Update: Resources for Teachers

“Alice followed the rabbit through the little door and began to fall.” This children’s drawing comes from an exercise on Persian miniatures at “Art for Small Hands”.

It was a almost a year ago that I posted some resources for teachers related to Islam and the Middle East. We are nearing the end of the first week of Ramadan and, in my children’s school district (Illinois District 7), the last few days of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, which brings it to a close, coincide with the first week of school.

Here’s hoping that administrators, teachers, and fellow-students are aware of the importance of this period for Muslim families.

A resource that has just come to my attention is TeachMideast, a project of the Middle East Policy Council, “a nonprofit organization whose mission is to contribute to American understanding of the political, economic and cultural issues that affect U.S. interests in the Middle East.” The Council was founded and is run by “Arabists”, diplomats, business people, and academics who favor a more balanced and engaged American foreign policy vis-a-vis the Arab world.

TeachMideast is the Council’s outreach tool. It is chock full of resources for teachers. The web site is organized according to kinds of resources (essays meant for a lay audience, activities, resources, maps, audio-visual materials, image galleries, a blog, and information about teacher institutes) and according to themes (stereotypes and realities, geography, history, people and languages, religion, culture, current issues, pedagogy, and projects).

The website offers a host of materials and activities to challenge the stereotypes that cloud so many young (and older) minds when it comes to Islam, Arabs, and the Middle East as a whole. One activity involves analyzing a short excerpt from Disney’s Aladin (1992)(I can say from experience that too many of my university students have gotten most of their information about Arabs and the Middle East from this film).

The creators of the site emphasize the importance of geography. There are resources specific to each country of the region. The pedagogy section is devoted to explaining the use of google maps for educational purposes.

I was most taken by an exercise in a lesson on Persian miniatures in which students

Logo of the Middle East Policy Council.

create a “Me-niature” employing classical techniques while representing their own realities.  The blog “Art for Small Hands” offers an even more detailed version of the same kind of project. 

The Council offers FREE workshops and teachers institutes for those interested.

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About Steve Tamari

Ever since I was a child I wanted to blog. Here goes. I have crossed many borders and boundaries. My father is from Jaffa, Palestine and my mother is from Little Rock, Arkansas. We lived in the United States, Algeria, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and Haiti as I was growing up. Since then, I've lived in Greece, France, Palestine/Israel, Syria, Germany, Lebanon, and, now, southern Illinois. I study the Middle East and Islam and I live in the Midwest on the edge of the Bible Belt. I am a Quaker (and a pacifist) and I am attached to my students, many of whom serve(d) in the military. There are other contradictions and ambiguities in my life and in our world that I want to explore here. Please give me your feedback.
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2 Responses to Update: Resources for Teachers

  1. Marisa says:

    Thank you for this valuable resource. I will be sending this to the Principal of Garrett Park Elementary School with a suggestion that she share it with the social studies teachers. It is wonderful that you highlighted the exercise on Persian miniatures as it reminds us that the areas history and culture are so much broader than the wars that take up so much attention.

    • Steve Tamari says:

      Marisa,
      Thanks so much for the message. You will be interested in the whole site itself, Art for Small Hands. The creator Julie Voigt has a series of lessons “in the style of an artist” like Monet, van Gogh, Matisse, and my favorite, William Johnson. Check it out.

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