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Tag: Middle East (page 2 of 2)

Using Infographics for Policy Deliberation on Afghanistan

by Amy Sanders
Yarmouth ME High School Teacher & Choices Teaching Fellow

Infographic 5 © Newsweek

I incorporate the CHOICES curriculum, The United States in Afghanistan, into my Middle East Studies course. The curriculum is an excellent resource that provides helpful information about Afghanistan’s history, geography, and people, and is the framework around which I build our study of Afghanistan.

When teaching CHOICES units, I often modify the policy deliberation into two distinct phases: first, I have students share key points related to their policy options; second, I move into a “fishbowl” discussion to deliberate the pros and cons of the policy options.

In the past, when teaching the CHOICES unit about the US Invasion of Iraq, I located data that the US Department of Defense reported to Congress. Before we began policy deliberations, I would project some of the data from these reports (which included, for example, graphs of weekly security incidents or percentage of Iraqis with electricity). I would ask students to sit with members of their policy option group and to confer and take notes about how each graph/chart related to their policy option. When we began the fishbowl deliberation, I had color copies of the data available in the center of the table. Students would reach for a relevant graph or chart to back up a point they wanted to make. This method encouraged students to incorporate additional relevant, current evidence into the deliberation.

I wanted to try something similar for our policy deliberation on Afghanistan, and this time asked students to analyze infographics related to the war in Afghanistan. I created a handout introducing students to infographics (which includes an analysis sheet). Students divided into small groups, with each group analyzing one infographic. I used the infographics from the links below:

Infographic 1 – The White House – Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq

Infographic 2 – Internews – Violence Against Journalists in Afghanistan

Infographic 3 – Asia Foundation – Visualizing Afghanistan: A Survey of the Afghan People

Infographic 4 – Plumegraph.org – Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

Infographic 5 – Newsweek – Where’s the Money Going in Afghanistan?

Infographic 6 – US Action  – Ten Years of War in Afghanistan: Bridges NOT Bombs!

Infographic 7 – National Post (Canada) – Blood and Treasure

Infographic 8 – New York Times – Indicators of Worsening Security Situation in Afghanistan

Students rotated the writing responsibility in their infographic analysis and recorded interesting insights and thoughtful questions – including about media bias. Small groups then shared their analysis with the whole group; as teams presented, students within policy option groups conferred about how the data related to their policy option.

Overall, student feedback about the lesson was positive, including these comments:

“Visuals stick in the brain better.”

“This activity gave me a new way to think about data and a new outlook on the war.”

“It made all of the data and numbers relative, which made me better understand the implications of the war.”

“I saw trends that I hadn’t really thought about before.”

“Some of the infographics broke down abstract numbers and helped me to relate to them.”

“The infographics we looked at brought different perspectives and showed how you can manipulate data and numbers to make a point.”

“The infographic about the danger in Afghanistan helped me to see the progression of danger very clearly. It helped me to see visually that conditions there have not necessarily gotten better even after 10+ years of war.”

“This data helped me to better understand and reinforced a lot of what we already learned from the [CHOICES] curriculum.”

“I’d never really thought about how many civilians in Afghanistan have been killed by insurgents vs. the US military. The data showed that far more have died at the hands of insurgents. That was eye opening.”

Immersed in a media-rich world, students are drawn to visualizations of data, and infographics give us new ways to think about and understand information. I believe it’s important for educators to help students both to make connections to their prior learning and to analyze and challenge the information presented in infographics. Students’ analysis of infographics tied into the CHOICES curriculum on Afghanistan and helped extend student learning. It was fun and engaging too… a win/win for my students.


The United States in Afghanistan is available from The Choices Program website. It is also available as an iBooks Textbook from the iBookstore.

Teaching the U.S. Role in the Middle East in 11th & 12th Grade Social Problems

DoD photo by Sgt. KimberlyJohnson, U.S. Army

By Guest Blogger Hayley Vatch

Choices Teaching Fellow

The U.S. role in the Middle East is a surprisingly popular topic of interest for students in my 11th and 12th grade Social Problems class.  Although the class is focused on U.S. domestic social issues such as poverty and racism, I also make time to address more global issues such as the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the refugees who have left these countries.  Studying the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is not only important for my U.S.-born students with relatives or friends who serve in the military, but also for the high population of students at my school who are refugees.  The public high school where I teach in Denver, Colorado has students from over 40 countries, with the second-largest population being from Iraq (Mexico is first), so I mainly focus on the U.S. in Iraq in my teaching.

Since my Social Problems course is only a semester, there is limited time to delve into a topic as complex as the U.S. presence in the Middle East.  Below is a fairly flexible plan that I have used the past two semesters of this course.  Combining Choices’ Teaching with the News resources, the Choices unit A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq with a National Public Radio audio clip, a Veteran guest speaker, and information from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees makes for a concise but informative, well-rounded, and thought-provoking study of the U.S .in Iraq.


Days 1-2 – Essential Question: Where is Iraq and who are its people?

Resources: As a warm-up, students create a KWL chart for the U.S. war in Iraq.  At this time they complete on the “Know” and “Want to Know” sections.  The “Learned” section is completed at the end of the unit. A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq – Student Book p. 2-13, Teacher Resource Book p. 6-7 (Part I reading and study guide questions)


Days 2-3 – Essential Question: Who was Saddam Hussein and what was Iraq like before the U.S. invasion?

Resources: A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq – Student Book p. 14-25, Teacher Resource Book p. 29-30 (Part II reading and study guide questions)


Day 4 – Essential Question: Why did the U.S. invade Iraq?  How does the war in Iraq affect Iraqi people and U.S. military?

Guest speaker: I use a good friend who served in Iraq in 2004 and again in 2007 with the U.S. Marine Corps.  I have my students write down at least one question that they would like the speaker to address.  I give the questions to the speaker a day ahead of time to give him an idea of what the students know and might not know.  Students’ homework is to write a reflection on what they learned from the speaker.


Day 5 – Essential Question: What are the social, political, economic, and human costs of war?

Resources: Teaching With the News lesson The Cost of War. I print out the appropriate reading from the web site and give each group of 3-4 students the graphic organizer handout along with one of the three web site readings.  They complete their own portion of the graphic organizer using the reading, and then we share our notes as a class.  I also always show the Scholars Online video from the lesson plan entitled “Why is it important for high school students to understand the costs of the United States’ wars?”  Students answer this question using information from the video as well as their own opinions as their exit assignment for the day.


Day 6 – Essential Question: What effect has war had on the civilians of Iraq, particularly those who have been displaced by the war?  What is the refugee experience in America like for Iraqi refugees?

Online Resources:

UNHCR data and summary of Iraq’s refugees

NPR audio clip about the struggles of refugees in America


Day 7 – Essential Question: How do people of various backgrounds perceive and experience the U.S. war in Iraq?

Resources: A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq– Blogging Iraq activity found on p. 55-59 of the Teacher Resource Book

Complete the “Learned” section of the KWL chart as an exit assignment.


A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq is available from The Choices Program website. It is also available as an iBooks Textbook from the iBookstore.

 

Great Resource on the Green Line

An upcoming vote in the General Assembly of the UN on recognizing a Palestinian state is going to be getting more and more attention in the coming days.

Here’s a useful resource from the New York Times on the role of the Green Line in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

There’s a terrific animated map, four short videos with different perspectives on the future, and five images with captions.

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

As Israelis marched on June 1 to commemorate Israel's capture of the Old City from Jordan in 1967, Palestinians climbed to the rooftops, waving Palestinian flags in protest. The marchers wound their way through Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood on the Palestinian side of the Green Line that has become restive in the past few years after Israeli settlers began moving in. (Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times.)

New in Scholars Online: Charles Tripp

In November 2002, a team of Iraq experts was assembled to meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair and advise him on the consequences of going to war in Iraq. Charles Tripp, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of London, was a member of that team. Here he gives a fascinating, behind-the-scenes account of what happened at that meeting, in response to our question, “Do you think that British and U.S. leaders had a good understanding of Iraqi history when they decided to go to war?”.

This video is part of the Scholars Online collection for A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq. See the other videos from this interview here.

Maine Teachers Use “Protests, Revolutions, and Democratic Change” TWTN Lesson for Innovative Project

Media coverage of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world – collectively known as the Arab Spring – has captured the world’s attention. Amy Sanders (Social Studies teacher) and Cathy Wolinsky (Instructional Technology Integrator) at Yarmouth High School in Yarmouth, Maine, seek classroom partners for a collaborative study of the Arab Spring. The project, modeled after the Flat Classroom Project, will begin in early October and last approximately one month. Utilizing the CHOICES Teaching with the News lesson, “Protests, Revolutions, and Democratic Change,” the project envisions students working in international collaborative teams to learn more about the protest movements in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. Students also will be asked to reflect on what they have learned and connect this to their experiences with democracy. If you would like to join the project or would like more information, please visit: http://arabspring.wikispaces.com/ or contact Amy Sanders at amy_sanders@yarmouthschools.org.

Keep Your Eyes on Yemen and Syria

While the media focuses on Libya, events in Yemen and Syria also deserve our attention. I think that the scale of the protests there suggest that change is coming soon.

Al Jazeera English is giving it good coverage.

Teaching with the President’s Libya Speech

President Obama’s speech last night had a few media pundits talking about an “Obama Doctrine.” Below is an excerpt from The U.S. Role in a Changing World that helps students think about the role of presidential doctrines in U.S. history and what an Obama Doctrine might actually be.

Have students read the excerpt below and then watch the president’s speech.

  • Do students think the president established a doctrine? Or is this something less sweeping?

Presidential Doctrines (Excerpted from The U.S. Role in a Changing World)

Throughout history, U.S. presidents have had their names attached to the foreign policy doctrines they established. (A doctrine is a fundamental principle of a policy.) Below are a few examples of famous presidential doctrines.

The Monroe Doctrine: President James Monroe’s (1817-1825) stated that efforts by European nations to colonize or interfere in the Americas (North and South) would be considered as acts of aggression that demanded a U.S. response.

The Truman Doctrine: President Harry Truman (1945-1953) asserted that the United States would support democracy around the world and help states and peoples resist the spread of Soviet Communism.

The Carter Doctrine: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) warned that the United States would use force to protect the oil of the Persian Gulf region from the Soviet Union.

The Bush Doctrine: President George W. Bush (2001-2009) said that the United States would use military force preventively against perceived threats to the United States even if a threat was not immediate.

The Obama Doctrine?: President Barack Obama (2009- ) does not have a doctrine named after him—yet. Are there any clues about what an Obama Doctrine might be?

The Arab Spring

Nowruz is the name of the Iranian New Year. It occurs each year on the vernal equinox (around March 21st) and is celebrated by Iranic peoples throughout the world. Nowruz is the holiday of spring, and people come together to celebrate light and renewal by cleaning out their homes, having bonfires, and feasting. This Nowruz, President Obama delivered a message to the people of Iran, pledging support for their dreams and aspirations and for democratic change. I think that President Obama’s words are eloquent and compelling, but they raise complicated questions about the United States’ role in the many social movements of this Arab Spring. The U.S. has decided to use force to help end the dictatorship in Libya, but can military might really have a positive effect when the U.S. relationship to the region is so fraught? Is the U.S. now obligated to use force in other countries like Bahrain and Yemen? There are no easy answers, but we must continue to ask questions. I think the coming months give teachers an amazing opportunity to have conversations with their students about the Middle East–a region rich in history and tradition where so many people are standing up and making their voices heard. Many of the protesters in Egypt last month, and in Iran last year, were youth. Challenge your students to learn more about the lives and cultures of their fellow high schoolers in countries throughout the Middle East, and ask them to consider the role of the United States in democratic movements abroad.

The path of protest

The Guardian has put together an excellent interactive timeline that tracks the events in the Middle East over the past few months.

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