This semester of the Arab culture class at Northeast High School has wrapped up in a cumulative project. Over the course of the semester, students had the chance to explore many different aspects of Arab culture; from art and music to language and history. As a final task, students planned a future trip to the Arab world. The emphasis, though, was for students to plan out concrete logistics for a realistic trip that they might take in the future. “I had no idea I could actually go there,” one student said. They were told about the many different avenues open to young people who seek to travel. They could choose between college study abroad programs, English-teaching fellowships, or a more customary vacation. Whichever they chose, though, they were graded on the thoroughness of their vision for travel in the Arab world.
Students presented their projects via Powerpoint, with an accompanying oral presentation. Each student chose a country, and specific sites and cities within that country that connected with the issues they learned about in class. They were encouraged to find vibrant, interesting photographs of the places they planned to visit. In the weeks leading up to the presentations, students learned about what good, clear presentation design, and confident oral presentation style. Especially for the Pre-International Baccalaureate students in the class, these are skills that will serve them well in the upcoming years of high school, college, and beyond.
The project also called on students to connect some aspect of their chosen country with what they had learned in class. This included connections with issues and events we had discussed throughout the semester: from the adventures of the 14th-century traveler Ibn Battuta and the recent upheavals of the Arab Spring to the unique life of journalist Anthony Shadid.
Another student connects her planned travels to
Lebanon with Anthony Shadid, his ancestral village
of Marjayoun, and the home he rebuilt there.
For one girl, the project took on a more real-life flair. She presented on the specifics of an actual trip that her family would soon take to their former home in Iraq. Forced to leave for Syria and then America in the wake of the violence in Iraq, she expressed great excitement at the prospect of visiting her homeland again. Concluding an excellent presentation, she went beyond the bounds of the assignment and discussed an issue we had touched on several times over the course of the semester: stereotypes and media attention. She presented a series of photographs that came up first on Google Image Search when she typed in “France.” Unsurprisingly, it was a melange of photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and other tourist sites. “Now,” she said, “see what comes up when we search for ‘Iraq.'”
A series of photographs of soldiers, rubble-strewn cities, and bombed-out vehicles appeared before the class. “People think that everything in Iraq is about violence,” she said. “But it’s not the whole truth.” Wise words from a young individual.
The semester at NEHS will conclude next Friday with a final performance and demonstration of art, poetry, and percussion, as well as a potluck with many cuisines from the students’ diverse ethnic backgrounds.