Ottomans Seminar Brings Educators Together for Dynamic Learning Opportunity

17 January 2015


The Ottoman Empire came alive this fall for a group of 6-12-grade educators in our three-day seminar series The Ottomans: Society, Governance & the Arts in a Dynamic Empire. Spread out over three months, each day offered a new opportunity to collaborate with colleagues, challenge each other's thinking, and gain new perspectives and ideas for teaching Ottoman history. "A three-day seminar like this one really builds community and creates invaluable high-level discussions," says Program Director Josh Cracraft. "It also gives educators an opportunity to dive into the material and find true areas of interest."

Typical of a Primary Source program, each day of the seminar skillfully balanced keynote lectures from experts in the field, with workshops that modeled activities and resources for classroom use. The diversity of content and perspectives gave educators the chance to explore the Ottoman Empire through a variety of historical and cultural lenses. "While I knew the history… I had a limited understanding of Ottoman art, architecture, and the millet system," said one educator. "This course helped me realize how complex Ottoman society was."

Scholar Barbara Petzen of Middle East Connections facilitated a dynamic and engaging activity on Day Three that gave educators a glimpse into three typical settings of daily Ottoman life. Displayed as stations throughout Primary Source, each setting featured several primary source documents, compelling visuals, and unique sensory experiences. Teachers tasted Turkish tea at the Coffeehouse station, listened to the therapeutic music of a 17th-century Ottoman hospital, and smelled the olive oil soap typical of a Hammam (bathhouse), to name a few. Sharing stories at each setting, Barbara asked participants to compare Ottoman and Western European perspectives and hone in on the similarities and differences of daily life. "It was a great opportunity to better understand how other teachers have taught the Ottomans," said one participant. Thought-provoking and accessible, the workshop showed teachers how they could easily mimic similar activities in their own classrooms.

As a result of the seminar series, we've expanded our digital and in-house resources on Ottoman history in the Clara Hicks Resource Library. Over the past several months, we have added additional primary source texts, visual guides, and scholarly monographs that can be useful for educators hoping to teach Ottoman history as a stand-alone unit or to weave the Ottomans into existing curricula on Asian and Western European history. "A robust global studies curriculum encourages comparative and cross-borders thinking," says Josh Cracraft. "We make sure educators leave our programs with the resources they need to help their students think both globally and critically."



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