Global Citizenship

Sidwell Friends students learn about other cultures and global interconnections across the curriculum and in all divisions of the School, from the earliest grades through graduation.

The School’s global programs are designed to build on this strong academic foundation, augmenting and complementing the curriculum with cultural activities, virtual exchanges, travel experiences, school-to-school collaborations, experiential fieldwork, and other activities that put learning and Quaker values into practice through global service. These programs prepare students for responsible global citizenship by

  • fostering self-awareness, empathy, cultural understanding, and respect for difference;
  • raising critical awareness of our community’s global position of power and privilege;
  • decentering students and challenging worldviews in which they are the focal point;
  • creating an environment in which learning carries an imperative of moral action, inspiring students to let their lives speak; and
  • promoting sustainable development through programs that improve living and environmental conditions worldwide and that build long-term institutional and human relationships.

Chinese Studies

The John Fisher Zeidman '79 Chinese Studies Program

Lower School: Explore

In Lower School, global programs help students develop an open and global mindset through the use of essential questions or queries. In carving a path that will guide students throughout their Sidwell Friends experience, teachers stimulate thinking and inquiry about the nature of perspective while encouraging students to raise questions, to discuss and debate, to demand justification and support, and to expect answers to change as understanding deepens. Explorations of cultural roots, sameness, and difference prepare students to become global citizens who can celebrate every individual’s unique qualities as well as our shared humanity.


First graders interview Head of School Bryan Garman as part of their study of community

First graders interview Head of School Bryan Garman as part of their study of community.

Second graders listen to Gyasi Ross, a Native American activist, speak about issues surrounding the name of the Washington football team.

Fourth graders spend the year studying Ancient China, including traditions such as Lunar New Year.

  • Studying Our Roots: Kindergarten families are invited to bring stories, objects, and food that represent and celebrate the cultural history of each family.
  • Learning about Community: First graders learn about how communities are structured through a study of our school community, the neighborhood around the school, and the greater metropolitan area.
  • Focus on Perspective: Second graders learn about perspective through interviews with people of Native American descent in preparation for studying the history of Native Americans in our region.
  • Historical Perspectives: Third graders study the American colonial period through the lens of Quaker history, with a focus on seeing history through many lenses.
  • Ancient Civilizations: Fourth graders study ancient civilizations, including ancient China. They connect with Upper School China fieldwork program students to learn about their experiences.

Middle School: Experience

Students in Middle School begin to understand the world by discussing current events, studying the culture and history of many areas of the world, and establishing virtual and sustainable relationships with established institutions. The Minimester program, a week of experiential learning before spring break, provides opportunities for students to take the global experience to a new level by traveling to diverse regions and engaging with other cultures. Available to 7th and 8th graders, these travel programs are a key link in the integrated progression from exploration in the Lower School toward engagement in the Upper School.

During Minimester, students traveled from Paris to the Normandy coast, where they learned about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy during WWII.

Middle Schoolers spent Minimester immersed in the culture of the Amazon rainforest. They got to know local people, studied the flora and fauna of the area, and took hikes and boat trips.

The Minimester group visiting China participated in a workshop focused on painting opera face masks in Beijing. They also visited the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Temple of Heaven.

  • Amazon Adventure Minimester: Students travel to the Amazon River basin in northern Peru to learn about the rainforest ecosystem and the rich culture of the indigenous peoples of this area.
  • Bootham Quaker School Exchange: In this two-way exchange, students travel to Bootham, England, every other year for homestays and immersion into a British Quaker school.
  • Sweetgrass Spring: Exploring Gullah History, Culture, and Environment: Students stay at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, and learn about the distinct culture and language that have survived among the descendants of formerly enslaved African people.
  • War, Peace, and the Arts: Explorez l’Esprit en Normandy, France: Students learn about the political, social, and military events of World War II and reflect on the meaning of war, peace, and human connection.

Upper School: Engage

Global programs in the Upper School are a culmination of the exploration and experience programs in Lower School and Middle School. Students are asked to commit to a more substantial connection with the world through global experiential learning and global community engagement.

Global experiential learning programs may involve semester or summer courses abroad and may accrue academic credit. Students travel to the cultural and environmental areas they are studying, where they take part in hands-on fieldwork and reflect on their experiences. These courses use a range of curricular programs to accomplish the overarching objective of learning through immersion.

Travel programs may contain a service dimension, but the main focus is on learning in and about a place, with as much immersion in the cultural context as possible. Students participate in homestays and grassroots experiences—such as cycling, trekking, or manual labor—away from hotels and tour buses.

Global community engagement programs are substantial service or community engagement travel programs that have a learning dimension before and during the trip, with a follow-up after the students return. These projects count toward fulfilling the 60-hour service or community engagement graduation requirement, and students can incorporate the follow-up into their senior projects. Global community engagement projects include these four features:

Students in China pause to explore a roadside temple in Yunnan.

Upper School students help rebuild houses in West Virginia.

  • Commitment: Students participate in rigorous programs that demonstrate their commitment to strong community partnerships, incorporate learning and reflection, and require follow-up activities.
  • Social Justice and Solidarity Focus: Projects address root causes of social issues and educate students on understanding social inequality, oppression, and discrimination. Students work together for a more just society in solidarity with community leaders.
  • Decentering: Students step out of their comfort zones and live in grassroots contexts that challenge their position in the world; projects confront the issue of power and privilege directly. The dissonance students experience is then mediated by reflection and processing the learning components with trip leaders.
  • Reciprocity: Students engage other cultures with respect and in an attitude of humility; projects follow guidelines for participatory development and incorporate measures that promote collaboration, equality, and reciprocity. Whenever possible, projects that involve institutional relationships are mutually beneficial.
  • New Orleans Quaker Work Camp: Students engage with environmental justice issues in New Orleans in partnership with the William Penn House.
  • Rwanda Summer Study; Stories of the Land: The Promise of African Youth: Students spend three weeks in Rwanda as part of the 20th Century Africa class, which is devoted to furthering their understanding of the continent.
  • Japan Voices of Peace: Japan Language and Culture Summer Study: Students learn about the culture and history of Japan, visit Hiroshima to learn about nuclear nonproliferation, and foster cross-cultural friendships while living with homestay families.
  • Jamaica Library Project, Kew Park, Jamaica: Students connect with the people and culture of Jamaica and work on sustainable literacy justice while exploring the socioeconomics and history of Jamaica.
  • School Year Abroad: Sidwell Friends students may participate in School Year Abroad, a program in which juniors or seniors spend a year in Beijing, China; Rennes, France; Viterbo, Italy; or Zaragoza, Spain. Students pursue a full academic course of study while living with host families supervised by the program.

Students on the Rwanda Summer Study learn about African art and play traditional drums.

Explore Our Global Classrooms