2016 Summer Scholars Institute
City Lore’s 2016 NEH Summer Institute, A Reverence for Words: Understanding Muslim Cultures through the Arts, took place from July 10-23 in New York City. Thirty teacher scholars attended, representing 13 different states, primary and secondary grades, public and private schools, and a variety of subjects, ranging from English to social studies and visual art to music to religion.
The institute kicked off with a welcome reception at the City Lore Gallery, providing an opportunity for the scholars to informally meet one another and the guest faculty members. The first week focused on the literary arts, beginning with looking at the Qur’an through its diction and rhythm, as well as introductions to the poetic traditions of the four language areas—Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Turkish—including two translation workshops. The week also encompassed an evening concert of music inspired by poetry, a contemporary poetry reading, and a visit to the NYU Islamic Center.
The second week focused on art, music, and oral traditions. It included three excursions: a trip to the Metropolitan Museum’s Islamic wing, lectures at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture located in Harlem, and a tour of the Indo-Persian inspired gardens of Untermyer Park in Yonkers. The institute concluded on Saturday, July 23, with a culinary walking tour of an Arab-American community around Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and a closing dinner and final celebration at the Lebanese restaurant Tripoli, where the scholars surprised us with a delightful, collaboratively written ghazal in honor of City Lore.
Following the conclusion of the Institute, the Summer Scholars created new lesson and unit plans based on the content they learned. Examples include: “Art (and the Bias) of Translation,” “Characteristics of Islamic Art,” “Persian and Turkish Music,” “Arabesque and Geometric Patterns in Muslim Arts,” “Exploring Persian, Hindustani, Turkic, and Arabic Languages through Poetry,” “Salam Alaikum: Exploring Greetings Around the World” (1st Grade), “Poetry, Ghazal, and Epic,” and “Langston Hughes as Global Emissary.”
2014 Summer Scholars Institute
City Lore’s inaugural NEH Summer Institute, A Reverence for Words: Understanding Muslim Cultures through Poetry and Song, took place from July 13-27, 2014 in New York City. The institute brought together 29 K-12 educators from around the country with university scholars, translators, filmmakers, and poets to exchange ideas and learn from one another. As evidenced by the feedback from the teachers themselves (see below), they emerged with a deeper understanding of the role of the arts in Muslim cultures and with effective tools to convey that understanding to their students.
The first week focused on the literary arts, beginning with looking at the Qur’an through its diction and rhythm, as well as introductions to the poetic traditions of the four language areas: Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Turkish. Morning lectures by the visiting faculty were followed by afternoon translation workshops with staff from Teachers & Writers Collaborative. The second week focused on art, music, and oral traditions. It included an evening concert, a trip to the Metropolitan Museum’s Islamic wing, and a culinary walking tour of an Arab-American community around Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Field trips included an excursion to a Sufi Lodge and a tour of Islamic-inspired architecture.
The educators represented a range of geographic locations, teaching experience, grade levels, and subject areas, which spanned English, history, theology, visual arts, among others. Their final projects, completed two weeks after the institute, also captured a diversity of topics and formats. Examples include: an i-book titled “Expressing All that is Allah“ for an eighth grade history class; PowerPoint presentations, “The Characteristics of Islamic Art” and “It Lights the Whole Sky: Resources to Supplement a Unit on Islamic Civilization”; and a lesson on Islamic protest poetry.
Each presentation/session has been outstanding—has exposed me to much that is new to me and has been fascinating. …Every presenter I wanted to hear more, frustrated that they were “cut short.” But at the same time, this whets the appetite for me to follow up and learn more, which is what a good program should do. Thank you all so much for orchestrating a program that informs, excites, and teaches so much.
-Patrick Connelly, high school world religion teacher
Most of the content is new to me, so I am enjoying learning. Much of this lies outside what I teach, and it is energizing to be pushed beyond my comfort zone a bit.
-Sarah Heard, high school history teacher
Everything seems to be building on each other—pace is great—classroom connections tie everything together.
-Sarah Weerth, high school art teacher
The translation activity was an eye-opener and helped resolve my anxiety about teaching poetry in translation. ..Right now I’m pretty certain that Darwish will fit perfectly into what I’m planning to teach in the fall. I’m getting three of his books from the library tonight.
-Fred Daly, high school English teacher
If I had to pick one general item, it would be the lecture/presentations by the university professors. They were all enlightening and certainly were passionate about their subjects. I have learned so much and have also had much of what I teach (Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals) reinforced and affirmed. Music instruments/songs session was awesome [“Crosscurrents in Persian and Turkish Classical Music” by musician Amir Vahab]. Poetry work has been very helpful. Met [Metropolitan Museum] session, very useful.
-Bill Lloyd, high school history teacher
The City Lore staff has been exceptional and wonderful to us. The scheduling of events [has] been right on, and the capacity of knowledge presented has been amazing. I have had a great experience here, and I will be sure to share it all with my colleagues once I get home.
-Felipe Becerra, high school history teacher