Upper School

World perspectives are deeply embedded in in the curricula of multiple departments. Students in 9th grade study cultural diversity through the Foundations of World History course. The 10th grade English course focuses on world literature. In 11th or 12th grade, all students take an introductory course on international relations and a select few write and present a global thesis at our annual World Perspectives Symposium.

All upper school students take a course on international relations and another course from a list of courses that both touch on world perspectives, such as Challenge 20/20; The Modern Middle East; Introduction to Economics; Greek Literature in Translation: Ancient and Modern; Nature Writing: Observing the Inverted Footprint; New World Voices; Arabic Language and Culture; AP Environmental Science or Environmental Science; and Global Mathematics.

In addition, GFA offers a range of off-campus study and travel options, and several clubs for students to develop their leadership skills.

Concentration in Global Studies

For students who are truly passionate and serious about global studies, GFA offers a Diploma with a Concentration in Global Studies, which can be earned by completing a second course from the approved global studies courses, taking a foreign language through Level 4, undertaking an international experiential learning trip or attending one of the approved off-campus study programs, and taking the Global Thesis course and presenting at the World Perspectives Symposium.



International Relations

This course exposes students to ideas from some of the greatest thinkers in international relations. We explore the different schools of thought and philosophies that have developed in field, and look at their predictably divergent assessments of, and answers to, the main problems in the international arena. We look at a series of questions central to the study of International Relations; issues such as war and peace in the modern state system, the growth of the global economy, the role of International law and supranational institutions, and the challenges posed by nuclear proliferation and terrorism. Students explore the complexity of current affairs through case studies, simulations of international crises, and in-depth analysis of global issues. Throughout the course, discussion is be grounded in real world problems, with the primary emphasis on current global issues and their historical background, as well as on concepts and theories. (½ credit; 1st or 2nd semester, or ½ credit; full year)

International Relations: U.S.-Latin America

This course is an introduction to the field of international relations with a focus on U.S.-Latin America relations. It is taught entirely in Spanish. We begin with an overview of the history of the modern state system and the most influential theories of international relations. Then we trace the history of U.S.-Latin America relations and examine the key issues that tie the two regions together. Latin America is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the U.S., its fastest-growing trading partner, and its biggest supplier of illegal drugs. The region is also the largest source of U.S. immigrants, both documented and not. We will explore these issues to gain a deeper understanding of the complex links between the U.S. and Latin American countries. The course also aims to push students to think critically about the world, write and communicate persuasively, and to view issues from multiple perspectives. Assessments include tests, short reflection papers, simulations, and a project. This course is open to juniors and seniors and satisfies the international relations course requirement. (½ credit; 2nd semester)

The Challenge 20/20 Program

The 20/20 Program is an opportunity, devised by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), for teams of students from its member schools to collaborate with schools outside the United States. Partner schools engage in devising the mutual solution to one of twenty identified global problems, such as deforestation, terrorism, trade rights, etc. This program is offered as a ½ credit, year-long elective to a team of 3-4 seniors. The application process begins in the junior year when interested students apply as teams by jointly identifying five potential global problems of interest and co-writing a piece on the team’s research intentions. Applications are read by the Director of Global Studies. The accepted team begins its research over the summer while it waits for partnering through NAIS. Over the course of the year, students are responsible for creating a website to document and share their work; the course culminates in a presentation during the World Perspectives Symposium. (½ credit; full year)

Global Thesis

This course aims to deepen students’ understanding of the world by guiding them through an independent research project on a global issue. The global thesis process is driven by students’ inquiry about questions of global significance. The course begins with a period of exploration in which students consider a wide range of questions related to their topic of interest. Once they select a research question, they produce a formal proposal in which they must justify the significance of their project. Students then use research methods from various academic disciplines to collect and analyze real-world data. They share their findings in an academic paper and a presentation at the World Perspectives Symposium. Along the way, they develop their critical thinking, research, writing and public speaking skills, as well as the ability to think about the issues from a global perspective. Prerequisite: 3.33 GPA for the entire high school career; statement of interest (1 page, single-spaced); approval by Director of World Perspectives Program (1 credit; full year)

Arabic Language and Culture

This course is intended to teach the fundamentals of the modern standard and Levantine Arabic, within the cultural context of Arabic-speaking people. The course emphasizes the progressive development of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Classes are based on oral dialogue and conversations about how basic social interactions occur. The course also explores the grammatical and structural aspects of the language, where students will cover verb tenses and basic sentence structure. Students also focus on the writing and reading, for a better mastery of written script and oral pronunciation. By the end of the semester, students should be able to comprehend and respond with increasing proficiency to spoken and written Arabic and demonstrate cultural awareness, be able to communicate with others about daily life topics, and have an active vocabulary of approximately 500 words. Materials used for this course are: Alif Baa textbook, Alkitaab fii Taalum Alarabiya part one, and relevant online sources. (½ credit; 2nd semester)

Big Histories of the World

This course explores the intellectual history of ‘big histories’—attempts by individuals in various locations and moments in time to make sense of the universe and their place in it. The course departs from the present: David Christian’s modern story of the origins and evolution of the cosmos, the earth, life and humanity. David Christian’s history is ‘big’ in that it takes a broad view of the past, going back to the origins of the universe and moving forward into the present in great leaps. Each stage in the story involves the development of a greater level of complexity in the organization of matter and energy, life forms, and human systems. Greater complexity also implies greater vulnerability: complex systems might be fragile and risk disintegration into chaos. Students consider these concepts as lenses through which to explore change over time. Then they move back in time and across in space to survey various ‘big histories’ of the world including creation myths in hunting and gathering societies, creation stories grounded on world religions, and the early intellectual roots of the modern creation story. Along the way, they gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which both context and human interactions shape our understanding of history itself. (1 credit; full year; to be offered in the fall of 2016)

Modern Middle East

“9/11 changed everything.” Or did it? Certainly, it forced Americans to pay attention to the Middle East in a way most of us never anticipated. But the issues in this region have a very long history. Now more than ever it seems important to understand the Middle East carefully and on its own terms, and in relation and response to American interests and Foreign policy. The course approaches the region with many goals in mind. First, it provides an overview of the historical and contemporary Middle East, Israel, and Arab / Muslim world by examining the multiple challenges the region is facing, as a people and as individual countries. Second, it will explore American foreign policy and its impact in the region, beginning with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in WWI, and leading to the current  regional conflicts. Finally, it will conclude with one of the most complex, divisive issues of modern world history: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. (½ credit; 1st semester; cross-listed in the History Department)


Off-campus study

Each year, GFA offers qualified students the opportunity to apply to approved off-campus programs of study for a semester or a year. All programs provide rich, alternative learning experiences students could not otherwise experience at home. GFA works with programs such as The Island School, School Year Abroad, and The School for Ethics and Global Leadership. The school will consider other programs on a case by case basis (see our Off-Campus Study Policy).


Travel Programs

The school offers travel opportunities led by GFA faculty to supplement their curriculum through experiential learning, scientific research or leadership development. These programs provide students with a deeper understanding of a particular discipline and the opportunity to conduct original research in global studies, which they can present at the annual World Perspectives Symposium.

This year we are offering a French language-immersion trip to Martinique and a Spanish language-immersion trip to Peru with an emphasis on leadership development. Students with an interest in scientific research in marine biology will have the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

Students who are interested in applying for any of these programs should contact Ward Abel wabel@gfacademy.org.


Global Leadership

Slideshow of photos from these clubs

The World Perspectives Program helps students develop their leadership skills and global competencies by supporting a range of student-led clubs. Students take responsibility for running these clubs: they set annual goals, draw up plans of action, collaborate with each other to implement them, and continuously reflect on their experiences. They gain a deeper understanding of what it means to work with others to attain common goals and greater confidence in their ability to lead.

Global Student Leaders Summit

During spring break, a group of students travels to a foreign country to take part in an immersive tour and a two-day, problem-solving leadership conference, tackling significant global issues in places where they come to life.  Students learn from experts such as Al Gore, Jane Goodall and Sir Ken Robinson. Guided by design thinking, U.S. and local students work together to create and present their own solutions to a specific global issue. This year’s conference will take place in Costa Rica and focus on addressing environmental sustainability. Next year’s conference will take place in Dubai and focus on the future of energy. Each summit helps empower students today to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Model United Nations (MUN)

Founded by students in 2009, this club has grown from 10 students who attended a single MUN conference in New York to a group of over 40 students who travel to multiple conferences per year, including the Harvard University MUN conference in Cambridge, the Georgetown University MUN conference in Washington D.C., and the Berlin MUN conference at the John F. Kennedy School in Berlin, Germany. Through these conferences, students develop their public speaking skills and their ability to network with students from all over the world.

International Youth Film Festival (IYFF)

The mission of the IYFF is to help emerging filmmakers from schools around the world reach the broadest audience possible and to generate international dialogue through film. Two students who have a deep passion for filmmaking and interest in world perspectives founded the festival in 2013. In its inaugural year, the festival attracted hundreds of submissions from filmmakers living in multiple countries, including Peru, Israel, Poland, Italy, and China. To learn more about the festival, visit www.iyfilm.org.

Entrepreneurship Club

A small group of four student entrepreneurs found the Entrepreneurship club in 2013 because they needed a space to dream up start-up ideas in the technology sector. With over 30 members today, the club has become a hub for students to exchange ideas, give each other feedback, and get inspired by interacting with guest speakers who are currently working as entrepreneurs.


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