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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.

The Middle East Center supports the ATA school for its educational program teaching Turkish language and culture to children and adults in the greater Philadelphia area.  ATA school is established by TAFSUS which is founded in 1966 to promote better understanding and friendship between the Turkish and American communities.

For more information about the classes, please visit

The University of Pennsylvania hosted the 2009 Summer Persian Teachers’ Workshop for Professional Curriculum and Materials Development June 4-7, 2009.  The workshop was funded by a Startalk Summer Grant, and co-sponsored by the National Middle Eastern Languages Resource Center at Brigham Young University, the American Association of Teachers of Persian and the following Penn Penn Centers: the Penn Language Center, the Multimedia Resource Center, the Language Resource Center and the Middle East Center.  This workshop brought together 20 Persian teachers from across the United States to discuss a variety of issues current in Persian instruction, including teaching methodology, use of technology, curriculum, heritage vs. non-heritage students, multi-media teaching materials, and education and performance assessment.  Following the workshop, participants continued working on their collaborative projects online.

The Middle East Center and Penn Museum's Education Department hosted the first Middle East Day at the Museum on June 5th , 2009. We welcomed a group of 85 students from the School District of Philadelphia (Motivation High School, Ben Franklin HS, Leeds Military Academy) and Camden School District (Pine Point Middle School). One of the highlights of this one-day event was the keynote address by Carolyn Baugh, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Penn. Ms. Baugh's speech discussed Arabic poetry including that of pre-Islam; Judeo-Arabic poetry; Persian poetry; and Andalusian poetry from Spain. She also talked about the Arabic influence on today's pop culture.

The students then got a chance to explore Penn Museum's magnificent collection. The guided tours covered the sections on Israel, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Students were grouped into two workshops; one examined “Art and Architecture of the Middle East,” the other, “Life of a Teenager in Turkey.” For lunch, students were served Middle Eastern food. In the afternoon, Marie Brown, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Penn, delivered a talk on life in Sudan.

As the capstone to the day's events, there was a musical performance and interactive presentation featuring musicians from Spice Route Ensemble, a local band that specializes in Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean music.

Here is what some of our participants had to say about Middle East Day:

"Middle East Day was a wonderful opportunity for area teachers and students to actively engage with Middle Eastern and North African culture" - Presenter Marie Grace Brown

"Middle East Day helped students gain a diverse understanding of the Middle East from the disciplines of History, Society, Art and Music" - James Ryan, MEC Administrative Assistant and event organizer.

Annual Global Education Workshop

On May 9, 2009, The Middle East Center, African Studies Center, the Center for East Asian Studies, and the South Asia Center hosted an intensive full-day workshop for teachers and administrators at the University of Pennsylvania. The workshop focused on the significance of global education and global perspectives and provided lesson plans and supplementary materials. Programs were delivered by educators Medard Gabel and Wayne Jacoby. Outreach coordinators from the four centers also made presentations about teaching materials and resources available to teachers.

The Center's Jim Ryan will be lecturing on Saturday, April 4th, 2009 to students at the fifth annual Cherry Hill East Model United Nations Conference. He will be discussing the growth of area studies in the United States.

The Center is currently sending qualified Ph.D students to Philadelphia area high schools to help educate students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

February 24, 2009
West Catholic High School
"Overview of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"

March 17, 2009
Bodine High School for International Affairs
3:00-4:30 PM
"Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"

May 12, 2009
Philadelphia High School for Girls
"Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"

Podcasts - NEW!
The MEC will upload popular lectures to iTunes as podcasts. The inaugural episode features Professor Sylvia Vatuk's lecture on "Islamic Feminism in India: Muslim Women Activists and the Reform of Muslim Family Law" as part of our Women and Islamic Law series. Find the lectures through iTunesU, or by following this link.

MEC Administrative Assistant James Ryan makes semi-regular visits to area schools to guest lecture on topics related to the Middle East. On December 18, visited Central Bucks High School West to discuss the Islamic Republic of Iran to a 12th grade AP Comparative Government Class. On Friday November 7, he visited Central Buck High School South to guest lecture in the 12th Grade International Relations classes. Mr. Ryan addressed the political and social problems of Iran and Iraq, both from the American and Middle Eastern Perspective. He also addressed the Sunni-Shi'i divide, helping the students better to undersand exactly what role religion plays in the ethnic and social cleavages in the region. International Relations is part of the standard Social Studies Curriculum for 12th graders in Central Bucks Schools and has significantly increased focus on the Middle East in recent years. The Middle East Center looks forward to greater participation in the curriculum, with the students and with the faculty in this and other area school districts.

Dance Workshop for 7th Graders

One of the Center's fellows and dance instructor Habiba held two workshops at the Independence Charter School on December 17th and 18th, 2008. The two workshops were part of the seventh grade level Arabic language and culture training and they focused on the traditional dance of Egypt. The goal of the workshop was to teach students how to dance in the context of an Egyptian village festival. Some of the topics discussed in the festival setting included language, clothing, agriculture, climate, customs, henna, music, and dance.

Drumming Workshops for Beginning and Intermediate Students, 3rd-12th grades (Other workshops for adults possible)

Ten Saturday workshops from September through December were held at the Rotunda (4012 Walnut St., Philadelphia) by Lebanese-American Master Percussionist Joseph Tayoun. The workshops ran from 12:45-1:45 PM for beginners, and from 1:50-2:50 PM for intermediate, and focused on Middle Eastern rhythms and techniques. Future programs of this sort are likely. For more information, call Al-Bustan at (267) 809-3668. You can also send them email. Some scholarships are available. If you are interested in adult percussion workshops, let them know, as they are considering opening an adult section on Saturdays from 3-4 PM.


Arabic and Drama Workshops for 3rd-5th Graders

Ten Saturday workshops from September through December were held at the Rotunda (4012 Walnut St., Philadelphia) by Nehad Khader and Nahid Elgadi. The workshops ran from 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM, and focused on study of conversational and written Arabic, integrated with acting and writing an Arab fairy tale, ending with a performance-in-progress. For more information, call Al-Bustan at (267) 809-3668. You can also send them email. Some scholarships are available.