The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending more than $600,000 to teach college students how to be "internationally minded citizens" when learning about climate change, through a new curriculum called the "Global Thinking Academy."
The University of Florida received funding to take 18 college professors on a trip to Belize and provide training to change how undergraduates think in an attempt to turn students into "global thinkers."
"Thinking is a natural process and can often be biased, distorted, partial, uninformed and potentially prejudiced; excellence in thought must be cultivated," according to the grant for the project.
The project, "Teaching Locally, Engaging Globally: Creating a Community of Global Thinking Fellows," began last month, and is scheduled to continue through 2019. The university has received $642,776 in taxpayer funding so far.
The goals of the project include teaching college students how to think about global warming and food security in order to "solve tomorrow’s problems."
"Future college graduates will need to be capable of solving problems related to these issues that span geopolitical borders," the grant said. "In order to solve complex problems of a global nature, students must be able to think critically about them."
The project presents theories on how professors should teach, aside from cultivating "excellence in thought" free from "uninformed" and "distorted" ideas. For instance, in order to effectively teach, professors "must give up the perception that students cannot learn unless a faculty member covers the material."
"The way material is presented has a large effect on whether or not critical thinking takes place," the grant said. "Most faculty use a lecture format in their classrooms, but this approach does not encourage critical thinking by the students. To encourage critical thinking the passive receipt of information must change; faculty must give up the perception that students cannot learn unless a faculty member covers the material."
"In today’s university climate, it is becoming a necessity to provide the world with informed, productive, and internationally minded citizens," the grant said.
Eighteen college professors from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia will be selected to learn the curriculum.
The professors will travel to the popular vacation getaway Belize, to design "the international field experience" part of the Global Thinking Academy during the first phase of the project.
After the trip to the Caribbean, the professors, known as Global Thinking Academy "fellows," will go to Orlando, Florida, for a meeting to develop "global scenario-based reusable learning objects (RLOs) focused on the impact of Climate Change on Global Hunger and Food Security."
The goal of the meeting is for professors to "develop more positive attitudes about integrating global aspects into teaching."
The professors will then use their training in undergraduate classes, teaching approximately 450 students.
Request for comment from the Department of Agriculture was not returned by press time.