Teaching Traveling: Welcome Christen, the founder of an innovative educational travel nonprofit called Nobis World that may have a trip you’d be interested in!
Christen, tell us a bit about your background and organization.
Christen: My name is Christen Higgins Clougherty, Ph.D. I live in Savannah, GA. I have been teaching in some capacity for more than 15 years. I’ve taught students from grade 1 through graduate students. One of the things I love about teaching is the adventure, no matter how well I plan, my students and I always seem to reach a new place or explore an unexpected topic – much like my experience with traveling.
Perhaps that’s why I love both teaching and traveling. I am the founder of the Nobis Project, an educational non-profit organization. We have developed a new program, Nobis World, as a way to expand teachers’ knowledge and experiences through travel and, in turn, enrich their students’ learning and global awareness.
TT: Fascinating! Why did you create Nobis World?
C: The idea for Nobis World came about from Nobis Project’s work with schools. I frequently would have conversations with teachers about how they wanted to incorporate more global lessons or global service-learning projects but often felt intimidated about where to start and how to handle the complex issues surrounding globalization. They also were looking for ways for their classrooms to have a direct connection with an international community, but didn’t know where to start.
With help from teachers from various backgrounds, Nobis World was developed to meet these two goals. The three unique features of our programs include: culture immersion, service-learning projects with the local community, and hands-on professional development workshops in the Nobis Global Action Service-Learning Model.
I developed and researched this model during my Ph.D. work, and teachers currently use the model in classrooms across the country. The model provides teachers with a framework for implementing globally focused service learning projects in their classrooms.
So in short, teachers leave our program having formed partnerships with a global community and prepared to lead globally focused projects in their classrooms.
TT: Where does your organization help teachers travel?
C: For our inaugural year, teachers can travel with Nobis World to the Dominican Republic or Savannah, Georgia for an experience of a lifetime. Also note that we will add a new program every year. Visit our website each September to find out what new program will be offered. Here is a summary of two of our programs:
Preserving African-American & Gullah History in the Lowcountry
In this five-day program teachers examine the preservation of African-American history and culture on Georgia’s coastal islands and in the historic city of Savannah. By engaging in a service-learning project and cultural immersion, teachers learn how local heritage organizations preserve African-American history.
This program explores the themes of class, race, slavery, and the pursuit of education within African-American communities. This program considers the histories of both the rural Gullah culture on Sapelo Island, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia as well as the urban environment of Savannah.
Building Global Relationships, Understanding Global Poverty
This eight-day excursion to the Dominican Republic (DR) takes place in the Caribbean seaside village of Cabarete. Here teachers learn about the history of the DR, experience local culture, and develop relationships with community members.
Teachers will engage in service-learning with the Mariposa DR Foundation whose work focuses on the health, education, and general welfare of Dominican and Haitian immigrant families living in poverty. Teachers will form reciprocal partnerships with the Cabarete community for future collaboration with their classrooms.
TT: What does the Nobis World Professional Development component consist of?
C: Teachers begin their professional development during a pre-departure e-learning component that focuses on the Nobis Big Ideas of history, power, relationships, global citizenship, and cultural responsiveness. The e-learning activities might include: short readings, videos, and activities all related to the program location.
The goal is to arrive at the program site with a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural context of the place you are about to experience. While on site, teachers participate in professional development training in the Nobis Global Action service-learning model as well as workshops on how to use technology as a tool for global civic engagement.
The post-travel e-learning is designed to allow teachers to help one another, with the support of Nobis Project, as they translate their experiences in classroom projects.
TT: Does your program offer any financial aid or discounts?
C: We are committed making Nobis World programs as affordable as possible. We do offer a limited amount of scholarships, and teachers who register as a group can also receive a discount of up to 10%.
We highly encourage teachers from the same schools or districts to attend together, as then they can support one another once they return to their classrooms. We also want to extend a special discount to Teaching Traveling readers: Just mention reading this article on the application, and you can receive a 5% discount!
We have also spent time searching for grants that teachers can apply to offset the cost. We’ve compiled a list on our website along with a “grant writing tips” guide. With a small amount of time and energy teachers may be able to have a part or their whole trip paid for. To see the guide and list, visit our Funding Opportunities page on our website.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
C: One thing that I have learned from traveling is that experiencing another place or culture changes the way I see the world. My travels are one of the most impactful experiences of my life. And as much as I like to experience and learn about other cultures, what I end up learning about most is about my own culture. As if traveling provides a mirror to reflect back to me what it means to be from the US.
For example, my first trip out of the country was to Ghana and when I returned one thing that I was most struck by was my own grocery store. In the markets I visited in Ghana the smells were overpowering!
Open bags of fresh spices, ripening fruits, etc. But when I came home and walked into the produce department of my local grocery store I was struck by the fact that is totally odd that I’m surrounded by all this food and there is no smell (except the faint remnants of cleaning supplies)! And then I started to think about how far all the foods I eat travel in order to land on my plate.
We are privileged to be able to buy and eat foods from nearly any place around the world. Building on this idea, I wondered how could teachers demonstrate this type of an “ah hah” moment in the classroom? Nobis World is designed to help teachers teach students about our global interconnectedness, about the privileges we have and at what costs.
We’ve developed the Nobis Big Ideas (history, power, relationships, global citizenship, and cultural responsiveness) which we think are essential elements that must be explored in order to teach about global issues. I hope that many of your readers will travel with Nobis World. We believe that the more teachers travel, the more students will benefit!
TT: Where can teachers learn more about Nobis World?
C: Please visit our website at nobisworld.org to look over all the program details (including draft itineraries). Registration is currently open for these programs and ends February 1. Space is limited, so do apply early. Anyone with questions is welcome to contact me by email at [email protected] or by phone at 912.403.4113.
TT: Thanks so much, Christen! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs AroundTheWorld L.com Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational cartoons. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!