TEACH Bahrain: Building a Diverse, Connected and Tolerant World

When I asked a group of third graders to describe a kingdom, every hand shot in the air. I called on a boy in the second row who answered, “A kingdom is where a prince fights a dragon in order to save the castle.” The student vividly described the combat scene between dragon and man. I praised him on his imagination. Next, I called on a girl in the back row. She said, “Kingdoms are from a long time ago. The princess ends up marrying a brave knight.” Students’ responses were more than entertaining; they were enlightening. I was able to assess students’ background knowledge and identify misunderstandings.

From the class discussion, I learned that most students associate the word kingdom with European Folklore. Students did not realize that kingdoms exist today and are much unlike the ones from classic fairytales. I used Google Street View to show students 360-degree images of a present kingdom: The Kingdom of Bahrain. Students moved the panoramas in every direction. They saw apartment buildings with clothes hanging to dry, lawns made of sand, and coastlines adorn with palm trees and skyscrapers.

One student inquired, “So this a kingdom? Where are the forests and horses?” I responded by using Google Earth to show students Bahrain’s location in the Persian Gulf. The country’s climate is arid with an average annual rainfall of 2.8 inches (Ministry of Transportation Kingdom of Bahrain). Using an interactive map, the class compared Bahrain’s current temperature to that of our home state, Kentucky. They were surprised to find that in November, Bahrain had a day-time temperature of 87 degrees Fahrenheit. It happened to be just 36 degrees in southern Kentucky that day. The website, thetruesize.com, let students drag and drop Kentucky over Bahrain to compare their relative size. Students gasped when they saw how much bigger Kentucky is than the Kingdom of Bahrain (40,114.02 square miles bigger to be exact.)
The True Size Of...
Students began to appreciate that Earth’s geography is quite complex. Many places look and feel much different than what students know and understand. Governments can also be different. The United States is a democracy. America is also a republic where the chief of state (the president) is elected by the people. This is dissimilar from a monarchy like that of Bahrain, where the throne is inherited through a family dynasty (Scholastic).

With the help of geo-tools and information from credible sources, I finally convinced students that Bahrain is in fact a kingdom. I even displayed a picture of Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah who was declared sovereign when Bahrain became a kingdom in 2002 (BBC News).

Manama is the capital of Bahrain
Wikimedia Commons
Students have many misconceptions about the world. Often these misbeliefs are a result of limited experience. Children are not the only ones with misconceptions. Admittedly, I know little of the customs and traditions in Bahrain. Most of what I know about the Middle East is from what I see and hear on the nightly news. I hope to gain a new perspective and a better understanding of the Arab World by traveling to Bahrain. During my trip, I will experience the Kingdom of Bahrain first-hand. I hope my time there will help dispel common misconceptions and stereotypes about the Middle East.

TEACH Bahrain Fellowship

I am one of ten educators to be selected for the 10th Annual Teachers Educating Across Cultures in Harmony(TEACH) Fellowship. The Fellowship takes place November 15-21, 2018 in the Kingdom of Bahrain. This year’s Fellows represent academic institutions from ten different states across America. During our active study tour across Bahrain, we will encounter invaluable opportunities for hands-on collaboration with regional learning authorities and will be immersed in Bahrain's rich culture and heritage.

The TEACH Fellowship was launched in 2009 by the Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. The program provides U.S. educators an opportunity to visit the Middle East and gain insight into the culture, the challenges, and the opportunities experienced by their peers. Through personal communications and professional exchanges, Fellows inspire a new sense of purpose that ignites new possibilities for their students and their communities. I plan to share my experience through lesson plans, community programs, national education conferences, and personal exchanges.

Pre-Departure Research

My students decided not to wait until I return from Bahrain to learn about its culture and history. My selection as a TEACH Fellow was a great opportunity for students to engage in meaningful research. It was an equally great opportunity for me to teach students how to use credible, age-appropriate sources and public domain images for their infographics. I was amazed by students' dedication to this project. They surpassed my expectations by designing a series of digital posters, making announcements over the school intercom, and placing fun facts about Bahrain around the library for others to read when browsing for books. I find my young students to be inherently curious about the world. It helps when their librarian travels to unique destinations like Bahrain.
Students conducted research on Bahrain using Encyclopedia Britannica, results from Kiddle (a safe search engine), and Google Earth
Students took notes about Bahrain from videos and online articles. They posted facts about Bahrain around the library for everyone to see.
A group of students use the library's LEGO wall to construct a Bahrain skyscraper: Four Seasons Hotel.
A student used Microsoft Word to write a school announcement which she read over the intercom.

Students created digital posters using Canva and Adobe Spark. They used these graphics to share their research on Bahrain with other classes.

Students used the app, ChatterPix to create a 20-second audio recording of Bahrain's flag telling facts about its country. 

Students used PowerPoint to create a brochure about their lives in Kentucky. I plan to give these brochures to teachers and students I meet in Bahrain.
I applaud my elementary school students on their research and digital products. Before working with primary aged students, I had misconceptions about their abilities. I thought they were too inexperienced to engage in independent research. You see, we all have misconceptions about a wide array of topics. It is important that we remember to approach life and work with an open-mind. My students are doing it. After all, they now know that a kingdom can exist in a desert in the year 2018.
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