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Outreach News

The Center has been commended by the Department of Education for its Outreach Program, which works with schools and colleges, community and religious groups, government and military institutions, and the general public to raise awareness and understanding of issues in the Middle East and their importance to our communities.

Middle East Center Teacher Training Workshop on Migration 

On July 10, 2017 the Middle East Center organized a successful teacher training workshop on Migration in partnership with Center for Civic Responsibility and Leadership at Camden County College and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. Twenty-two teachers from various school districts in New Jersey participated in this daylong workshop. Mr. Nimrod Ben-Zeev (Department of History) and Dr. Salam al-Kuntar (Penn Museum Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Archeology) from the University of Pennsylvania and Robin Shulman (Freelance Journalist based in NYC) and Fareed Mostoufi (Senior Education Manager at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting) gave presentations about various aspects of migration and discussed how they can be addressed in the classroom. The teachers had a chance to engage with the presenters during Q&A sessions after each presentation. Participating teachers will be receiving NJ Professional Development credit. 

Middle East Center Teacher Training Workshop on Islamophobia 

The Middle East Center continues to enhance knowledge about the region and support K-12 educators on important classroom issues. On June 27, 2017, the Middle East Center organized a successful teacher training workshop on Islamophobia in partnership with Center for Civic Responsibility and Leadership at Camden County College. Twenty-four teachers from various school districts in New Jersey participated in this daylong workshop. Dr. Jamal Elias (Department of Religious Studies), Dr. Cheikh Babou (Department of History), and Mr. Juan Castrillon (Department of Music) from the University of Pennsylvania gave presentations about various aspects of Islamic culture, history, society, and music. The teachers had a chance to engage with area studies experts during Q&A sessions after each presentation. Participating teachers will be receiving NJ Professional Development credit. 

Brahim El Guabli gives presentation about Ramadan to K-5 students at Friends Central School

The Middle East Center's Outreach Programs work with schools and colleges, community and religious groups, and the general public to raise awareness and understanding of issues in the Middle East and their importance to our communities. One such program is the Speakers' Bureau Program which puts advanced graduate students in contact with schools in the Greater Philadelphia Area. 

On June 6, 2017 Brahim El Guabli, a PhD-candidate in Comparative Literature at Princeton University, gave a presentation on Ramadan to teacher Anastasia Shown's class of K-5 students at Friends Central School within the context of the Middle East Center's Speakers' Bureau program. Brahim also brought a set of children's books about Ramadan which he donated to the school. The book donation project is part of the West Philly Coalition Against Islamophobia.

Rebecca Guenther is awarded the Master Teacher Fellowship in Global Education

Rebecca Guenther is awarded the Master Teacher Fellowship in Global Education for the 2017-2018 academic year.  

As a Quaker by birth, the testimonies have always been part of her life. Now, having worked at Friends' Central for over 20 years, she is able to continue the peace and simplicity of the Quakers into the classroom. 

Presently, she is a sixth grade lead adviser, teaches 6th and 8th grade, and coaches boys' and girls' tennis. She has led and piloted a program for the last 3 years for growth and feedback for the faculty of Friends Central School.

She is looking forward to share opportunities and enhance her curriculum more internationally, and more specifically, about the Middle East and South Asia.

The Middle East Center Co-Organizes Workshop on Migration, Culture and Literacy Policy in Global Contexts

On May 19, 2017, Dr Joyce Pittman (Associate clinical professor at Drexel University, School of Education), Rebecca Clothey (Assistant professor, Drexel University, School of Education) and Mr. Andrew Peterson (Lecturer, English Language Program, University of Pennsylvania) led a a workshop titled Migration, Culture, Language and Literacy Policy in Global Contexts. The workshop was organized in connection with Penn-Drexel Connect Global Education Project.

The first session of the workshop focused on culture, literacy and pedagogy of learning and teaching, while the second session dealt with linguistics, less commonly taught languages and communication technologies. The second session contained hands-on activities and several presentations by students.

Middle East Center Supported Bilingualism Workshop at the Graduate School Education 

Partnering with the Teacher Education Program (TEP) at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, the Middle East Center supported the organization of a workshop on bilingualism in K-12 education on May 2, 2017. Approximately, 30 students, who are about to graduate and begin their teaching careers participated in this workshop. Dr. Donna Sharer who is currently curriculum development specialist at Philadelphia School District gave a presentation entitled: “Learning from and with Emergent Bilingual Students (English Learners).” Five former students of Dr. Sharer also shared their experiences as bilingual students studying in Philadelphia School District. 

The Choices Program Brings K-12 Educators to Penn Museum

On Saturday April 8 the Middle East Center in partnership with the Choices Program, Brown University, the South Asia Center, and Penn Museum had the pleasure to host 25 K-12 educators for the interactive workshop Engaging Students in International Issues: The Choices Approach. The participating teachers had the opportunity to examine and work with the Choices units The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy and Indian Independence and the Question of Partition which both were led by Sarah McDowell, Chair of the department of History at the Chestnut Hill Academy. The teachers also attended a lecture given by Penn Museum archeologist Dr. Salam Al Kuntar and had the chance to tour the brand new exhibit – Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Iraq and Syria curated by Dr. Al Kuntar. Contemporary artwork from Syrian artist Issam Korbaj is interwoven throughout the exhibition, which creates a powerful link between the past and the present. 

Asia Day Brings K-12 Students and Teachers to Penn

On Friday February 24 the Middle East Center in partnership with the South Asia Center and Penn Museum had the pleasure to host approximately one hundred forty K-12 students and their teachers at Penn Museum for “Asia Day: Understanding Asia through the lens of Media”. The students from six different high schools from the greater Philadelphia area (Penn-Crest High School, Academy at Palumbo, Central High School, Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, Bodine High School, and Master Charter Thomas) were present during Asia Day. Asia Day started out with a lecture delivered by Dr. Rahul Mukherjee entitled “Reading Between the Lines of Popular Media: A South Asian Perspective”. Following this lecture, the students had opportunities to study ancient forms of mass communication during a museum tour. They also took part in international classroom sessions. At noon staff members from the Middle East Center and the South Asia Center accompanied students to Penn’s campus where a Middle Eastern and Asian inspired lunch was being served in the Arch building. The students and the teachers had the opportunity to listen to a lecture entitled “Islam and the Middle East: How the News Media Shapes perception” by PhD student Mohammed Salih. Mohammed previously worked as a journalist covering the Middle East. There was also a Sufi performance given by Juan Castrillon, a PhD student in ethnomusicology at Penn. 

Middle East Center Islamophobia workshop is featured in PennNews

“Penn Experts Aid Grade School Teachers in Confronting Islamophobia in the classroom"

Media Contact:Jill DiSanto | jdisanto@upenn.edu | 215-898-4820

August 29, 2016

Blending interdisciplinary work with community engagement, two professors from the University of Pennsylvania are working with grade school teachers to address misconceptions and fears about Islam, as well as issues impacting students from Muslim communities. 

Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, a senior lecturer at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, has spent the last decade studying the educational engagement and socialization of migrant populations. 

Jamal J. Elias, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of the Humanities and a professor in the Religious Studies Department in the School of Arts & Sciences, has focused his career on teaching others about Islamic thought, history and its role in modern times. 

In “Islamophobia: Confronting Bias in the Classroom and Beyond,” the first of what is hoped will be a series of workshops for teachers, Ghaffar-Kucher and Elias demonstrated how to identify and fight Islamophobia on Tuesday, Aug. 16. 

“There was an overwhelming interest in this workshop, which shows that Islamophobia in the classroom and beyond is a real issue and one that schools wish to address,” Ghaffar-Kucher said. “The teachers who attended want to incorporate workshops like these into their professional development in their own schools. There is a very clear need for such workshops throughout the country.” 

Organized by Penn’s Middle East Center, the three-hour workshop attracted nearly 40 teachers, social workers and leaders of local non-governmental organizations.  

Ghaffar-Kucher and Elias used common examples based on real-life bias-based bullying, such as young boys being called terrorists by their classmates or girls having their hijabs removed from their heads, to work through addressing bias-related acts in the classroom. 

As Ghaffar-Kucher referred to vignettes based on her research and news stories to illustrate bias, she asked attendees: “what would you do if you saw this?” In small groups, the participants worked through the examples with constructive ways to neutralize conflict and resolve the situation. 

“A lot of the teachers said these vignettes resonated with things that they’ve actually witnessed,” Ghaffar-Kucher said. 

Ghaffar-Kucher and Elias plan to continue to host similar workshops and have already been invited to speak at numerous public and private K-12 schools across the Philadelphia region.

 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
 Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences
Photo: Alex Schein, Penn Arts & Sciences

Article as published on PennNews.

Middle East Center Spring/Summer 2016 Newsletter Published: Check out what we have been up to!

The Middle East Center Fall 2016 Newletter has been released. It includes information regarding our diverse spring semester lecture series, details on K-12 student outreach with the Public School District of Philadelphia and the City of Philadlephia Commerce Department on World Heritage Education programming, programs completed with local community colleges and HBCUs as well as our teacher training programs throughout the summer. To download the full newsletter, please click on the link below.

For more information about upcoming events please visit the homepage of the MEC website.