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International Symposium

Our students learn that our world is a complex and dynamic place — one that we are all members of and where constructive change is always possible. 

A significant priority of Packer’s mission is to help young people become “empathetic, responsible, and globally minded.” This commitment exists in the classrooms and hallways of every division, from our Early Childhood program through our Upper School curriculum, as well as in our extracurricular offerings.

Packer students learn about the many different cultures, histories, and experiences represented here at Packer, in our vibrant and multicultural city, as well as in our national and global communities. They progressively master one or more world languages. The entire Eleventh Grade travels abroad through our International Symposium program and many Upper Schoolers participate in Packer’s elective travel programs or study abroad. Throughout, we emphasize opportunities for hands-on engagement in the world outside our walls.  

Our Global Learning program is deeply interconnected with our programs in World Languages, Community Engagement, and Diversity and Equity.

International Travel for All Eleventh Graders

Packer is proud to be an innovator in the field of Pre-K-12 global learning. One of Packer’s signature programs is the International Symposium, in which students travel abroad at no additional cost. Between 2013 and 2020, Tenth Grade students participated in the program. Beginning in 2022, Eleventh Graders began participating. Past groups have traveled together to the Andalucía region of Spain, Greece and Peru. Beginning in 2023, students now travel to Greece and Costa Rica (Learn about our elective spring break travel programs.)

In Greece, one group explores the complexities of refugees, migration and diversity in modern Europe, while the other examines climate change, entrepreneurship, and sustainability on the island of Crete. In Costa Rica students learn about and work with community-based development efforts in rural areas, with one group traveling to the highlands north of San José and the other group traveling to the lowlands to the south.

Our International Symposium is designed to ensure that every Packer graduate has the experience of using their collaborative and problem-solving skills to generate ideas in unfamiliar contexts, alongside people with whom they may not have a common language. 

Curricular Highlights

Packer is a partner of the Ndonyo Wasin Primary School in the Samburu region of Kenya. Our Lower School students have pen pal exchanges with their Kenyan counterparts, and every summer several Packer teachers travel to Ndonyo Wasin to collaborate with their faculty and exchange their students’ letters.

The Lower School experience culminates with the Immigration Celebration, where the fourth grade presents historical and cultural studies of the countries that New York’s largest immigrant populations come from today.

In the Middle School, the Fifth Grade focuses on comparative study of the world’s ancient cultures, while the Eighth Grade curriculum includes an interdisciplinary exploration of the global impact of plastic. Students also begin the study of Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish.

Our Upper School curriculum includes a number of global electives, including Cultural Anthropology, History of Modern China, History of Cuba, History of the Modern Middle East, Apartheid in South Africa, and Advanced Topics in the Literature, History and Memory of Atlantic Slavery.

Follow our students' travels on Instagram!

Jennifer Donovan
Director of Global Learning and Community Engagement

From the first interview I knew that Packer was a special place that valued relationships and connection. I was excited to be a part of a team that valued global learning and community engagement and was deeply committed to developing programs that live into the mission and values of the school.

Read More about Jennifer Donovan

Teaching Global Competencies

Packer’s Global Learning program is guided by a framework that allows our students to develop global competency through five interconnected skills:

—Investigating the world
—Building relationships
—Recognizing perspectives
—Communicating ideas with diverse audiences
—Taking action to make a better world

Elective Travel Programs

Our elective Spring Break travel programs provide expanded opportunities for Middle and Upper School students to deepen their global understanding through first-hand experience.