The World Course

The World Course is the heart of Avenues. Spiraling throughout the curriculum from nursery to 12th grade, the World Course teaches a combination of history, geography, social studies, economics and politics—all from a global perspective rather than an exclusively Western one. The course takes students on a 15-year journey across intellectual, cultural and geographical boundaries, structured around a series of questions that begin with the self and expand gradually to encompass cities, civilizations and the future of the planet. “Who am I?” leads to “What is community?” leads to “Why do civilizations rise and fall?” leads to “What kind of impact can I make on the world in my lifetime?” There are no easy answers to these questions; guiding students to find their own is one of the ways we prepare them to live meaningful lives in a future we cannot imagine.

The aim of the World Course is not simply to educate students about the world, but to cultivate global citizens in the deepest sense: young people who think creatively, critically and empathetically about world issues; who are at ease beyond their borders and aware that their behavior makes a difference in our ecosystem; who approach problems from multiple perspectives and collaborate instinctively to solve them; and who know how to ask the right questions and are driven to do so.

This ambitious curriculum was designed after years of research, with guidance from Professor Fernando Reimers of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and his team of graduate students. Professor Reimers has dedicated his career to studying and advocating for the kind of education that will enable students to live successful and meaningful lives in the globalized 21st century. Today, the World Course continues to evolve to reflect our rapidly changing reality.

“Offering high-quality global education is an imperative of our time. Students must be deliberately prepared, academically as well as ethically, to seize the opportunities offered by an ever more integrated world. Helping to educate, stimulate and enhance global competency among Avenues graduates is the goal of our work and of the Avenues World Course.”
– Dr. Fernando Reimers
Ford Foundation Professor of International Education, Director of the International Education Policy Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education

EARLY LEARNING CENTER

In the Early Learning Center, the World Course enables our youngest learners to develop a sense of identity. Through studies of self, family and the classroom, nursery students learn how they are similar to, and different from their classmates and how they each play a unique role within their family and classroom community. In pre-kindergarten, students build upon those experiences by studying the larger communities of their school, neighborhood and, finally, their city. Kindergarten students reflect on their own infancy and study how babies grow; they also expand on the theme of identity in a unit on creative self-expression.

LOWER DIVISION

In the Lower Division, the World Course encourages students to become active citizens in their school, their community and, ultimately, the world. From self and community, the curriculum branches out, leading students to investigate basic human needs (food, water, shelter), geography and ancient civilizations. Learning is driven by inquiry, and students are asked to contemplate a series of big questions as they move towards 5th grade: What do I know about myself? What are people’s basic needs and how do they meet them? What is a civilization and how are the world’s civilizations different or similar? What are resources and how do they influence people? Students develop global awareness by comparing the cultures of people who live in different regions and making connections between their own ways of life and those of diverse peoples around the world.

UPPER DIVISION

In the middle grades, the World Course takes the form of an interdisciplinary humanities program that builds the foundation for global citizenship. In 6th grade, students focus on the rise and fall of ancient civilizations, including technological advances and cultural diffusion along the Silk Road. 7th grade centers on the major innovations and revolutions that shaped the modern world, including the Enlightenment, the Columbian Exchange and the Industrial Revolution. After this epic sweep of world history, in 8th grade students home in on New York City as an example of how a global city comes of age, shaped by forces of demography and urbanization.

In the upper grades, students select World Course electives, each of which focuses on a 21st century global issue. Current electives cover topics such as modernization and globalization; gender, sex and race; and the economics of war and peace. Students especially interested in social innovation can opt for a special project-based elective on the theory and practice of entrepreneurship in a global context. The upper grades World Course curriculum recognizes students as agents of change, allowing them to expand their understanding of the world while encouraging them to put that understanding to practical use.

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Recent Articles from OPEN, our news and discussion blog

October 11, 2018

The Big App: Here Is New York

by Yumi Nakanishi, Technology Integrator


Last spring, the entire 8th grade participated in an interdisciplinary project called the Big App: Here is New York. Through this project, each student created and published an app that highlighted communities in New York City.  

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by Spencer Baron, Upper Division Chinese Teacher


Learning to ask and answer directional questions is viewed by some as the most important skill needed to survive abroad. If you lose your way, you need to understand someone when they give you an answer more complex than a finger pointing in a general direction. If applied in context, learning these skills can prove to be quite fun.  

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This fall, the 2nd graders in the Jellyfish and Manta Ray classes are building the classroom of their dreams.  

September 28, 2018

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by Ron Widelec, Upper Division History Teacher


This past spring, nine students, including a visitor from our new campus in São Paulo, Brazil, signed up to spend a month learning about game design. This course was part of Fifth Term, a period of four weeks during which upper grades students complete group and individual projects on subjects that spark their passion.  

September 20, 2018

HIP Unbound: A Report from Columbia’s Innovative Teaching Summer Institute

by Brady Smith, High Intensity Practice (HIP) Thinking Instructor


At Avenues, we have a tendency to think of high-intensity practice as belonging solely to the HIP Thinking program. However, shifting from HIP Thinking to Face Your Fears made it clear to me how essential the methods we’ve developed in the HIP program can be to helping students quickly develop competency in discipline-based skills as well.  

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