Ideally, Emma Harver would have taken her group of K–12 teachers to the Middle East to immerse them in Muslim cultures. But she didn’t have the budget for an overseas trip. So she did the next best thing. She introduced them to Muslim communities in the Triangle.

“Connecting the Middle East to the Southeast” was a pilot program offered this summer to the state’s K–12 teachers by the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.

“The program was designed as a meaningful immersion experience for teachers to deepen their understanding of Middle Eastern cultures and Islam and further their understanding of these communities in their own state,” said Harver, program/outreach coordinator at the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East. (This Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center comprise the Duke-UNC consortium.)

She sent a message about the program to the consortium’s listserv of K–12 teachers, accepting teachers who responded on a first-come, first-serve basis. The teachers began to immerse themselves in Middle East and Muslim cultures through the program’s website, which listed readings and provided links to videos or websites on related topics.

They sent Harver the goals they hoped to accomplish through the program:

“I seek understanding so that I can apply that understanding to my students and my teaching of history.”

“My goal is to better understand my students and myself.”

“To increase my knowledge and awareness of Islam so that I can effectively teach my students and help them rid themselves of stereotypes and the Islamophobia many of them have.”

All got involved to connect their communities to the wider world.


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