Four social studies teachers, Mr. Jeff Hackman, Mr. Zach Bower, Mr. Preston Bush and Mr. Ron Hertzler, sojourned to the University of Pennsylvania Museum for a day-long seminar entitled, Engaging Students in International Issues: The Choices Approach. We were welcomed by Ellen Owens, Director of Learning Programs at Penn Museum and Dr. Anna Viden, Program Coordinator of the Middle East Center. They explained their program at Penn and dangled the enticing proposition that we would be able to explore the museum on our own at some point in the day.
Sarah McDowell, Master Teacher from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Teaching Fellow in the Choices program led our workshop for the bulk of the morning. Our task was to learn pedagogical techniques that maximize student learning in the Choices program. Dock juniors are required to take a course called, Choices for Global Citizens, which uses this curriculum. Ms. McDowell led us through an abbreviated lesson in the Middle East unit in the Choices curriculum. Being a student in this process allows us to build empathy as teachers for the students in our classrooms. We also toured a museum exhibit entitled, Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq. This was a high-impact moment, as the exhibit combined the ancient cultures and artifacts from early history which are being destroyed in the civil war which rages across these countries. In addition to cultural artifacts being destroyed, the lives of countless people are also disrupted, and sometimes lost. T-shirts with a name and date on them were reminders of human losses.
Ms. McDowell led us through another unit in the afternoon, entitled Confronting Genocide: Never Again. Finally, we were given free rein to roam through the expansive University of Pennsylvania museum. One can imagine how it looked to others—four social studies teachers reading all the material in the displays as we examined their exquisite collection of fabulous artifacts! We found a Clovis point, a stelae from the Mayan culture and an incredible display of Egyptian history!
Read a recent story in The Reporter about improvements at the Penn Museum