By Vicki Valosik
The Education Outreach program at CCAS offers workshops, training, and curriculum support to help K-14 teachers develop their knowledge about the Middle East and North Africa—and its diverse cultures, histories, and religions—from a global perspective. This year, CCAS Education Outreach Coordinator Dr. Susan Douglass and the Education Outreach program have undertaken several exciting new projects.
In January, CCAS produced—with support from Georgetown’s Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (AC-MCU)—a new teaching unit titled Islam and Politics: A Curriculum Resource for high school teachers of world history, geography, and social studies. The unit presents critical moments and influential religious leaders from the 1700s to the 2000s. The impetus for creating this unit came in 2018 when Maryland education officials added new curricular requirements for teaching about Islam and politics at the 9th and 10th grade levels. According to state academic standards for secondary world history and geography, at least 30 states and the District of Columbia have requirements to teach on these topics. Despite this requirement, “few teachers are aware of or have access to sources about the long history of debate around ideas of reform and the role of religion in Muslim societies,” said Douglass. Given that textbooks change very slowly, CCAS prioritized creating a curriculum unit for teachers that would provide historical background and case studies on the variety of expressions of Islam and politics today, and help educators fulfill their state curriculum mandates.
Another exciting development for the CCAS Education Outreach program this winter was the release of an updated interactive website on Islamic Spain. Built by Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) in partnership with CCAS, the new website serves as a companion to the UPF film Cities of Light: the Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain and provides a detailed survey of the 700-year period of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula and its significance to world history. Dr. Douglass served as a lead content developer for the original site, ensuring that it met teacher needs and state academic standards for world history. Eosin Chelius, a sophomore at Georgetown and a 2019-2020 BSFS Scholar at CCAS, updated the content and source materials and ensured the new site’s accessibility. The website covers scientific and agricultural technologies, interfaith coexistence, arts, architecture, and literature, and features timelines, glossaries and maps. “The topic of Islamic Spain is important to teachers because it represents an exceptional place and time that defies the artificial division between East and West—when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived and interacted socially, religiously and intellectually under Muslim rule,” said Douglass. “This period of cultural exchange resulted in the transfer of scientific, artistic and technological advancements to Europe and Afroeurasia.”
Having provided quality programming for educators in the greater Washington D.C. area for several decades, the Education Out-reach program has recently taken steps to expand its audience beyond the region. Thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Education, CCAS offered travel grants to bring out-of-state teachers to the 2018 and 2019 summer teacher institutes. In addition to hosting teachers on campus and at local partner organizations such as the Smithsonian, Freer|Sackler, and Howard University, CCAS has taken its content to institutions across the country. Dr. Douglass has worked with states, counties, and public school systems on curriculum issues and traveled to more than a dozen states to lead workshops and build partnerships, particularly with underserved and minority-serving institutions. In response to COVID-19, the Education Outreach program has moved its spring and summer work-shops online and anticipates hosting its largest-ever number of participants at the virtual Summer Teacher Institute 2020: “Connected Histories of the Renaissance.” The institute will be held August 3-7 and will feature pre-recorded lectures, live discussions, virtual exhibits, and collaborative content and pedagogy activities. Click here for more information on the 2020 Summer Teacher Institute.
Much of the work of the Education Outreach program is funded by a U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant designating CCAS and its partners as a National Resource Center on the Middle East and North Africa (NRC-MENA). You can learn about our programming for educators, access teaching materials, register for workshops, or watch videos from past events on the newly redesigned Education Outreach section of the CCAS website.
Vicki Valosik is the Multimedia & Publications Editor at CCAS.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the CCAS Newsmagazine.