Global issues come home for Summit Academy studentsJun 28, 2018 05:00PM ● By Jet Burnham
Jacob Vanderlinden learned that Afghanistan used to be a beautiful center of trade. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Jacob Vanderlinden plans to be in Afghanistan in the next few years. He will be joining the Air Force after graduation next year. He is preparing now, by focusing his final history class project on terrorism in Afghanistan.
“I want to learn about terrorism and why people do it and how we’re stopping it,” said Vanderlinden.
This is the kind of connection Callie Geisler, 11th-grade U.S. history teacher at Summit Academy High School, wanted her students to make.
”I think it's very helpful for students to not only know something's happening but acknowledge something's happening,” she said. “It’s easy to live in your bubble—the Bluffdale bubble.” To step out of the limited perspective of their everyday lives, she challenged her 11th graders to research a U.S. foreign policy from 2000 to the present, decide if they agree or disagree with it and predict what will happen with the issue in the next few years.
Kaijsa Peterson researched the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and is hopeful a solution can be reached if both sides try harder.
“I feel like Russia and Ukraine have always been some of the scarier countries—with the communism and everything,” she said. “After I learned more about this, it's definitely scary because it’s not over.”
She hopes it will be a more peaceful situation by next year, when she plans to teach English in Russia and Lithuania for eight months.
Cole Allen chose to learn about how the U.S. is dealing with ISIS. He said he realizes it directly affects him because it affects the cost of fuel for his car.
“If we cut off their oil supply, we either have people die or we pay more for gas,” he said. “I don’t want to pay more for gas, but I’m not having people die for that.”
He said he feels positive about the future because the U.S. has learned a lot about ISIS and similar groups.
“We recognized how to prevent this in the future, which is super important because this is going to happen again and again because history repeats itself,” he said. “The more that we recognize it, we detect it earlier so that we don’t have terrorist attacks.”
Allen loves history and said Geisler has been a great teacher.
“Her passion and how much she cares about it makes it fun for us and makes it super easy to show up and be a part of the class,” he said.
Carson Wheaton said Geisler provides activities that involve students.
“She makes history apply to you,” he said. “It’s not just a history class; it’s like ‘how does this apply to you?’ and ‘why are you learning this?’ and gives us a reason why this is important.”
Students displayed their final projects on trifolds and held a Foreign Policy Fair to share their research with their peers.
Astchyn Brady used stats, graphs and numbers to emphasize the enormity of the conflict over man-made islands in the South China Sea.
“The U.S. stepped in because they felt like this is a big thing for us—90 percent of world trade goes through the South China Sea,” he said.
Being a stats-oriented person, he told the story through numbers—1,200 islands, $5.3 trillion in trade and 11 billion drums of oil per year.
“The numbers paint the picture bigger,” he said. “If you didn’t have the numbers, you’d say ‘China is building a lot of islands.’ But that doesn’t say anything—you need exact numbers.”
He and his partner concluded that the UN should introduce a bill to implement tariffs and sharing the territory among the surrounding countries.
Foreign conflicts happen on the other side of the world but the Israeli–Palestine conflict hits close to home for Caroleena Vidal. She has family living in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where they are impacted by the violence and the refugees. She said researching the issue with this perspective opened her mind.
“I strongly want peace between the two states, but because I’m here and I’m very young, I can’t do anything about it besides inform others,” said Vidal.
Geisler hopes to inspire students to get involved in world issues through local nonprofit organizations. By sharing their knowledge with peers at the policy fair, she hopes other students are inspired to get involved as well.
“I try to push them to look outside of what’s happening in their own little lens of life,” said Geisler. “It’s all about perspective and making them realize there’s more to this world than just what’s right in front of them and that they can actually do something if they want to.”