Mini Modules

Enrich global curriculum with charismatic guest speakers

Beam an expert from the Dragons community directly into your classroom for the guest lecture (or three) of your choice. Each session is accompanied by a reading or activity. $200/60-minute session or $550 for three sessions with the same or different speakers; 75% of proceeds go directly to the speaker.

MINI MODULE OPTIONS


Latin America, Migration, Indigenous Peoples with Rich Brown
  • The Forces Behind Migration from Central America

Synopsis: Every month, thousands of people from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador embark on a perilous journey to reach the United States.(‘Continue Reading’) Rich draws on five years of work as a reporter based in Central America to explore why people come to the US, the dangers they face along the way, and the social, economic, and historical factors that have led to recent waves of migration. He shares original interviews with community leaders, academics, and participants in the October 2018 migrant caravan.

  • The 500-Year Struggle Heats Up: Native American Activism in Guatemala and Honduras

Synopsis: Central America is the most dangerous region of the world for environmental activists, but Indigenous movements are having a greater impact than ever in their struggle to overcome centuries of marginalization and oppression. Rich draws on original videos and interviews from five years of work as a reporter in Guatemala—a majority-Native American country—to bring Central American voices into the classroom. The presentation explores the goals and perspectives of Native American social movements in Central America, the dangers they face, and the role of the United States in the region.

  • Voices from the Caravan: Migration and the Political Crisis in Honduras

Synopsis: Every month, thousands of Hondurans begin a perilous journey to the US. But what’s driving their exodus? Using original interviews with participants in the October caravan, Rich explores how caravans are organized, why people are fleeing Honduras, and the country’s fascinating historical relationship with the US.


Asia, Ways of Living, Development Studies with Luke Hein
  • Outlaws of the March

Synopsis: Luke draws on years of experience in Asia’s marginal places to challenge the idea that progress and civilization have been uniformly good for people. Through case studies of fugitives escaping to swamps, deserts, and mountains, participants will explore the ills of civilization and alternative visions for a life well lived.

 


Race, Migration, Religion with Hannah Joy Sachs
  • Transracial and Transnational Adoption and Human Rights in the United States

Synopsis: This session explores the complex history of adoption in the United States, both domestically and transnationally. In particular, we focus on transracial adoptees, their identity development processes, and the racial and immigration justice implications of adoption today.

  • Rethinking the term “Refugee Crisis”

Synopsis: This session explores Jewish communities around the world and the Jewish diaspora as well as contemporary Jewish community building amidst more visible anti-Semitism. In these sessions we explore diversity, intersectionality, post colonialism, and more.


Middle East, Travel, Migration, Culture with Mohamed Arguine
  • Introduction to Cross-Cultural Living

Synopsis: When we travel to new places, in addition to be well prepared logistically, we need also to orient ourselves to the cultural norms of the society we are visiting. Understanding the roots of different gestures, behaviors and habits such as eating, sleeping, dressing, gender roles, notions of self vs community, etc will impact our journey, for better or worse. This session presents an introduction to cross-cultural understanding using the “Cultural Iceberg” model: what is visible in the culture is just the tip of the iceberg, supported by much larger and invisible social-cultural structures.

  • Development Studies: Keys to Understanding New Places

Synopsis: Every country we travel to is ranked using different development indices. Different international agencies have their own codes and ways of ranking countries on different scales that can help us understand how poor or rich they are. Understanding what these rankings mean and where a particular country falls on different scales (schooling, health, GDP, life expectancy, economy, inequality, etc) helps present a picture of a country’s society, politics, and place in the global playing field. In this seminar, Mohamed presents and explains the most-used terms in International Development and the primary Agencies that the rank each country (UNDP, World Bank, International Monetary Fund. Then, we discuss how these rankings apply to and impact certain countries, especially in the global south.

 


Conflict Resolution, Storytelling with Steve Roberts
  • Social Cohesion: Diversity vs. Division

Synopsis: The importance of diversity is difficult to argue against; it’s a driver of innovation and a catalyst for discussion and growth. However, as history has taught us, difference also presents challenges. This seminar explores some of the nuances behind diversity versus division using case studies of intentional interventions to promote social cohesion. Specifically, we look at the mechanisms behind the relatively peaceful transition out of Apartheid in South Africa and the complex role of language in post-conflict Sri Lanka. These discussions provide insight into the complexities of achieving social cohesion and allow us to identify individual-level strategies to seek out and grow from diverse environments.

  • Advocating Through Story

Synopsis: Stories can change the course of history. We all have them. From advocacy to entertainment, stories have the power to influence, amuse and evoke an emotional response within the listener. This workshop looks at the social and economic impact of selection of stories, explores ways to structure a story for engagement and impact, and gives participants the opportunity for practice. Drawing on the concepts of global citizenship and leadership, we reflect on the role story can play in creating the impact individuals wish to have on the planet.


Social Justice, Storytelling, Migration with Este and Itzá
  • Homebound: Forced Displacement and the Journey Home

Synopsis: This interactive presentation walks students through a first-person account of forced migration and key realizations along the journey to return home. Building from from their experience of growing from a Guatemalan political refugee in Canada as a child to becoming an avid educator, storyteller and community organizer, Este sheds light on what it means to stumble and come into being as a Central American refugee, an immigrant, and a returnee. Drawing from personal reflections, Este entices critical reflections about cross-border solidarity, everyday anti-racist practice, and the dream of justice for all, helping students to make clear connections between the issues discussed and the many opportunities to get involved in doing something about them.

  • What’s the Story? The Art of Sifting Through Clutter and Crafting a Personal Narrative 

Synopsis: Good stories have the power to teach. Amazing stories have the power to transform. We are profoundly surrounded by stories, seeing and hearing them time and time again through word of mouth, textbooks, ads, television and film. While stories create powerful narratives of how we see and understand the world, we can often become passive listeners of other people’s stories or of diluted versions of stories narrated by folks we have never even met. This interactive presentation entices students to tackle deep reflections about where the stories of who they are come from and encourage them to take charge in crafting their own stories.

  • It’s a Matter of Perspective: The (Crucial) Compass of Intersectionality

Synopsis: Is the glass half full or half empty? Spoiler alert: it’s both, half empty and half full. But how did it get that way? The first step to understanding an issue is asking the right questions. To help us navigate this process we must draw on the magic of curiosity, inquisitiveness and criticality. Considering many sides of the story and the multiplicity of possible scenarios can strengthen our ability to understand everyday issues facing us and our communities. Drawing on the dualism of their lived experiences (man / woman, hetero / queer, Person Of Color / white, Global North-based / Global South-based), Itzá and Este highlight the usefulness of intersectionality as a lens of analysis to help students navigate everyday life in support of equity and transformative change.


China and History with Kristin Gianaris
  • The Way of Tea: Discovering the History, Culture, and Crt of Tea as it Relates to China and the World

Synopsis: According to ancient tales, tea dates back thousands of years to China when a tea leaf blew into Emperor Shen Hung cup of hot water. Since then, tea has been woven into politics, used as medicine, and practiced as an art. This presentation will highlight the journey of tea as it’s made its way from China around the world. Kristen also draws on her tea studies in China and documentary photography work to detail the process and production of tea, and Chinese tea etiquette.


Travel and Ways of Living with Colleen Dougherty
  • Empathy and Travel

Synopsis: Travel is lauded as a noble pursuit, but what specifically is it about travel that broadens one’s horizons? Arguably, empathy may be one of the greatest tangible benefits of travel. This talk examines the connections between empathy and travel, highlighting the latest research into empathy and what it actually is as well as discussion of “ethical travel,” globalization, and Colleen’s own personal experiences throughout her last seven years of global travel. Colleen also discusses ways people can reap the same benefits and growth through opportunities in their own communities.


Latin America, Environment, Travel, and Ways of Living with Adelaide Nalley
  • People-Powered Sustainability in Latin America

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, students learn about permaculture and sustainable technology through the examples of composting toilets, rocket stoves, and biciblenders.

  • Travel-Induced Paradigm-Shifts

Synopsis: What happens when all of your taken-for-granted assumptions of “the way things are” are put into question? This phenomenon is an often unanticipated side gift of travel. Values, priorities, world-views, understandings of community and relationships, and our connection to the planet might be challenged, developed, deepened, or shifted during travel. In this discussion we explore ways our paradigms have been shaken while at home on the road. We talk about the difficulty of having our world-views rattled and the importance of the “aha” moments that can come as a result.


Southeast Asia, Ways of Living, Environment with Greg and Ramphai
  • Saving Seed, Saving Self

Synopsis: Using Pun Pun Seed Saving Center for Self Reliance in Thailand as a model, we discuss the ancient tradition of seed saving and why a return to this practice is paramount in a homogenized world. We investigate the implications of seed sovereignty for both land and culture.

  • Economic localization

Synopsis: Using Pun Pun Seed Saving Center for Self Reliance in Thailand as a model, we discuss what a shift away from corporatized economic globalization might look like and why such a shift is necessary. We investigate what it means to live well in a place and challenge popular understandings of “resilience.”

  • Decolonization of Education

Synopsis: In this talk(s) we discuss the fundamental purpose of education itself. Looking at Pun Pun Seed Saving Center for Self Reliance’s international home school in Thailand as an example, we explore how education itself has been defined, initiated, and repurposed throughout history from different cultural vantage points, how the current globally-dominant form of education has produced many institutionally held views, and the consequences of such views. Ultimately we attempt to deconstruct and rethink what the ultimate goal of education ought to be.

  • Engaged Buddhism

Synopsis: In this talk(s), we take a brief look at the core teachings of the Buddha and how different Buddhist schools interpret these teachings. Finally, we’ll examine how these ancient “precepts” can serve as a globally-oriented framework for change makers and organizers working directly with social and environmental movements.

  • What does it mean to be human?

Synopsis: In this talk(s) we dissect the fundamental convictions we hold that enable us to make meaning. By considering other points of reference, particularly from the vantage point of more culturally in-tact, place-based peoples, we look at how language, land and story influence the very nature of what it means to be human.


Asia Migration, Economics with Ivan Small
  • Postwar Migration and Remittances in Vietnam

Synopsis: This talk is based on Ivan’s 2019 book Currencies of Imagination: Channeling Money and Chasing Mobility in Vietnam (Cornell University Press). It examines the social effects of remittances, or money sent by former Vietna

mese refugees now resettled in the U.S., on transnational kinship relations, memory, and migration desires. Ivan shares the fieldwork from his book, which examines the ongoing cultural and economic impacts that remittances from the diaspora have had on Vietnamese society since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Ivan also speaks about his experiences and ethnographic research in Vietnam—from leading Dragons trips in 2000 to conducting fieldwork as a Fulbright-Hays fellow and leading Smithsonian and college study abroad experiences in more recent years.


Asia and Migration with Marcus Larsen-Stricker
  • The Fortune Cookie in America: Consuming a Fabricated Conception of China

Synopsis: Nearly everyone in an American classroom would recognize a fortune cookie. But what if we told you the same is not true in the Chinese world? Evidence shows that fortune cookies actually originated in Japan. Why then has the fortune cookie come to represent China and influenced evolving conceptions of “Chinese-ness” in the United States? Join Marcus for a fun discussion on the impact of language and translation on cross-cultural image creation.


Southeast Asia, Environment with Brendon Thomas
  • Earth Rights Defenders

Synopsis: Earth Rights Defenders stand between the world’s most powerful corporations and the world’s most valuable natural resources. But these courageous individuals are threatened. Killings of environmental defenders have doubled over the past 15 years to reach levels usually associated with war zones. In this lesson, Brendon will draw on his experience training human rights and environmental activists throughout Asia to discuss primary threats to the environment and indigenous communities, violence faced by activists, and solutions to protect earth rights defenders and the communities that they serve.


Asia, Latin America, Ways of Living, Environment and Religion with Jeff Wagner
  • History’s Most Adaptable Religion: Buddhism’s Spread Across Ancient Asia

Synopsis: As the stories say, the monk Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment under a bodhi tree on the plains of northern India. He spent the rest of his life, 45 years, traveling and teaching. In the subsequent centuries, Buddhism became the first global religion, spreading to nearly all of Asia. Whenever it encountered a new culture, it morphed to fit neatly into pre-existing traditions. How has Buddhism stayed true to its core teachings while blending with shamanism, animism, Taoism, Hinduism, and modern psychology?

  • How Do Westerners Perceive Buddhist Philosophy?

Synopsis: The image of the Buddha has become widespread in the Western world, but the core teachings of Buddhism are often misunderstood. How can the Western mind, rooted in a pervasive Judeo-Christian worldview, grasp the fundamental teachings of Buddhism? Jeff, a student of Thich Nhat Hanh, introduces core concepts of Buddhism in a simple, easy-to-understand way, and discusses how the core teachings of Buddhism are so often misunderstood and misappropriated by Westerners.

  • Climate Change’s Cultural Side

Synopsis: Even with 100% renewable electricity and all electric cars, the United States would still produce more greenhouse gases per capita than Western Europe or China. Our emissions right now are double those of Germany. Out of necessity, communities all over the world have come up with cultural solutions to reduce their consumption and environmental impact. We take a tour of cultures in the Himalayas, the Andes, the Amazon, and the Mekong River Basin to ask what we can learn about solving environmental problems from communities that live more in touch with the natural world.

  • Vivir Bien: Bolivia’s Revolutionary Way of Defining Success

Synopsis: Looking at GDP (the standard way to measure a country’s success), Bolivia the poorest country in South America. But Bolivians have another way of looking at things. Vivir Bien is a Bolivian philosophy of life, politics, and spirituality that rejects Western ideas of success. There, the energy of idealism is alive and well, and people are using Vivir Bien to update their country’s ideas about development and success to include social justice, economic equality, ecosystem health, and cultural preservation. What can we learn from this philosophy?


Latin America, Development, Ways of Living with Jessie Robinson
  • A Better World Is Possible: Exploring More Just Alternatives

Synopsis: The need for systemic change has never been more apparent. This interactive seminar explores alternative forms of community leadership and social organization that exist in our past, present, and future. Students learn about ancestral Andean Ayllus, the #Occupy movement, community resistance to mining in Morocco, and eco-villages. Then, we engage the power of our collective imaginations to envision more just futures.


Asia, Religion with Logan LeFevbre
  • Islam in Modern China

Synopsis: There are more Muslims alive today in China than in Saudi Arabia—about 80 million in China, 30 million in Saudi Arabia—and the religion has a long history there, having arrived in China during Prophet Mohammad’s lifetime. Past Chinese rulers have had many different policies towards believers of all kinds. Who are the Chinese Muslims? How does the current government treat its Muslim citizens? What does it mean to be both Muslim and Chinese in today’s world?


China, Environment, Ways of Living with Jiling Lin
  • People, Plants, and Place

Synopsis: Plants have traveled with us through time as food, medicine, clothing, shelter, beauty products, and more. This session explores eight plant families commonly seen and utilized across the globe, presenting their botanical characteristics and traditional and modern uses. Students learn botanical identification tools for both backyard explorations and global adventures. Achieve a deeper sense of place through understanding of the interconnections between plants and people.

  • The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine

Synopsis: As humans, we reflect natural rhythms, seasonal changes, and universal shifting cycles. The Five Elements theory organizes Chinese medicine’s understanding of everything from life cycles to the minutiae of our organs and body systems. In this session, we examine our places in the world from an ancient Chinese world-view and explore the primary associations of each Elemental phase, including meridian organ systems, seasons, and emotions.


Environment, Ways of Living with Dave Smith
  • The Four R’s

Synopsis: This talk explores our personal experiences and roles within waste production and management. We examine our involvement on individual and societal levels and the historical context and possible futures for waste. What can we do at the individual/household/community/national level to combat waste and create a cleaner, earth-friendly future?


Environment, Ways of Living with Eric Torres
  • Nature’s Guide to Resilience (3 sessions)

Synopsis: In this series of 3 workshops, we learn how to use the fundamental principles of nature to design, implement, and maintain a diverse and resilient environment. In times of global pandemic, nature remains our greatest ally and reminds us that only by reconciling with it can we survive these times of global chaos. Nature can show us how to design anything, from a productive garden to an institutional project, to our own lives as individuals and as families. But to benefit from nature’s teaching, we must forget old patterns imposed by a consumerist society, the state, and the status quo. In these workshops we explore the ethical, attitude, and design principles proposed by the philosophy and methodology of permaculture, a method of designing sustainable human environments, by exploring the experiences of Guatemalan families in creating edible gardens according to permaculture methods.


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