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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.

Iran and the USA

On May 3rd, 2018, Raha Rafii delivered a lecture at the George Washington Carver High School in Philadelphia as part of the University of Pennsylvania Speakers' Bureau program. The subject of the lecture was Iran's relationship with the United States. K-12 teachers in the greater Philadelphia area can request a PhD student from Penn to provide a lecture on a Middle Eastern topic. The Middle East Center will organize the lecture and pay a speaker fee to the PhD student. For more information on the Speakers' bureau visit the Resources tab on the Middle East Center website.

Philadelphia Science Festival

On April 22nd, 2018, the Penn Museum and the Middle East Center participated in the Philadelphia Science Festival, a larger event held by the city that runs from April 20th-April 28th, dedicated to teaching science and STEM skills to K-12 students in a fun, enjoyable way. Participants were able to explore the new Middle East Galleries and learn about how ancient cities were formed. Families tested their engineering skill with games that simulated building ancient structures.

Engaging Students in International Issues: The Choices Approach

Sixteen regional teachers received training on contemporary political issues on March 17, 2018, as 3 the Middle East Center and Penn Museum hosted a special professional development opportunity in partnership with Brown University. Brown University’s award-winning Choices curricula offered approaches on the topics “The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy.” This participatory day introduced teachers to resources for approaching contested international issues in their high school classrooms. The day also featured the Penn Museum’s special exhibition, Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq. A guided tour of this gallery highlighted the ongoing destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East, and introduced the international efforts by Penn Cultural Heritage Center for protecting cultural heritage.

Overall satisfaction rate of participating teachers was significantly high (3.9 out of 1-4 scale in the teacher survey). Teachers reported that they would use the unit contents by Applying the framework of deliberation, empowering students with info about argumentation, and critical reasoning. Following quotes from teacher reflections demonstrate the positive outcome of this professional development;

“Looking forward to applying what I learned and loved the interaction with the Penn Museum’s amazing collection!” “The most important information that I gained from this workshop is the ability to apply social studies conventions to current issues and global events – especially in terms of discussions from role play.” “The Syria exhibit helped me see some ways to remember the past as it relates to the present.”

World Culture Day

On March 9th, 2018, 119 regional high school students and 16 teachers participated in a special event, World Culture Day sponsored by the Middle East Center along with the South Asia Center and Penn Museum. This popular annual event, formerly known as Asia Day was revamped this year to provide more prominent focus on regional socio-political issues and cultures from Middle East. The day started with a keynote lecture by the Center’s guest speaker, Brahim El Guabli, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Comparative Literature, Princeton University. After keynote, students were separated into smaller groups to experience a guided-Egypt gallery tour and the International Classroom program, an interactive workshop facilitated by a Museum-affiliated Egyptologist. After the catering lunch, Middle East Center’s collaborator, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, a local arts-based non-profit organization engaged students in interactive Middle East music performance.

The majority of participants were from the Title I schools from the School District of Philadelphia. They enjoyed this special opportunity to participate in global learning program in a university context. 

The Origins of the Internationalization in Syria's Conflict

On February 27th, 2018, Upenn graduate student Victoria Gilbert gave a lecture at Central High School Philadelphia for a group of high school students. The topic of the lecture was "The Origins and the Internationalization in Syria's Conflict". Over 30 students were in attendance. K-12 teachers in the greater Philadelphia area can request a PhD student from Penn to provide a lecture on a Middle Eastern topic. The Middle East Center will organize the lecture and pay a speaker fee to the PhD student. For more information on the Speakers' bureau visit the Resources tab on the Middle East Center website.

PACIE-Penn Middle East Center "Educating the Educator" Workshop, Nationalism and Identity in the Era of Colonialism

On February 24th, 2018, the Penn Middle East Center and the Pennsylvania Council for International Education (PACIE) collaborated to host the "PACIE-Penn Middle East Center "Educating the Educator" Workshop, Nationalism and Identity in the Era of Colonialism" Teacher Training Workshop. The objective of the workshop was to facilitate the teaching at the high school level of complex issues such as Colonialism, Nationalism and identity. By offering lectures and hands-on interactive modules which incorporate both maps and facilitated discussions on nationalism and identity the hope is that the teachers will find useful tools that they can incorporate in their teaching. 

Curricula generated from this workshop was be posted on the PA Department of Education’s SAS portal and tagged as meeting global education goals and skills. ACT-48 Credit was available to educators.

Palumbo Program

On Friday, February 7th, 134 students and 15 teachers from Academy at Palumbo High School ventured to the Penn Museum to take part in the International Classroom Program, a collaboration with the UPenn South Asia Center, the Middle East Center, and other university centers and globally focused non-profit organizations. The workshop, which teaches students about world cultures both past and present, incorporated key 21st Century Skills such as world languages, intercultural communication, and appreciation for cultural diversity. After a presentation and museum tour, students from Palumbo had a chance to see a performance by and hear from the International Classroom program presenter, Madhu Bora, a classically trained Indian dancer. Despite a snowy morning and Eagles Parade preparations, the event was a huge success.

Ancient Middle East: Using STEM to Analyze the Past

On January 27th, 2018, the Middle East Center partnered with the Penn Museum to put on a teacher training workshop entitled "Ancient Middle East: Using STEM to Analyze the Past". The goal was to assist teachers in understanding more about how archaeologists use scientific analysis to understand the people of ancient Mesopotamia. It began with an activity to explore unfamiliar objects, then a tour the Artifact Lab with conservator Tessa Alarcan Martin to hear about her preparations for the new Middle East Galleries. Participants heard from Dr. Marie-Claude Boileau of the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM), in a talk about her scientific analysis of ancient Middle East ceramics. The day finished with a STEM-focused interactive workshop that examined ceramic slipper coffins from the Mesopotamian city of Nippur. ACT 48 Credits provided for PA Educators.

Junior Model UN Diplomat Program: January 9, January 29 and February 2, 2018

For decades, the Junior United Nations Program organized by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia has taught regional middle school students how to act as international diplomats, providing several training sessions throughout the spring to culminate in a mock United Nations summit. Middle East Center teamed up with the Penn Museum to support this effort by providing students and teachers with a global education for the start of the program.

Addressing the Issue of Terrorism in K-12 Education

On November 13th, 2017, the Pulitzer Center's Alice Su gave a presentation at Camden County College on how to have meaningful conversations with students on the issue of terrorism in the classroom. She was followed by a dinner and a moderated discussion with fellow Pulitzer Center affiliate Fareed Mostoufi. Teachers received a certificate noting their participation in the workshop.