In this file photo from our 2017 International Student Leadership Conference in Rome, Matthew Henriquez, Abby Michalak, and Alaina Harris discuss ideas for a global social media campaign. (Operation Smile Photo - Kristy Walker)

Bring the World to your Digital Classroom

Teachers worldwide are adapting to holding class virtually as the Coronavirus has everyone hunkered down at home. In an effort to support them during this time, Operation Smile Student Programs invited our friend and fellow educator Meghan Raftery to share a digital way to bring the world to your students.  A version of this post originally appeared here on

By Meghan Raftery

What are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?

Adopted in 2015, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future. The 17 “Global Goals” call for United Nations Member States to take action to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality and spur economic growth while simultaneously addressing climate change and preservation of the world’s ocean and forests by the year 2030. Operation Smile advocates worldwide will likely see parallels for the organization in Goal Three, which aims for improved health and well-being. In fact, Operation Smile will feature how it contributes to the global goals in its forthcoming Interactive Learning Center, which will be constructed at its global headquarters in Virginia Beach.

Today’s kindergartners will be nearing adulthood in the year 2030. The graduating class of 2019 will be in their late twenties. The global goals provide an urgent and relevant context for the learning that will take place in public schools in the next ten years.

At a time when children and their families may be feeling a sense of helplessness and uncertainty, it is more important than ever to inspire a sense of agency in our students. Understanding how they can make change in our world is empowering and allows students to feel that they can still make a difference.

Recognizing the important role children and their teachers will play in raising awareness and taking action on the global goals, Project Everyone partnered with UNICEF to create The World’s Largest Lesson. These free, open-source resources are translated into more than 10 languages and include animated films, lesson plans, comics and activities that inspire students to take action for the Global Goals. Since its launch in September 2015, 8 million children in more than 130 countries have participated in the lesson.

Teachers (or homeschooling guardians)  interested in introducing the goals can follow a simple process to get started:

  1. Share the Part 1 Animation
  2. Use the Introductory Lesson Plan
  3. Ask What World Do You Want in 2030? with this lesson plan
  4. Encourage your students to Take An Action!

The World’s Largest Lesson is only a beginning, however. After launching the global goals, teachers can encourage students to choose a goal to focus on based on their interests and the needs of the local area. Project-Based Learning (PBL) provides the pedagogical structure that can connect the Global Goals to academic standards, college and career readiness skills and student interests and passions. Resources from nonprofits such as Operation Smile based on real-world problems take on additional relevance when students understand how the task relates to solving a global problem.

To learn more about the SDGs and the World’s Largest Lesson, visit

Meghan Raftery is a freelance instructional designer for K-12 public schools, nonprofit organizations and the private sector in addition to managing, an Educator Design Collaborative. She leads professional development throughout the country and in her hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a special interest in authentic learning, community partnerships and school redesign. She is also a wife, mother and bookseller in an airstream trailer bookshop called Read Books VB. Meghan has also served as a consultant for Operation Smile Student Programs projects.