Thursday, April 24, 2008

Part 2 and 3: Why Study East Asia in all Schools from Kuwait to the USA these days?

(2) Discuss the quantity and quality of the materials about East Asia currently used in your school.

As I teach in Kuwait in a bilingual school based on the American form of education, there is a dearth of material here on East Asia. Surprisingly, there are a few children’s books in the school library with characters from Asia—but mostly India and Iran.

We have internet and all students are required to take one or two hours of computer related activities each week, so we can potentially look at different parts of the world through the media of the internet. However, currently study of nations around the globe are not even partially integrated in this way.

In contrast, the American company Houghton-Mifflin, does provide websites and suggested websites for its textbook HORIZON, which does partially integrate Asia into their coursework. I have e-mailed this Houghton-Mifflin HORIZON link to the students of mine who have e-mail, so that they can peruse or try out the activities at home. (Some parents in Kuwait don’t allow there children at home to use the internet nor e-mails, so I cannot assign the websites for all students in 6th grade to do.)

The HORIZON textbook by Houghton-Mifflin is targeted towards both 5th and 6th grade classrooms. It does have surprisingly a lot on Asia in the second chapter, which focuses on the 15th and early 16th century North and South America. The first lesson in that chapter talks about the Silk Route and how the closing off of that route around 1453, i.e. as the Turkish forces took over Constantinople, led to the age of discovery for western Europeans.

Moreover, China’s age of discovery, led by Admiral Zheng He, in that same15th century is also discussed. The textbook also notes that soon after that era of Zheng He, China again went into a period of isolation limiting contact and trade with foreigners outside of Asia.

In late May, I am hoping to trial run a short teacher created unit on China with the 6th grade, using what I am gaining from this course EALC course.


(3) Why are primary sources an important teaching tool? How have you used them in your classroom in the past? How do you see yourself using them in the future?

My B.A. degree at Bethel College in Kansas in 1985 was in “History and the Social Sciences”, so I am quite comfortable with primary resources and have conducted oral interviews and historical interviews over the years as well as undertook research using them.

While teaching German in Great Bend, KS I received a mini-grant in 1991 to put together a slide program for students on the “German Speaking Settlers of Barton County”. For this, I also took photos and conducted oral interviews. Therefore, I find it no stretch to do the same with my students.

In fast changing Kuwait, it is clearly important to be able to talk with youth about how the way life used to be, i.e. prior to Oil in the 1950s, and compare it to life now—as well as to encourage them to make predictions about the future. We contrast family relationships, economy, and other practices. The students gather there authentic information by talking with their grandparents and other elders.

Note: It was only 4 generations ago that the main fame of Kuwait was trading, pearling, and shipping. Kuwait was affected adversely by the culturing of pearls in the 1920s. Through the 1940s many Kuwaiti males hired themselves out as sailors on ships to Africa, India and all the way to Singapore. There are (reprinted) photographs galore from these eras to share--as well as testimonies of those who lived in those days. In short, primary sources and interviews are quite motivating for Kuwaiti students.

As far as my own paraphernalia is concerned, I bring photos and photo albums of my trips around the world. I hang dozens of 8 x 11 prints on the wall around the classroom. These are photos of my trips around the world. I hang them around in order to motivate my students to be curious and to ask questions about places around the world---perhaps inspiring students to travel to places, like East Asia, some day.

In the future, I will be coordinator of the social studies program in this bilingual school. I am hoping to create a global studies curriculum and persuade those who are teaching computers to implement internet research, i.e. using authentic materials, for students looking up material on different cultures and nation states. The students will also do written and oral presentations on these countries and cultures. Since there are many embassies here, I will also ask students to contact some of the 50 embassies to gather more authentic material.

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