GAP YEAR PROGRAMS CURRICULUM

TBB's Gap Year Program Curriculum

Thinking Beyond Borders gap year programs are outstanding opportunities to learn about real issues that matter to real people in the real world. Each of our programs combines work with local experts, deep cultural immersion in homestays, and an exciting seminar series. What makes learning with TBB different from other programs? Your learning is about you. There are no tests, essays, grades in our programs -- your learning isn't about performing for other people. Rather, you'll be surrounded by incredible learning opportunities and resources each day. You'll be supported by Program Leaders who are exceptional educators. And, you'll be part of a community of learners preparing for a lifetime of meaningful and fulfilling work.

Essential Question

All aspects of the curriculum and all seminars in TBB programs for gap year students are driven by the following Essential Question: How can I be a proactive agent of change?

Guiding Questions

Throughout TBB programs, students engage a set of Guiding Questions critical to understanding their relationship to the Essential Question. The following questions are interwoven into daily seminars:

  • What is "development?"
  • Who am I?
  • Is everyone in the world interconnected?
  • What do we assume about others and ourselves?
  • Who is responsible to develop whom?

Seminar Format

TBB seminars challenge students to explore their daily experiences and place them in the context of international development. Seminars take various forms, including lectures and discussions with local experts, presentations, and debates. Students complete readings that address the curricular themes and the current context of the programs.

Gap Year Programs Student Blogs

Curriculum Units

01

Development Theory & Practice

What is “development?” Students explore the economics, politics, and social structures of development. Students examine a range of models and examples of practice. A deep questioning of the assumptions underlying the theory creates a foundation of understanding upon which students will build throughout the program.
02

Natural Resources & The Environment

What does it mean to be “environmentally responsible?” Students examine the human systems of production and consumption holistically. They examine their personal impact, cultural assumptions that lead to destructive acts, and technological possibilities for sustainability.
03

Education & Economic Growth

How can education empower people as proactive agents of change? Students engage a broad range of issues related to the purpose, economic potential, and oppressive potential of education.
04

Sustainable Agriculture

What does food mean to society? Students investigate the culture, economics, and technology of agriculture. They determine why some models fail while others offer sustainable means of feeding the world’s population.
05

HIV/AIDS & Public Health

Why are so many nations failing to effectively address HIV/AIDS and protect public health? Students study policy successes and failures, the economic and political roots of health crises, and the present challenges of distributing technology to those most in need. (Ecuador Gap Semester focuses on public health without the HIV/AIDS focus.)
06

Social Change Theory

How can I affect change? Students analyze models of change, tools for organizing, and their personal strengths to determine how best to impact the world.
07

Presentations of Learning

How can I be a proactive agent of change? Students prepare formal presentations that reflect their learning during the programs. Presentations articulate an understanding of issues of international development and personal growth. Students share these presentations with educational and community groups around the US.

This sample calendar provides a basic overview of the daily, weekly, and monthly experiences of gap year students in TBB's programs. The service days in the above calendar provide sufficient time for students to learn about the issue first-hand, understand the methodology of the host NGO with which they work, and complete meaningful service for the host community. If the host NGO worked to improve the sustainability of agriculture, as is common in rural India, the students would learn through the fourteen service/seminar days as follows:

Day 4: The Unit Begins

Students meet with the host NGO and its leadership. Students receive an overview of the issue addressed by the host NGO and the philosophy behind the methodology it uses. Students receive a tour of the community and meet some of the people whom the host NGO assists. Students begin training in data collection and practice with the host NGO’s staff. Seminar includes a discussion of the host NGO’s model and methodology and a discussion of the global context of sustainable agriculture based on assigned readings. Students begin reading selections from The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and India of My Dreams by Mohandas K. Gandhi. These books provide insights into the contemporary industrial and sustainable agriculture systems in the US, and Gandhi’s vision of sustainable agricultural communities as the heart of an independent India, respectively. Students also begin a new section in their journal to capture their thoughts throughout the stay in this community. Students will write one evening reflection on each day of their stay in the host community.

Days 5-11: Becoming Immersed

Students meet with the host NGO and its leadership. Students receive an overview of the issue addressed by the host NGO and the philosophy behind the methodology it uses. Students receive a tour of the community and meet some of the people whom the host NGO assists. Students begin training in data collection and practice with the host NGO’s staff. Seminar includes a discussion of the host NGO’s model and methodology and a discussion of the global context of sustainable agriculture based on assigned readings. Students begin reading selections from The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and India of My Dreams by Mohandas K. Gandhi. These books provide insights into the contemporary industrial and sustainable agriculture systems in the US, and Gandhi’s vision of sustainable agricultural communities as the heart of an independent India, respectively. Students also begin a new section in their journal to capture their thoughts throughout the stay in this community. Students will write one evening reflection on each day of their stay in the host community.

Day 15: Expanding Our View

Students visit another NGO working to forward sustainable agriculture in a neighboring community. They speak with their staff to understand their specific approach and to compare and contrast the two NGOs. The seminar includes discussion of the assigned readings and an effort to identify the primary assumptions behind each NGO. Students then compare and contrast those assumptions with their understanding of the economy and culture of the community to determine the effectiveness of the host NGO’s methodology.

Day 16-22: Diving Deeper

Students continue their half day of work on their homestay families’ farms and half day of research with the NGO. Seminars during this period include discussions of the meaning of “truth” as defined by Gandhi, and an exploration of the global economics and politics of agriculture that create unsustainable practices. Creation of the multi-media pieces moves into the editing phase during these days.

Days 24-25: Saying Goodbye

Students complete their service on their homestay families’ farms and with the NGO. The final seminar periods are utilized for culminating discussions and collaborative editing of multi-media pieces. Upon return to the city, multi-media pieces are posted to the TBB website for public and classroom use.

Student Media Projects

TBB gap year students have created exceptional media projects reflecting their experiences, learning, and growth. Check out these samples. If you want more, head to our YouTube channel.

African Rationales: Challenging Western Views on HIV/AIDS

By: Michele Lis and Andrew Kim (TBB 2012)

Western society often assumes South Africans make irrational decisions when they choose risky behavior and to not be tested for and treat HIV/AIDS, even though they know the know the repercussions. TBB '12 students Michele Lis and Andrew Kim explore the decision making of Africans to challenge these assumptions.

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