and reflect upon service learning while discussing the ways in which we can continue to give and serve responsibly around the world.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location:
 California

 

Danger of  Single Story 
Speaker: Laura Chase
Synopsis: Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie once said that “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” What are the stereotypes of Africa and they do they exist? Who tells these stories? Perception and imagination of place often comes from stories we are told and ways we are told them. Drawing from Adichie’s Ted Talk “Danger of A Single Story” and her own work living and working for nearly a decade on the African continent, Laura will discuss the danger of single stories and how they pertain to Africa and the way we travel, as well as offer simple solutions to challenge the stories we’ve been told and begin to tell the more complete versions.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location:
 California

 

Public Health in Africa 
Speaker: Laura Chase
Synopsis:  Malaria, HIV/Aids, Ebola, oh my! Three complicated global public health issues, three different examples of development issues in Africa. What are they and why do they persist? What are the deeper problems related to these three major health issues on the African continent? Drawing from her passion of public health and working in development in different countries in Africa, Laura takes us through HIV/AIDS, malaria, and Ebola and explains the deeper impacts these public health crises have had on local communities, as well as how each one comes down to a question of historical context and development.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: California

 

Water, Access, and Justice: The Southeast Alaska to the Sahel
Speaker: Laura Chase
Synopsis: How do we use water in our lives? Water is life. For plants, animals, and every human around the world, we are connected by our need for water as well as our search for water sources. In Southeast Alaska, the world is made of water and access is endless. There one encounters mountains with innumerable waterfalls and streams and rivers that plunge into the ocean and feed the forest; water is everywhere. In the Sahel of West Africa, water is harder to come by. Often found deep in the ground by freshwater wells, women will walk for hours a day to gather fresh water to support life. So how is the water we use connected to our roles as global citizens? In this engaging lesson, outdoorswoman and conservationist Laura Chase draws from her background of outdoor education and life in Alaska to days spent under the heat of the Sahelian sun of West Africa. She will inspire reflection on our own water footprints, discuss how water connects us all, and offer simple solutions to look more deeply at water in a global context.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: California

 

Potatoes in Peru
Speaker: Sara Russell
Synopsis: The Peruvian highlands are home to some of the most stunning crop diversity in the planet, especially in potato varieties. The potato reflects the unique and rich biodiversity of Peru and is a symbol fundamental to the Andean worldview. Join Sara in an interactive tour of how the the humble spud has woven its way through the cultural fabric of the people of the Quechua Valley to become a central pillar of Peruvian identity.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Missouri and Colorado upon request

 

Woven Stories: Telling Stories through Textiles in Latin America
Speaker: Sara Russell 
Synopsis: Storytelling in the Americas brings vibrant, culturally meaningful connections of family and tradition to life, and these stories are literally woven into the fabric of place in textiles. Textiles are embedded with myths, tradition, utility, heroes, and values in their delicate threadwork. In this course, you’ll  identify patterns and symbols of textiles across Latin America, Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia and engage in telling and hearing stories from the beginning of time.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Missouri and Colorado upon request

 

Down River: The Flow of Water and Wealth
Speaker: David Haffeman
Synopsis: From the Amazon to the Colorado River Basin, explore the relationship we have with water and how it has shaped our social and political climates. David will relate the environmental impacts dams have had on local ecosystems with the economic benefits that are essential to global economies. David will share his experiences interacting with local communities whose lifestyles are dependent on these meandering giants. This lesson is also available in Spanish.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Texas and Colorado upon request

 

Language on the Verge of Extinction
SpeakerJanpim Wolf
Synopsis: Linguistic diversity is steadily declining and many languages around the world are endangered. Half of the languages spoken today are expected to vanish during this century. As language is closely tied to culture, the cultural identity of many minority communities is at risk. When a language becomes extinct there is a loss of the group’s historical and spiritual knowledge which impacts their traditions and lifestyle. Drawing upon her travels through Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, Jan will engage students in a conversation about the issues surrounding language endangerment and preservation in South East Asia.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Virginia

 

In Pursuit of Truth in Travel Photography
SpeakerJanpim Wolf
Synopsis:How can photographs be used to showcase a holistic depiction of life in other parts of the world? Travel always inspires storytelling. When traveling, one can develop an authentic, captivating visual story by creating visuals that reflect the human experience. Jan Wolf, a graduate from Virginia Commonwealth’s Department of Photography and Film will share photos from her adventures in South East Asia and beyond. She will give tips on how to cultivate a global mindset as the means to approach visual storytelling. Students will learn how to thoughtfully build a visual narrative with consideration to perspective, selective focus, and composition.This talk emphasizes how good travel photography is a product of critical thinking and cultural awareness.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Virginia

 

Choosing Happy: Positive Psychology research in practice
Speaker: Aaron Slosberg
Synopsis: Stress, anxiety, and struggle can leave us feeling overwhelmed and under empowered. How can we source happiness amidst the challenges and pressures of daily life? Pulling from the latest research in positive psychology, Aaron offers practical and proven tools to understand and foster a more positive mindset. A popular talk with students and teachers, attendees will walk away with an awareness of our power and choice to create happiness in myriad small yet important ways.
Dates: Ongoing
Location: Flexible

 

Over the Sea: Living with the Sea Nomads of Southeast Asia
Speaker: Aaron Slosberg
Synopsis: For millennia the Bajau people have roamed the tropical waters of southeast Asia. With stricter immigration laws these historically nomadic peoples are being settled into floating fishing communities around the archipelagos of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Aaron shares incredible stories and images from his 6 years of visits to one Indonesian Bajau village completely detached from land. Learn about the colorful mixture of Islam with local beliefs, traditional spear fisherman who can dive to over 80 feet without oxygen, the impacts of global warming on coral reefs and communities, and the fascinating realities of a people far removed yet still connected to our daily lives in the US.
Dates: Ongoing
Location: Flexible

 

The Living Inca: Reflections from La Nacion Q’eros of Peru
Speaker: Aaron Slosberg
Synopsis: What happened to the Inca? is a common question for anyone interested in the history behind Machu Picchu and the rich culture underpinning many South American countries. Living in the harsh climate of the Andes, the people of la Nacion Q’eros would simply reply to this question, “we’re still here.” The people of Q’eros still continue a lifestyle in many ways similar to their Incan forbearers of millennia past: hundreds of varieties of potatoes, terraced agriculture above 14,000 feet, stone huts with grass roofs, ceremonies to the pachamama, and herds of llama roaming the valleys. Nacion Q’eros is a colorful glimpse into traditions surviving in the direct lineage of the Inca. And yet, it is also represents a complex world struggling with the sacrifices and adaptations mandated by globalization and development. Accompanied by incredible images, Aaron shares stories from his time visiting the communities of Q’eros. Presentation can be given in any combination of Spanish and English.
Dates: Ongoing
Location: Flexible

 

How to Make a Country in Thirty Days or Less
Speaker: Micah LeMasters
Synopsis: Indonesia, the world’s largest muslim country and the fourth biggest country in the world, is a vast archipelago made up of over 14,000 islands and thousands of languages and cultures brought together in an incredibly short amount of time by a visionary and a dictator. A brief and engaging overview of how Indonesia went from a Dutch colony, to an occupied Japanese territory, to an Independent country in a remarkably short amount of time. This talk will also cover the rule of Sukarno and Suharto that made up the first 50+ years (1945-1999) of Indonesian Independence..
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Illinois and Indiana

 

Nutmeg, etc. 
Speaker: Micah LeMasters
Synopsis:The story of the Spice Trade and how a couple of tiny islands in the middle of the Banda sea fueled the age of exploration, created unbelievable fortunes and once were traded for Manhattan.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Illinois and Indiana

 

Second Star to the Right and Straight on ‘til Morning
Speaker:Micah LeMasters
Synopsis: The unbelievable story of human migration that brought Indonesian and African people to the island of Madagascar. Madagascar was the last landmass on earth to be populated by humans and is home to some of the most diverse and unique cultures and animals on earth. Join Micah LeMasters, returned Peace Corps volunteer, and Dragon’s instructor in a talk that recounts the remarkable people who sailed hand hewn outrigger canoes over thousands of miles of open ocean with nothing more than a complex understanding of the stars and waves.
Dates: January and February 2017
Location: Illinois and Indiana

 

Ingredients of Revolution: Lessons Learned from Latin American Uprisings
Speaker: Britten Ferguson
Synopsis: The political history of Latin America tends to be one of brutal dictatorship, oppressive governments, and the grassroots uprisings that sparked revolution. By examining these movements, attendees leave with a sense of simple, actionable things they can do to become more politically interested, engaged, and equipped to have conversations about our own political climate in the U.S.
Dates:  Flexible
Location: Massachusets and Upon Request

 

The Power of Humility: Stories of Biking Across South America
Speaker: Britten Ferguson
Synopsis: During a 6-month cycling expedition with 45 people from all over the world, Britten tells tales of the countless encounters the group had with local people and how they, more than anything else, shaped an incredibly challenging yet rewarding experience and what it illustrates about the complexities of Latin American culture, both modern as well as traditional.
Dates: Flexible
Location: Massachusets and Upon Request 

 

People-powered Sustainability in Latin America
Speaker: Adelaide Nalley
Synopsis: Environmental and economic constraints, accompanied by care for Pachamama (mother earth), have propelled members of progressive communities throughout Latin America to develop and implement creative and sustainable solutions to their communities’ needs. In this chat we learn about permaculture and appropriate technology through the examples of composting toilets, rocket stoves, and biciblenders!
Dates:  February – March 2017
Location: Pacific Northwest and Northern California

 


The Global Speaker Series, Highlights from 2015 – 2016 

 

Citizen Journalism and Civil War
Speaker: James Bowker
Synopsis: How has the new media landscape altered reporting from war zones? This lesson focuses on how much of the work of war reporting has fallen to local residents with a smartphone and an internet connection, and explores the advantages and pitfalls of this growing phenomenon.
Dates: January 2016; February 2016
Location: New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Washington D.C. Area

 

Ethnobotany: Tea and Coca
Speaker: Jackson Cooper
Synopsis: Ethnobotany is the study of people and plants and the relationship between the two. In the history of this relationship, the leaves of two plants have become integral to the cultures that use them. The first is tea, which has been consumed in China for thousands of years and is now shipped to every corner of the world. The second is coca, a plant long held sacred in the Andes and consumed daily, which has more recently turned into a controversial global commodity. As prime examples of the interactions amongst nature, culture, and globalization, Jackson will introduce each of these plants in their cultural contexts and discuss the rituals that surround them, as well as the complex roles they have developed in the modern, globalized world.
Dates: January-February 2016
Location: New York and New England

 

Anthropology for Empathy: Bridging Diversity Through Cultural Understanding
Speaker: Briana Bellamy
Synopsis: What is culture and how are we shaped by it? How does our awareness of its influence impact our perceptions of ourselves and of “others”? In this lesson, Briana will draw on experiences gained traveling in the Himalayas, and explore the ways a deeper understanding of culture can influence how we engage with an increasingly global community.  This talk will encourage students to try on different cultural lenses using specific examples to understand how concepts of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism impact empathy across diversity. 
Dates: January 2016
Location: California

 

International Affairs Through Baseball
Speaker: Brian Reilly
Synopsis: Since before the Civil War, baseball has been the national sport of the United States. Nowadays, it is a firmly international sport, with many of the world’s best players hailing from Central America and the Caribbean, Japan, and elsewhere. As we examine the spread of the sport beyond U.S. borders, we discover a fascinating story of political and economic ties between our country and others, the repercussions of which continue to shape life in both places today. We focus particularly on the baseball-loving nation of Nicaragua, where Brian has lived and worked both as a Dragons instructor and in the non-profit sector.
Dates: January-March 2016
Location: New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, D.C.

 

Why Religion Matters: Speaking of Faith in a Global Context
Speaker: Caitlin McKimmy
Synopsis: We live in a time of great connectivity and great complexity, and it can be overwhelming to encounter world views or belief systems that are drastically different from our own. Through storytelling and discussion, Caitlin will provide tools to help us understand what the word “religion” means, and how to think and act with compassion in a pluralistic world.
Dates: January – April 2016
Location: New England, Illinois and California

 

Women in the Middle East
Speaker: Elley Cannon
Synopsis: The role of women in Arab cultures is complex and often misunderstood. Elley peels some layers away from our common understanding of the Arab female, based her observations and experiences over three years in the Middle East, from Rabat to Cairo to Amman.
Dates: January – April 2016
Location: New England, California and upon request

 

Movements: Reconsidering Power and Democracy from the Streets to the Ballot Box
Speaker: Tim Hare
Synopsis: Tim will trace a history of successful social movements in Bolivia, focusing in on the Water Wars of 2000 and the Gas Wars of 2003 as important case studies in the power of democratic mobilization. Tim will look at why it is dangerous in democracy to limit our political voice to a vote at the ballot box.
Dates:  November 2014 – May 2016

 

Thirty Years of Market Economy in China: The Road to Modernization from 1980 to 2010
Speaker: Chris Yager
Synopsis: Deng Xioaping’s twist of Communist orthodoxy, joint-venture foundation-building, and the economic reforms and government economic stewardship of the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s.
Dates:  January – May 2016
Location: New England, Colorado and upon request