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Replicating Global Activity Brings New Energy to Classroom

1 July 2015

Jackie Katz Classroom

When educators leave a Primary Source program, we want them to be equipped with the tools and resources they need to bring global content alive in their own classrooms. Not surprisingly, we are thrilled when we hear from teachers who want to share their success implementing activities they learned with us. Jacqueline Katz, a History and Social Studies Teacher at Wellesley Senior High School, did just that. Jackie attended our three-day seminar series The Ottomans: Society, Governance & the Arts in a Dynamic Empire for 6-12-grade educators last fall, hoping to gain new perspectives and ideas for teaching Ottoman history. On day three of the seminar, scholar Barbara Petzen of Middle East Connections facilitated a dynamic and engaging activity that gave educators a glimpse into three typical settings of daily Ottoman life: the coffeehouse, the hammam (bathhouse), and a hospital. 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, for example, listened to the therapeutic music of a 17th-century Ottoman hospital, and smelled the olive oil soap typical of a hammam. Thought provoking and accessible, the workshop showed teachers how they could easily mimic similar activities in their own classrooms.

Jackie wasted no time replicating the same activity in her own high school classroom this past winter. "The experience you created at Primary Source really inspired me to do this," she said. "You made it so easy to execute—I wanted to create that same experience for my students."  She featured all the texts from the seminar, set up laptops with interactive materials such as music, virtual tours, and YouTube videos, and even made tea. "There was an energy in the classroom from students who often are not that engaged," noted Jackie, who went on to describe a discussion with one of her students who was initially resistant to the idea of having tea and listening to different kinds of music. "I asked my student to think about cultural bias; how it can be hard to understand other cultures, and that is why we do activities like this one," she explained. She was happy to report that the student did indeed try the tea. For Jackie, that conversation was insightful for both of them. "It helped me understand that sharing the cultural history can help students develop a better perspective on different cultures," she said. "Primary Source's goal is about global understanding and this activity certainly gave my students a better understanding of the Ottoman Empire."

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