Global Speaker Series

Bring the world into your classroom.

Global Issues At Dragons we see exceptional beauty in diversity. And we believe that the experience of connecting with unfamiliar cultures has something to teach everyone. We are dedicated to cross-cultural learning because we know that future leaders will be required to think beyond borders. Part of our work in this world is to bring what we’ve learned abroad back home to share.

Guest Teachers + Engaging Facilitation With this mission in mind, each year we send our best teachers—with years of international education experience—to schools across the United States to share their perspectives and insights with students ready to engage with critical and compelling global questions.

Bold Conversation We invite you to look at some of the conversations our staff are facilitating in classrooms around the country. Whether you are a teacher of Language Studies, Geography, Science, History, Social Studies, Religion, or Art, we hope to have a topic of interest to you. If one of the following class titles piques your curiosity, please get in touch. We’d be happy to coordinate a visit from one of our teachers to speak to your class on the subject. And if there’s a topic you would like to address that’s not on this list, let us know. It’s exactly this type of question-based collaboration with students, schools, and educators that inspires us.

As part of our educational mission, the Global Speaker Series is funded by Where There Be Dragons. There are no costs associated with requesting a speaker.

Check back soon for the topics we are offering in the 2018-2019 season.

Request a Global Speaker


The Global Speaker Series, Topics 2017-2018

 

Damning the Mekong: Gambling with 70 Million Lives
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
Speaker: Jessica Armstrong, B Science with First Class Honours in Ecology (University Medal), The University of New South Wales
Dates: January and February 2018
Location: NY and CT

 

Why Not to Ride an Elephant in Thailand
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.
Speaker: Jessica Armstrong, B Science with First Class Honours in Ecology (University Medal), The University of New South Wales
Dates: January and February 2018
Location: NY and CT

 

From Banana Leaves to Plastic Bags: We are Eating Asia’s Plastic Waste!
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.
Speaker: Jessica Armstrong, B Science with First Class Honours in Ecology (University Medal), The University of New South Wales
Dates: January and February 2018
Location: NY and CT

 

“The Geography of Small Talk”: Greetings Across the Globe
Synopsis: How do you say hello – and what does that reveal about what matters to you? Students will reflect on greetings, from friends to elders, in America and abroad, and consider what those greetings imply about culture, value, and human dignity. Exploring language traditions of West Africa and Senegal in particular, this discussion could also be modified for a French language class.
Speaker: Angelica Calabrese, B.A. Anthropology, Yale University. Angelica’s love of working with students and curiosity about other cultures has led her to work as an educator and writer in West Africa, Southeast Asia, southern Europe, and across the USA.
Dates: January 2018
Location:  NY and CT

 

Encountering the Nacirema
Synopsis: What is culture, and how does it shape our perspective? This interactive discussion will explore what happens when we encounter a different culture, and how this experience often leads us to learn more about ourselves than we might have expected. Drawing on readings, videos, and stories from around the world, we will explore how the place that we come from shapes our experience of the world – and how we can attempt to understand another person’s experience with humility and curiosity
Speaker: Angelica Calabrese, B.A. Anthropology, Yale University. Angelica’s love of working with students and curiosity about other cultures has led her to work as an educator and writer in West Africa, Southeast Asia, southern Europe, and across the USA.
Dates: January 2018
Location: NY and CT

 

The Danger of A Single Story: Colonialism on the African Continent
Synopsis: What stereotypes exist about the African continent – and why? This lesson deconstructs common stereotypes about the African continent to explore the colonial roots of many of the issues perceived to still plague the continent today. Drawing on years of experience in Senegal, Ghana, and Benin, Angelica will explore differences between French and British colonial governments to illuminate the way colonialism continues to affect the continent today.
Speaker: Angelica Calabrese, B.A. Anthropology, Yale University. Angelica’s love of working with students and curiosity about other cultures has led her to work as an educator and writer in West Africa, Southeast Asia, southern Europe, and across the USA.
Dates: January 2018
Location: NY and CT

 

Vivir Bien
Synopsis: Ever notice that the media in the US are always telling us to buy stuff that’s bigger, better and new? In this class we will explore the question, “what does it mean to live a good life?” We will talk about the Andean concept of Sumak Kawsay, which roughly translates to “living well,” which Bolivian and Ecuadorian governments have embraced in varying degrees. This will be an interactive, multimedia presentation, with the option of sections or the entirety taught in Spanish.
Speaker: Leah Erlbaum, B.A. Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic.
Dates: January 2018
Location: VT, MA, NH, ME
***Available in English or Spanish

 

Urbanization in China and the Biggest City You’ve Never Heard of
Synopsis: Drawing on 11 years of life and work experience in China, doctoral research in Anthropology at Stanford University, and a passion for Chongqing’s local history and economic transformation, Jody will introduce students to this city of 12 million and what it can tell us about migration and urbanization in China today. Bonus Topic: For interested Chinese language classrooms, Jody also enjoys performing and discussing Chinese pop songs!
Speaker: Jody Segar, B.A. East Asian Studies, Oberlin College; M.A. Anthropology (Ph.D. ABD), Stanford University. Jody has been pulled back to China again and again since his first visit in 1996.
Dates: October 2017 – March 2018 
Location: CO, CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, VT
***Available in English or Mandarin

 

The Forces Behind Migration From Central America
Synopsis: Migrants regularly risk their lives, and sometimes lose them, to reach the US from Central America. Rich will draw on over four years of community work with groups in Guatemala to explore the motivations that compel people to migrate, the dangers they face, and the social, economic, and historical factors that have led to recent waves of migration. Rich’s first-hand experiences in Central America can help provide much needed context to our national conversation on immigration.
Speaker: Richard Brown, B.A. Anthropology, Columbia University. Born in South Africa, Rich grew up traveling and in 2013 moved to Guatemala where he’s lived since. He edits the website of EntreMundos Magazine, a bilingual human rights and development publication that focuses on grassroots activism. He loves the challenge of traveling and working in foreign countries because it teaches him something new every day.
Dates: January – February 2018
Location: CT, DC, PA, MD, NJ, NY, VA
***Available in English or Spanish

 

Introduction to Islam 
Synopsis: There are over 1 billion Muslims spread across the globe from all different cultural and societal backgrounds. The socio-political events of the last decade and a half have made it more important than ever for Americans to have a basic understanding of and a forum to ask critical questions about Islam. Cara draws on her own observations and interactions based on her years volunteering, working, or conducting research in the Middle East and North Africa.
Speaker: Cara Lane-Toomey, received her M.A. from the American University in Cairo (AUC) in the Department of Middle East Studies (2011) and also holds a B.A. in Peace Studies and Political Science, minor in Middle Eastern Studies, from University of St. Thomas (2005). Cara spent five years living in the Middle East/North Africa and has worked in the field of international education for the past 10 years.
Dates: December 2017 – March 2018 
Location: DC, MD, VA

 

Tips and Tricks for Learning Arabic
Synopsis: The Arabic language is deemed to be a “critical” and also a “super-hard” language by the U.S. government. With an estimated 88 weeks of full-time intensive study required in order to achieve a professional level proficiency, Arabic learners need all the help they can get to master this critical and challenging language. Cara draws on her own lessons learned to provide a variety of tips and tricks to develop conversational abilities across the Arabic-speaking world. These lessons are based on her 13 years as a student of Arabic and her years volunteering, working, or conducting research in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, and Oman.
Speaker: Cara Lane-Toomey, received her M.A. from the American University in Cairo (AUC) in the Department of Middle East Studies (2011) and also holds a B.A. in Peace Studies and Political Science, minor in Middle Eastern Studies, from University of St. Thomas (2005). Cara spent five years living in the Middle East/North Africa and has worked in the field of international education for the past 10 years.
Dates: December 2017 – March 2018 
Location: DC, MD, VA

 

A Price On Rain: The Global Water Crisis and Community Resistance
Synopsis: How often do you think about where your water comes from?  How does it get to your faucet?  Who controls the flow of this life-giving liquid, and who owns it?  We’ll tackle these questions and more as we explore the global water crisis, discuss human rights, and discover the growing commodity trade in clean, safe water.  In addition to discussing changing climate and innovative conservation projects, we’ll learn about indigenous activism and social justice movements defending ancestral water sources.  Case studies focus on local and indigenous resistance efforts in Guatemala, Bolivia, Southeast Asia, and the American West.  From the ocean to the bottle, water unites our world, and who controls it will shape the 21st century.
Speaker: Nikki JonesB.A. Environmental and Social History, UNC Asheville. Nikki has spend a decade blending her passions for travel, education, and environmental conservation, creating immersive cultural and natural world learning opportunities for students and adults in the United States and abroad.
Dates: January 2018 – February 2018 
Location: VT, NH, MA, NC, GA, SC

 

Why Hasn’t Democracy Come to China?
Synopsis: For years, political scientists assumed that China’s economic liberalization and increasing connection to the outside world would certainly bring about democracy and the end of the country’s one-party system. China is now the world’s second largest economy and one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, yet the one-party system is stronger than ever. Has China figured out a way to govern effectively without turning to democracy? Or is the Communist Party’s rule bound to end in failure?
Speaker: Joseph Vincent, B.A. Chinese Literature, Reed College. M.A. Chinese Literature, National Taiwan University. Joseph is a translator and educator based in Chengdu, China.
Dates: January 2017 – February 2018
Location: Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio

 

Seeing 20th Century China Through the Sanmao Comic Book Series 
Synopsis: Since Sanmao was first put onto paper in 1935, this comic book character has captured the hearts of Chinese children throughout the country. Fortunately, Sanmao comic strips are written in very simple Chinese, so even students who are just beginning to learn the language can laugh along with Sanmao’s various exploits and improve their Chinese in the process. In this workshop, we will work together to translate Sanmao comic strips from different periods of the 20th century to see how the values taught in Sanmao’s stories adapted to different political climates across time. From venting frustration at a factory owners in the early communist period, to helping a rich man get back his lost money during the reform era of Deng Xiaopin, the Sanmao comics provide a fascinating lens for understanding 20th century China in all of its complexity.
Speaker: Joseph Vincent, B.A. Chinese Literature, Reed College. M.A. Chinese Literature, National Taiwan University. Joseph is a translator and educator based in Chengdu, China.
Dates: January 2017 – February 2018
Location: Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio

 

Good Intentions with Complicated Outcomes: How to Responsibly Volunteer
Synopsis: To volunteer time is often a wonderful and selfless gift to the world. However, sometimes an act of generosity is actually more harmful than helpful. Having spent years volunteering in different parts of the world and instructing groups in volunteer projects, Kristen has valuable experience in understanding the impacts of ‘voluntourism.’ In this lesson, students evaluate and reflect upon service learning while discussing the ways we can continue to give and serve responsibly in the world
Speaker: Kristen Gianaris, M.A. Anthropology and Sociology of Development, The Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland/The American University in Cairo, Egypt; B.A. Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, Illinois State University.
Dates: January – February 2018
Location: Chicago, IL

 

Power & Privilege
Synopsis:This seminar highlights activities and discussions on the challenging topic of power dynamics in the U.S. Students will learn tools, frameworks, and common language to delve into anti-oppression work. It is reflective, experiential, and participatory. Race, class, ability, gender, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation…bring it on!
Speaker: Sarah White, Ph.D. Anthropology and Social Change, California Institute of Integral Studies (Candidate); M.A. Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management, SIT Graduate Institute
Dates: January – March 2018 
Location: Northern CA

 

Structural Violence 
Synopsis: Students will be introduced to a powerful conceptual framework for understanding the differences between institutional, cultural, and direct violence. The iceberg model of violence pushes students to see through a new lens, deepening their understanding of the world around them. Student-centered, this seminar allows young people to connect their personal experiences to broader processes. If desired, it can be paired with a critical exploration of The American Dream, or a complementary framework of how to find root causes of contemporary social issues.
Speaker: Sarah White, Ph.D. Anthropology and Social Change, California Institute of Integral Studies (Candidate); M.A. Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management, SIT Graduate Institute
Dates: January – March 2018 
Location: Northern CA

 

Seeds of Culture: Food Systems as a Lens for Understanding Culture and History 
Synopsis: In this talk, Ben explores the possibility of using food as a lens for cultural learning and place-based study. Using history, and plenty of personal anecdotes, the talk dives into examples of food as representations of culture and identity, and demonstrates that studying a place’s food systems will inevitably lead to a better understanding of its people, politics, and social justice issues.
Speaker: Ben Mitzner, B.A. Environmental Studies and Political Economy, Lewis & Clark College. Ben’s love for leading groups in the wilderness have taken him from the Rockies to rural Alaska, Asia, and Latin America.
Dates: January – February 2018 
Location: CA, OR, WA

 

Pack it In or Pack it Out? Impacts of Trekking and Climbing in the Himalaya 
Synopsis: From expensive and complicated permitting systems, to unmanaged waste (human and otherwise), the trekking and commercial climbing industry has had plenty of not-so-pretty impacts on local systems in the Himalaya. Learn more about what issues exist, and what is being done to address them.
Speaker: Ben Mitzner, B.A. Environmental Studies and Political Economy, Lewis & Clark College. Ben’s love for leading groups in the wilderness have taken him from the Rockies to rural Alaska, Asia, and Latin America.
Dates: January – February 2018 
Location: CA, OR, WA

 

Empathy, Yes!
Synopsis: Approaching others with empathy is paramount to the Dragons philosophy. It should be paramount for everyone. As tensions in the US rise, and isolationism and fear gain traction in our national rhetoric, it’s more and more important to learn how to de-escalate rather than antagonize. Ben will provide simple, applicable tools that students (and teachers) can use to take violence out of the debate, leave room for all opinions, and drive connection rather than disconnection.
Speaker: Ben Mitzner, B.A. Environmental Studies and Political Economy, Lewis & Clark College. Ben’s love for leading groups in the wilderness have taken him from the Rockies to rural Alaska, Asia, and Latin America.
Dates: January – February 2018 
Location: CA, OR, WA

 

Down the River: The Flow of Water and Wealth
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.
Speaker: David Haffeman, B.A. International Business, Fort Lewis College; B.A. Spanish, Fort Lewis College; Teacher Certification K-12 Spanish
Dates: January – February 2018
Location: Colorado and Southern US
***Available in English or Spanish

 

The Living Inca: Reflections from La Nacion Q’Eros of Peru 
Synopsis: What happened to the Inca? is a common question for anyone interested in the history behind Machu Picchu. The people of la Nacion Q’eros would simply reply, “we’re still here.” Nacion Q’eros offers an informative glimpse into the living traditions of the Inca. And yet, they also represent a complex clash of cultures struggling with the pressures of globalization and development. Accompanied by incredible images, Aaron shares stories from his time living with the communities of Q’eros
Speaker: Aaron Slosberg, M.A. History; B.A. Religion and History, UCLA. Aaron is the Director of Student Programming at Dragons and past field instructor in Latin America and Indonesia
Dates: October 2017 – April 2018
Location: Colorado and other locations by request
***Available in English or Spanish

 

Woven Stories: Telling Stories Through Textiles in Latin America
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 class, students 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
Speaker: Sara Russell, M.A. International Education, Endicott College; Graduate Certificate in Learning Design and Technology, Harvard Extension School; BS Biology/Minor in Environmental Studies, University of Minnesota.
Dates: October 2017 – February 2018
Location: Colorado and other locations by request

 


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