By Sue Ann Rybak

Chestnut Hill College will host this year's 7th Annual United Nations Conference on Teaching Peace and Human Rights.

Chestnut Hill College will host the 7th Annual United Nations Conference on Teaching Peace and Human Rights on Thursday, March 29, at 9:30 a.m. in the East Parlor of St. Joseph Hall.

The keynote speaker will be Ramu Damodaran, deputy director for Partnerships and Public Engagement in the United Nations Department of Public Engagement in the United Nations Department of Public Information’s Outreach Division and chief of the UN’s Academic Impact Initiative, which aligns institutions of higher learning and research with the objectives of the United Nations and each other.

The two-day conference, a collaboration between Adelphia University in New York and Chestnut Hill College, is sponsored by Global Education Motivators (GEM) and will feature experts in the field of human rights, literacy, sustainability and conflict resolution. GEM is a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose goal is to teach peace and human rights in a multicultural world.

“At its core, Chestnut Hill College engages its students in service with an emphasis in both local and global contexts,” said Stephanie Raible, a volunteer for GEM. “With renowned faculty in the disciplines of human rights and peace education, as well as its socially conscious student population, the college has truly been the perfect host and partner for the conference.

“The topics covered at the conference reflect the breadth of educators that serve in our community and will provide them with local and international perspectives on educational practice.”

Participants will have the opportunity to converse with Rayla Melchor Santos, founder and president of McKinley Hill International School and Leadership Academy for Children, Lipa, the Philippines. She also is president of I am S.A.M. Foundation and founder of Cyber Kids Best (CKB168).

Participants also will discuss human rights resources with Ellen Firestone, of Youth for Human Rights, play human rights games with Medard Gabel, of BigPictureSmallWorld, interact with students and teachers from the Philadelphia High School for Peace and Social Justice, and learn more about distance learning for human rights in the classroom.

On day two of the conference, participants from both institutions will have the opportunity to interact via video conference with educators from many nations, including Karachi, Pakistan; Chennai, India; Burnaby, Canada; Mexico City, Mexico; Manila, the Philippines, and with officials at the United Nations.

The conference was started by Wayne Jacoby and Dr. Rita Verma, founders of GEM, almost 31 years ago.

Jacoby, who taught history for about 30 years in the Springfield School District said he and his colleagues realized a need “to help teachers do better work with the changing students in their classrooms” many of whom were from different parts of the world.

“They [students] were being mainstreamed before they understood English and the culture here,” he said.

Jacoby applied for and received a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council to start GEM.

“This is our 31st year, and we are now educating a second generation,” he said.

Jacoby explained why such conferences are important:

“It’s part of the 21st century education real-world, real-time experience. It [education] doesn’t always cover the big picture. This conference and others we do with students allows them to broaden their perspectives by interacting with their colleagues in different parts of the world.”

The conference can stand alone as an independent conference, but it is also part of the preparation for a second day on March 30 at the United Nations.

“There are four C’s that are the central part of 21st century education – not just in the United States but in other countries, as well – that cover things like communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking,” Jacoby said.

The workshops will teach educators a way to be innovative in the classroom, Jacoby said, pointing out that the goal is to get teachers to think “outside the box and getting them involved with real-world real-time experiences.”

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