|A map of Ibn Battuta's journeys|
We decided that the life of this extraordinary traveler provided an excellent jumping-off point for understanding the diverse lands and cultures that he visited. Each week, we learn about the history and culture of one of the locales along his journey. Obviously, this must be a truncated "crash course" - but I emphasize the importance of getting a base of knowledge as a starting point for learning about a region and its people. This brings us to the second goal of the class - to open students' eyes to current events occurring in the Arab World today. Each week, students must read and bring to class an article concerning events in the Arab World. We have practiced summarizing what we learn, connecting it with what we have learned in class, and probing deeper by asking thoughtful questions. This style of content delivery, based on geography, current events, and one man's incredible biography, has sparked many students' curiosities. Kids are very interested to learn the stories behind the headlines that they read, and several have emailed me questions outside of class, asking for places where they can learn more about, for example, the decolonization of Algeria and Egypt. Or, "what other parts of the world have had their borders altered by outside powers? What happened there?"
|The Bay of Tangier - Ibn Battuta's childhood home.|
For a final project, students will choose from among the cities that Ibn Battuta visited, and craft an oral presentation and accompanying Powerpoint in which they describe their own future trip. In the same vein as my weekly presentations on each country, students' projects must include information about specific locations they would like to visit, the historical and cultural significance of those locations, and how this information contextualizes events in that part of the world. I am very excited to see what students come up with next!