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MEAC 2020

K-12 Teachers Complete Fellowship on the Middle East and North Africa

January 26, 2021

In December 2020, 15 North Carolina teachers completed the intensive nine-month Middle East and African Cultures Teacher Fellows Program (MEAC) offered by the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and the UNC African Studies Center. The 2020 MEAC program was held virtually, connecting teachers with presenters and communities across North Carolina.

MEAC Fellows
The 2020 Middle East and African Cultures Teacher Fellows participate in a program on Zoom.

The fellowship aims to increase teachers’ knowledge of Middle Eastern and African history, culture and diaspora by introducing educators to places and communities across North Carolina that have connections to these regions. Participating fellows represented elementary, middle and high schools from 12 counties across the state.

The program began with four orientation workshops throughout the spring and summer. These sessions provided important content and context for teaching about Africa and the Middle East in the K-12 setting, including presentations by Charles Kurzman, co-director of the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Emily Burrill, director of the African Studies Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Another session in the orientation series, led by Bud Kauffman, teaching associate professor of Arabic at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Amanda Maples, curator of African art at the NC Museum of Art, offered an introduction to arts and cultures in the Middle East and Africa. This was followed by “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy for Distance Learning,” a session presented by Brian Gibbs, clinical assistant professor at the UNC School of Education. The fellows also participated in asynchronous modules and shared their learning on a Google Classroom page to further discussion.

In the fall, the fellows participated in a series of virtual site visits with partners around the state, including workshops with the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at North Carolina State University; the North Carolina African Services Coalition, a refugee resettlement agency in Greensboro; and the Masjid Omar Ibn Sayyid in Fayetteville.

Fellows were shipped spices and Moroccan tea to their homes for an at-home multisensory activity.
A highlight of the virtual site visits for many fellows was an interactive workshop in November featuring Samia Touati, founder and president of the Triangle-based Arab Heritage Learning. In this session, teachers learned more about Middle Eastern and African food, identity and immigration by participating virtually in a Moroccan tea ceremony as well an activity including spices that were shipped to their homes, led by Barbara Petzen, director of Middle East Connections. In this activity, teachers attempted to identify nine spices used in Middle Eastern and African cuisine, based on their appearance and smell alone. A discussion of the spice’s origins, historic uses, and global trade followed after the name of each spice was revealed, engaging smell, taste, and sight for a multisensory experience.