Bridges program in partnership with School of Education wins Senator Paul Simon Award

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages has awarded the Center for the Study of Global Change at Indiana University with the 2014 Senator Paul Simon Award for the Promotion of Language and International Studies.

Established in 1982, the Simon Award is conferred annually on an individual or group from outside the language teaching profession that meets a variety of criteria, including demonstrated leadership in the promotion of language learning and in the advancement of international understanding. The award is named for the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, author of the book The Tongue-tied American and a strong supporter of international education and foreign language learning.

The Center for the Study of Global Change received the award for its Bridges: Children, Languages, World project, which offers exploratory language and culture classes to young learners in Monroe County. One of the key parts of the Bridges project is to provide pedagogical coordination, led by Martha Nyikos, associate professor of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education. Working closely with Vesna Dimitrieska, the Bridges language coordinator and doctoral student in LCLE, the Bridges program offers developmentally-appropriate, engaging language lessons that are closely coordinated for quality and educational impact.

The central goal of Bridges is to ignite interest in learning about different languages and cultures and inspire children to pursue the study of both with excitement and enthusiasm all their lives. Bridges emphasizes less commonly taught languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Mongolian, Russian and Zulu, with classes taught by IU undergraduates who are studying these languages, providing practical teaching experience while developing language skills and cultural knowledge.

“While the Global Center coordinates this important initiative, it would not be able to do so without the collective effort of all its campus and community partners,” said Hilary Kahn, director of the Global Center. “Likewise, Bridges benefits both our campus and the community by creating engaging learning environments for young language learners in the community and for our undergraduates as well.”

As the pedagogical coordinator for Bridges, Nyikos partnered with The Global Center to further expand the reach of Bridges by receiving the federally funded STARTALK grant over the past three years. Nationally, STARTALK is a project of the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), started by former President Bush in January of 2006. The initiative is designed to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages not widely taught in the U.S. In Bloomington, Nyikos has brought together teachers from across the country for professional development in ways to teach Arabic, Chinese and Turkish to youngsters in Bloomington over three weeks during the past three summers.  

The Global Center seeks to create a supportive environment for cutting-edge approaches to global teaching, learning and scholarship. Collaboration and innovation are central to the Global Center’s curricular, research and outreach programs. The primary objective of outreach for the Global Center is to serve as a resource base on international issues, to meet the needs of pre-K-12 teachers, post-secondary educators, business professionals, government officials, media representatives and the general public at local, state and national levels.

“This award, in a sense, also recognizes visionary community partners, like Girls, Inc., the Monroe County Public Library, and the Banneker Center for opening their doors and saying they trust us,” Nyikos said. “They see that the students who normally would not have access to early language learning really do love the language and culture they’re learning and that they’re curious and the world is opening up to them in many ways.”

“Recognition for this project involving the School of Education and several campus partners affirms the impact of our faculty’s teaching and research in the community where we live,” said Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the IU School of Education. “Martha Nyikos, the teachers, and graduate students involved in STARTALK have brought opportunities for area students to engage with languages and cultures they would not otherwise have.  I’m glad that the students have enthusiastically embraced such opportunities.”

The Center for the Study of Global Change is one of 11 federally funded Title VI area studies centers in the School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington. IU is home to more Title VI centers than any other university in the country. Currently, Bridges programs, supported by several of the Title VI centers, take place throughout the city of Bloomington.