Educate, Global Health, Grad School, Photography, Travel, Writing

Where In the World is Gretchen… Grad School!

I’m Alive – Really!

One month ago to the day I left wonderful Nigeria.

And two weeks ago it felt like I dove off the high dive and landed with a big, overwhelming splash into grad school at the University of Oregon.

It is a crazy, intense program of 15 months with the bulk of the work in the summers (16 credits in 4 weeks, each summer) so that we only have to take a couple of online research classes during the year while we teach full time.

The program is in Geography Education, and I am focusing on global health.

Its a big, broad term, I know.

Disease Migration!


 Famine and Drought!

UN geraten bei Versorgung von Fluechtlingen aus Somalia an Grenzen

No Toilets!
Where Does All the Poop Go?

Not a Drip to Drink!

Yes, all that is incredible and overwhelming and worthy of researching.

But I want to focus on educating the individual.  In my research, I have found that although we have health education in many of our US schools, it is not as prevalent (I’m being generous here) in developing countries where reading and writing are deemed the most important academic subjects.  And I agree, they are vital.  But without understanding basic sanitation and nutrition to name just two areas, students easily fall ill to preventable diseases that keep them out of school so that no learning of reading and writing happens.  I want to focus on that word ‘prevention’ to keep students in school and learning.

Over the last few years I have been reading amazing books like Polio; An American Story by David Oshinsky and The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, on how diseases have moved and evolved within societies.  And following movements like World Toilet Day and the UN’s World Water Day that are shedding a light on the lack of basic rights for people all over the world.

Now in grad school, researching what efforts are being made to educate people, I have found a huge void in health ed globally.  So I have decided to combine my interests in international development and global health and start to work on a K-12 Geo-Health Education curriculum that will focus on the health of: the person, the community and the planet – for developing country schools.  This curriculum will be a multifaceted way of learning about health through geography, language arts, and social studies.

This summer I am focusing on outlining the whole program and then zooming in on the 10th grade and developing the 12 week unit.  My plan is to implement (test drive!) this Geo-Health curriculum in my 10th grade Global Perspectives class in China next winter.  I know it won’t be the  type of school that I am focusing on, but it will be an opportunity to try it out and have the students help me fine tune it.

Thinking of how to further test the curriculum, I met with the Fulbright rep here on campus today to discuss the realities of a proposal for a Fulbright.  My proposal is to take the 10th grade Geo-Health curriculum to two schools; one in Tanzania and one in Mexico, train the local teachers on the curriculum and then have them implement it.  I would be training and documenting (video-tapping, photographing, interviewing students, teachers, parents, community members and blogging) as well as being the assistant teacher.

He really liked my idea – yay!

So now to apply by October.  One big worry is that last year over 800 people applied for the 5 fellowships.  He suggested I find other funding agencies to apply to as well… just in case.  Good idea!

So, that is where I have been this last month.  Sorry I disappeared.  It has been a bit of a plunge, but I am so excited about moving forward that I am dreaming at night about how this might help people all over the world.  Vital knowledge that needs to be shared.

Want to help?

*  Know of an artist to help make fun drawings for my curriculum worksheets?

*  Have an idea for a great name for the project or the curriculum?

*  Know of any funders that might be interested in the bigger plan (development and testing of the entire K-12 geo-health curriculum)?

*  Know of any schools around the world that might be interested in talking to me about future implementation?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

I’ll update again soon.

Have a great weekend!


4 thoughts on “Where In the World is Gretchen… Grad School!”

  1. awesome.. that sounds amazing and so needed… I will think about a possible artist and name… wish we could hang out, not sure of my plans now for Oregon, let’s talk on the phone, call me – same ## xoxo

  2. glad you are back- look forward to catching up with you when time permits-all the best

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