Useful Links, Resources, and Lesson Plans for K-12 Teachers


Lesson Plans and Powerpoints from the MEC

Navigating a Crisis Workshop April 2010:

  • Powerpoint on Teaching the Iraq War through film -- click here to download
  • Powerpoint on Teaching Iran -- click here to download


The Middle East and the Islamic World

1001 Inventions
Provides an introduction to historic Muslim inventions used in the modern world

Access Islam
WNET, PBS's NYC affiliate, has launched a very good website for educators, featuring lesson plans and video clips from the PBS program "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" for grades 4-8.

Afropop: Hip Deep
A site for research tools and in-depth analysis about the music of Africa and the African diaspora. Check out the extensive multimedia features designed to engage: interviews, clips, articles, and more!

The American Forum for Global Education "Issues of Muslim Identity"
A high school curriculum including student readings, teacher guides, and maps.

Art guide and lesson plans for K-12 teachers. This is primarily a visual guide with references and lesson plans on teaching about Andalusian Spain.  The material can be used in a variety of ways, but is most useful in a classroom equiped with computers and an online connection.

Introduces students to Arabs and their culture. Includes country guides, news pages and special topics such as literature, history, maps, language, women, and music.

Everything from A-Z on the Arab world, including a kid's page and daily news from the region.

Al-Hajj and the Islamic Calendar
Describes the rituals performed by Muslims during the annual Hajj to Mecca and introduces the Islamic calendar and holidays.

Are You Listening? Voices from the Middle East
An anthology of stories with accompanying lesson plans from Turkey, Israel, Iran, and the Arab world compiled by Harvard's Middle East Outreach Center, tested and selected for their cultural richness and their appeal to high school students.

BBC News - Islam and the West
Interactive site focusing on Islam in the news, including features, audio and visual streams with experts, analyses, virtual tour of Islam around the world, and much more.

BBC News - Israel and the Palestinians
Timelines, key maps, leader profiles, the latest news and analyses, A-V streams, and more.

Brigham Young University Student Handbooks
Helpful guides for learning Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish

Cairo: Living Past, Living Future
An interactive web unit designed specifically with K-12 students and educators in mind. This unit will allow you to explore this history, culture, society, geography, and environment of this fascinating city that sits at the crossroads between ancient and modern, east and west, tradition and innovation.

Calligraphy Qallam
An introduction to Arabic, Ottoman, and Persian calligraphy.

Canadian Aid for Southern Sudan
Curriculum on Sudan and the war in Darfur.

The Choices Program - Conflict in Iraq
High school lesson plan on U.S. Policy in Iraq developed by the Watson Institute for International Affairs at Brown University.

The Choices Program - Shifting Sands
This unit allows students to examine the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Role of oil in geopolitics, the politicization of Islam, the significance of the Iranian Revolution, and other historical issues that have shaped U.S. ties to the Middle East.

CIA World Factbook

Concise Middle East country bios.

Columbia University's Middle East Institute
Series of topical e-seminars covering contemporary issues on the Middle East

Columbus and the Arab World
An exploration of Arab contributions to navigation and geography, including discussion of Columbus's voyage to the New World.

Council on Islamic Education
Concise information on Islam, glossaries, teacher guides, suggestions for classroom activities, and important dates on the Islamic lunar calendar. Offers on-line lesson plans and an on-line Teacher's Forum.

Detroit Free Press: 100 Questions and Answers About Arab Americans: A Journalist's Guide
Useful FAQs on Arab American written in the aftermath of 9/11.

Egypt: A Land of Firsts
Designed for K–5 classrooms, this five-lesson unit about Egypt is designed to help young students explore the similarities between themselves and the other humans who inhabit our planet. Each lesson includes background information for the teacher, suggested activities, worksheets, audiovisuals, etc. Produced by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.

Emory Law School
Interesting and accessible articles on all issues regarding Islam and human rights, and good links for activists.

Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures
This free on-line publication offers a searchable database connecting scholars, students, practitioners, and activists with each other and with NGOs, governmental agencies, and potential employers seeking researchers whose work specifically covers issues on women and gender related to Islamic cultures.
Very informative and interactive website with the latest news and analysis from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Foreign Policy Research Institute
Teacher workshops, summer institutes, programs for students, curriculum materials, and more sponsored by theForeign Policy Research Institute here in Philly.

Gift of the Indus
Beautiful, informative and interactive website on the arts and culture of Pakistan for teens. Includes a moderated forum for American and Pakistani students to engage in cross-cultural conversation.

Gulf/2000 Project
Research information on the Gulf region with useful online references and country information and links.
Sponsored by the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Al Hakawati
Website designed in both English and Arabic that introduces the rich heritage of Arab lands and culture.

Harvard University - Teaching Resources
Lending library, classroom kits, online learning modules, current events lesson plans, curriculum guides, publications, fact sheets. Kept updated.

Harvard University - Windows on Iraq
Multimedia slide show of pictures and commentaries on post-invasion Iraq

The Heirs of Abraham
This resource provides a brief summary of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, highlighting their common threads and giving concise timelines for all three. It also contains a useful article on the use of religion in the classroom, addressing questions that many teachers face when teaching religion. At the end is a glossary of religions of the Middle East.

History of the Jews in Turkey
Set of documents and guided questions for high school students.

Hyphenated Americans
Examines specific Arab-American communities, including those in Chicago and Boston, and the history of Arab-American migration from the Middle East to those cities. Primary sources are used to discuss the challenges of multicultural identity.

The Illustrator's Notebook
Creative journaling activities for students in grades 5-8. Produced by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.

International Crisis Group
In-depth and well-researched reports on ethnic and civil conflict, political reform, diplomacy, and WMD proliferation in the Middle East and North Africa.

Introduction to Islam
This teaching module includes a discussion of the history, basic beliefs, practices and contemporary issues.
Produced by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.

Intro to Islamic Art and Architecture
Teaching unit.
Students will identify, understand, and be able to use the 4 major classifications of Islamic art: Geometric, Organic, Figural, and Medallion. Students will also develop an art history vocabulary and build familiarity with pieces of Islamic art from various countries and periods.

Iraq and Sanctions
This lesson focuses on the UN Sanctions that were imposed upon Iraq in 1990 and that ended with the recent war in Iraq. It is designed for use in multiple classroom contexts, offering students the opportunity to explore a heavily debated international relations tactic.

The Islam Project
Lesson plans on Muslim immigration to America, religious and ethnic diversity, and stereotypes. The accompanying video, "American Muslim Teens Talk," can be borrowed from the Middle East Center.

Islamic Spain
Great resource on Andalusian Spain, including lesson plans, slideshow on architecture, time lines, interactive grid on the material culture of Al-Andalus, and informative but accessible articles on everything from women to cooking to pharmacology to religious practices. The DVD tie-in is available in our media lending library.

Israel: Diversity and Identity
Presents the various cultural, religious and ethnic identities of the population of Israel, including Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, Israeli Arabs and Druze. Discusses the history of Zionism, the creation of Israel and the ongoing political struggle between religious and secular Jews. Produced by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

K-12 Lesson Plans
A collection of lesson plans on "Islam Across the Continents: Africa, Asia and the Middle East" and "The Arts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East" from Penn's annual summer institute for K-12 teachers. Through the Center for East Asian Studies.

Library of Congress - Country Studies
Middle East country profiles, including links to electronic resources selected by Library of Congress subject experts.

Media Construction of the Middle East
Project Look Sharp, a media literacy project based at Ithaca College, has released an interactive digital media literacy curriculum on controversial issues in the Middle East. A CD/DVD version can also be requested at no charge. In addition to learning core content, students learn to analyze and decode media messages in a variety of forms including web pages, film clips, TV news, magazines, newspapers, and school textbooks. 

MERIP - Primer
Concise and well-written primer for high schoolers and up on the Arab-Israeli conflict from a pro-Palestinian perspective.

Message Bearers
This unit uses Islamic coins to teach Islamic history and introduce students to the Arabic language and includes illustrations and pictures of coins from various eras. The unit includes discussion questions for the readings, vocabulary activities, geography exercises, math activities and research projects. Produced by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

Middle East After WWI
Drawing Boundaries and Dividing a Region.
A secondary unit for high school world history, American history and social studies classes about the effects of World War One and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire on the Middle East. Produced by the University of Chicago.

Middle East Network Library
Click on a country and get the latest news, links to embassies, newsites and political parties, visa information, currency converter and even current weather conditions.

Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet
You can borrow from the Middle East Center the DVD, "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet," to accompany the extensive lesson plans and resources on this link on the life and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad, all the way up to the events of 9/11 in terms of the values discussed in the life of Muhammad. The Middle East Center also has the PBS documentary, "Frontline: Muslims," for loan. Lesson plans for this DVD also available here.

The Musical Legacy of Al-Andalus
An interactive website which allows the visitor to hear excerpts of music, learn about various instruments, and study the impact of Al-andalus on European and other musical traditions. Through an interactive map, listeners follow trends from the Al-andalus region and its areas of influence during medieval history.

Muslim, Christian & Jewish Relations
A comprehensive catalog of UPenn Library resources on this topic.

New York Times
Lesson plans designed especially for high school teachers on world issues, using the new York Times. Updated often to reflect current events. Some topics include: Iraq, Dubai, al-Qaeda, et al.

NGOs Gateway Project Clearinghouse for Middle East Civil Society Organizations
Select a country on this website for interesting links to NGOs working for social, political, and economic change in the Arab world.

Oxfam's Cool Planet for Teachers
Good resources, links, and curriculum on Sudan and the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.

Outreach World
Lesson plans and resources on the Middle East for K-12 teachers covering all topics, regions, and historical periods.

Overcoming Challenges to Reporting on Islam and Muslim Communities in Context
Harvard University guide for journalists wishing to cover sensitive topics on Islam and the Muslim world.

PBS Frontline: Muslims
The Middle East Center has the DVD for free rental to accompany this globally comprehensive and interactive website.

PBS Global Connections
Designed especially for high school educators and students. Includes interactive timeline, links to activities and resources appropriate for the classroom, and lesson plans on terrorism, the role of women, natural resources, U.S. foreign policy, and more.

PBS Islam: Empire of Faith
The Middle East Center has the DVD for free rental to accompany these interactive and interesting lesson plans. Grades 6-12.

PBS Newshour Extra
Provides lessons plans and other resources around current events in the Middle East and elsewhere.

PBS Wide Angle
Detailed lesson plans for teachers based on the PBS international documentary series (purchase of videos not necessary). Lesson plans on the Western Sahara, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Islam, as well as other lessons on human rights, globalization, North Korea, Rwanda, and more

Penn Libraries
The University of Pennsylvania's online library portal. Search the library's catalog of books, journals, and movies and find out about upcoming events and workshops.

Professional Cartoonists' Index
Fun site on how to use cartoons to teach current events, including the Middle East, in the classroom.

Primary Resources - Middle East

A research guide to primary and secondary resources for Middle Eastern History.

(Re)Embracing Diversity
Columbia University Instructor's Guide on teaching Muslim sensitivity to high school students. A fully integrated curriculum with a wealth of information on Islam and Muslims, handouts, and interactive classroom activities for students. - Middle East Map Game
How fast can you play this cool geography game? - A is for Arabs
An alphabetical reminder of historical Middle Eastern contributions to world civilization. Informative and accessible for everyone.

Stanford University - Iranian Cultural and Information Center
A wealth of information on Iranian culture, history, cuisine, and even sport.

Tahrir Documents
A site started by graduate students studying in Cairo offering translations of Egyptian news articles, opinion pieces, and other primary source documents regarding the Arab Spring and the ongoing effort to form a new government. Searchable and sortable by topic.

Tapestry of Travel: The Contributions of Arab/Muslim Civilization to Geography and World Exploration
This teaching module describes the Arab and Muslim civilization's rich historical achievements in the sciences and humanities, advances that furthered geographical discoveries and the exchange of scholarship with Europe. Produced by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.

Teaching Ottoman History: A Primer
This teaching resource offers brief background information on the Ottoman Empire, its history, institutions and relationship with Europe. Produced by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

The Travels of Ibn Battuta - A Virtual Tour with the 14th Century Traveler
A cool "virtual tour" lesson plan on the famous 14th century Arab Traveller, Ibn Battuta, designed by a middle school teacher for grades 7-9. Includes teacher notes and student activities pages.
Great link on Arabic music, with complete audio streams from past NPR programs, scholarly articles, and an excellent resource page with lots of free audio clips on diverse and country-specific songs and musical traditions, from Morocco to Iraq.

Turkish Cultural Foundation
Excellent website for all things Turkish - from virtual tours of museums to recipes to lifestyles. Includes a great music portal where you can download clips.

Understanding the Middle East through Demography and Geography
A lesson plan for middle and high school social science courses. This lesson plan uses geography and demography to examine this important area.  Students learn about the entire region by studying a sub-region in depth through small group, cooperative learning. Produced by the University of Chicago.

United Nations - Cyberschoolbus, Countries at a Glance
Informative thumbnail profiles of Middle Eastern and other countries designed for students grades 6-12.

UC - Berkeley: Current Conflicts: Case Studies in the Middle East
"Current Conflict: Case Studies in the Muslim World (Kashmir, Iraq and Israel/Palestine)." Lesson plans, maps, articles, primary sources, and useful links for high school classrooms.

University of Texas at Austin - Middle East Map Collection
All kinds of Mideast maps - great for printing out for classes and discussion groups.

US Dept. of State - Muslim Life in America
Excellent overview of Muslims in America. Includes profiles on everything from Muslim rap music to a portrait of a Muslim teacher in a public school. Great for high school students or anyone wanting to learn more on Islam in America.

U.S. Foreign Policy: Iran, A Case Study
An overview of Iranian-US relations from 1945-1997, this unit uses Iran as a case study for looking at US foreign policy. The student readings provided will enhance student understanding and knowledge of US-Iranian relations, while also introducing students to the case study format. Discussion questions and student activities supplement the readings and help students to consider the complexity of foreign policy and to use critical thinking skills in their evaluation of foreign policy decisions. Produced by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

United States Institute of Peace
Interesting simulations and teaching guides on terrorism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and international peace-keeping. Also a good resource for current analysis on Iran (see their Iran Primer).

VCat: Penn Library Video Catalog
Search the University of Pennsylvania's entire video library of over 17,000 titles. If the MEC video library doesn't have what you're looking for, the main library might!

Veiled Voices
A documentary that explores the efforts of three religious leaders in Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria to have their voices heard as equals in the religious community.

Voices of Saudi Children
A glimpse of Saudi Arabia through the eyes of elementary and middle school students. Writings from Saudi students about history, geography, and daily life are accompanied by discussions and student activities that incorporate research, writing, and maps. Produced by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.

The Washington Post: The Middle East - Making Space for Democracy

Concise, well-done audio-visual streams on democratic developments in Syria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Good for classroom discussion.

Who Are the Arabs?
This teaching module provides an introduction to Arab history and a brief survey of contemporary Arab society, culture, and politics. Produced by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.

Who Are The Turks?
Free download of a very rich, comprehensive curriculum manual for K-12 teachers on history and related social disciplines, and art and literature. Includes lesson plans, work sheets, and homework readings.

The World Bank Group - Middle East and North Africa
Includes all World Bank reports on the Middle East, plus audio and video streams from World Bank conferences on Middle East issues. Covers everything from women in Iraq to Arab street children to HIV/AIDS in the Middle East.

The Zabballeen: Cairo's Garbage Workers
This case study focuses on the zabbaleen, people who work as garbage collectors and recyclers in Cairo. For high school students.


Middle East Centers in the United States

This is a listing of websites of Middle East Centers at major universities across the United States. Many offer free or low-cost instructional materials for classroom use, as well as lesson plans and other useful information for educators that can be downloaded at no charge.

Brigham Young University, National Middle East Language Resource Center
Columbia University, The Middle East Institute
Emory University, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies
Georgetown University, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
George Washington University, Institute for Middle East Studies
Georgia State University, Middle East Institute
Harvard University, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
New York University, Hagop Kevorkian Center
Ohio State University, Middle East Studies Center
Princeton University, Program in Near Eastern Studies
University of Arizona, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
University of California, Berkeley, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
University of California, Berkeley, Office of Resources for International and Area Studies
University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Near Eastern Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara, Center for Middle East Studies
University of Chicago, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
University of Illinois, Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
University of Michigan, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies
University of Texas at Austin, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
University of Utah, Middle East Center
University of Washington, Middle East Center
Yale University, Middle East Studies Council


Middle East Embassies

      (Embassy of Pakistan - Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran)
Palestinian Territories: 
Saudi Arabia 
South Sudan:
United Arab Emirates: 

For the locations and websites of US Embassies abroad, visit: 


Middle East Human Rights Websites


Amnesty International - Demanding Change in the Middle East and North Africa
A focus on the Arab Spring with news, reports, and action alerts.

Human Rights Watch - Middle East/N. Africa
Good, easily navigable source with more in-depth analysis

Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Country-by-country reports on freedom and democracy, human rights, religious freedom, etc.

Vast and constantly-updated repository of user-uploaded videos and pictures of protests and human rights issues, with emphasis on the Middle East

Muslim World Journal of Human Rights
Interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal, publishes one issue per year

Regional feed from progressive youth group

UNHR Training and Education
UN resources for teaching about human rights in the world

Ratification of International Human Rights Treaties
Country-by-country info on ratification of conventions regarding human rights, discrimination, women's rights, slavery, torture, children's rights, labor rights, refugees, war crimes, terrorism, etc.

Arab World Human Rights Texts
Primary source documents

Soros Open Society Foundations
Funds grants for projects addressing HR and open society in the Middle east


Committee to Protect Journalists
Easily navigable website filterable by country and/or year, with a focus on freedom of speech and the press

UNDP Programme on Governance in the Arab Region
Tracks regional government participation, elections, rule of law, and transparency with country profiles

Physicians for Human Rights
Middle East countries currently featured: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Libya

Migrant Rights
Site by MideastYouth to spread awareness of migrant workers' issues in the region. Emphasis on news and local action.

Women and Gender Issues
Several links to resources and articles on women in the MENA region

Women Living Under Muslim Laws
News, media, and resources for women's rights in the Islamic World and migrant Muslim communities

Ann Elizabeth Mayer - University of Pennsylvania Legal Studies Department
Ann E Mayer's publications, mainly about women's rights in Islam

Middle East Children's Alliance
Outreach and action-oriented children's rights organization with a focus on children in Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Country updates and briefs on LGBT rights in the Middle East and North Africa 

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Action-oriented news source

Kurdish Human Rights Project
Action-oriented group with extensive news archive

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Posts regular analysis, news, and statistics

B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Focuses on analysis and reports of current developments; media searchable by subtopic


Middle East Media Websites in English


Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey)

International Middle East Media Center (Palestine)

Haaretz (Israel - Liberal)

Jerusalem Post (Israel - Conservative)

Ahram Online (Egypt)

Daily Star (Lebanon)

Al Jazeera (Qatar)

The National (UAE)

Iran Focus (Iran - US Perspective)

Tehran Times (Iran - Conservative)

Payvand (Iran - Liberal)

Middle East Economic Survey

Arab Media & Society

Foreign Policy Middle East Channel


Arab Spring Resources:



Public Opinion and Attitudes in the Middle East and Islamic World

The Gallup Organization - Abu Dhabi
Gallup's branch in the Persian Gulf presents timely statistics on issues in the Gulf and the Middle East

Pew Global Attitudes Project
Select "Middle East" to see the latest data on opinions about the US, globalization, Islamism, etc.

World Public Opinion - Middle East and North Africa
Opinion polls from the Middle East and North Africa


Outreach, Volunteering, and Study Abroad for K-12 Students

(see also the MEC's Opportunities Page)

PBS Pen Pal Exchange 
Pen Pals, High School Study Abroad Programs, and Much More!

Council on Standards for International Educational Travel Lots of links to different study abroad programs for high school students, but some also offer programs for college-age students.

AYUSA - Global Youth Exchange Study abroad opportunities for high school students in Lebanon and Tunisia. Full scholarships from the U.S. State Department for 16 students who apply!

Friendship Through Education A consortium of organizations (with good links to them) that helps to facilitate interactions between youth worldwide.

iEarn The largest non-profit global network that enables young people to engage in collaborative educational projects using the internet and other new technologies.

Global Schoolhouse A huge virtual meetinghouse where K-12 educators, students, parents, and the community can get together and collaborate, interact, develop, publish, and discover learning resources on international education. Great opportunities for scholarships, class trips, participation in global cyberconferences and cyberfairs, and much more.

Kids Space A very cute site for, by, and about K-6 students from around the world, who share their stories, art, and music.

National Council on US-Arab Relations offers programs for high school students in Kuwait, Jordan, Cairo, and Morocco.

Oranim Educational Initiatives International study trips for Jewish teens ages 15-18.


Disclaimer: These websites were chosen because of the information, interactive lesson plans, audiovisual educational resources, and other useful links they provide on the peoples, cultures, politics, economies, and general history of the Middle East. Some contain political opinions and analyses and represent diverse viewpoints. We do not endorse any one perspective, but aim to provide educators with some constructive tools to enhance their teaching of the Middle East, as well as increase interest, awareness, and knowledge of the region in the wider community.

Have a website to recommend for our page? Click here and let us know.

Want to borrow a film or need a recommendation for your class, community group or place of worship? Contact the Middle East Center at 215-898-6335 . To see a listing of our films, click here.

See our K-12 Teaching Resources Lending Library here.