Featured: "Jews & Muslims" 2017 Summer Program in Morocco

November 28, 2016

UNESCO site at MarrakechCalifornia middle and high school teachers are invited to apply to travel to Morrocco, June 26 - July 26, 2017. 

UC Berkeley's Center for Middle East Studies and Fulbright-Hayes Group Projects Abroad offer this oppportunity:

"At the crossroads of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Europe stands Marrakech, one of the Islamic world’s greatest capitals. As the preamble to the 2011 constitution of Morocco proclaims “[The Kingdom of Morocco’s] unity is forged by the convergence of its Arab, Islamic, Berber, and Saharan components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences.”

Jews and Muslims will delve into that convergence during a month-long program dedicated to the study of the ethnic, cultural, and religious complexity of Morocco through study of darija (the local Arabic dialect) and Moroccan Jewish civilization with renowned specialists Professor Emily Gottreich (UC Berkeley) and Professor Aomar Boum (UCLA). 

Participants will live and study within the madina, a walled city and UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the heart of Marrakech in the 11th century CE. A few minutes’ walk brings one to Jma al-Fna, a plaza like no other in the world. Every night it comes alive with acrobats, storytellers, fortune readers, dancers, musicians, food stalls, traditional dentists and healers, snake charmers, and as of late, a man who dances with three large owls. The nearby Gueliz district reflects the colonial past of Morocco, and excursions to the mellah— the historic Jewish quarter— and various shrines and pilgrimage sites lend nuance and depth to participants’ understanding of interaction and syncretism among adherents of Judaism and Islam. Other, longer trips to the high Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic coast are planned..."

The full cost to teachers will be a $500 non-refundable deposit plus personal spending money. For more details and to apply by January 3, 2017, please visit the website.

photo credit: davidxvx Marrakesh (31 of 133) via photopin (license)

Featured: New ORIAS Speakers Bureau

November 2, 2016

On Thursday, November 10, from 5:00 - 8:00 PM ORIAS will host an Open House to introduce its new Speakers Bureau!

Where: UC Berkeley campus, in 1229 Dwinelle Hall.

Educators are invited to meet our first 12 speakers, hear short teasers for their talks, ask questions, and schedule them to come to classes on the spot.

The inaugural group of speakers are graduate students whose areas of expertise cross both geographic and disciplinary boundaries. Each presenter has worked with ORIAS and with teacher-reviewers to hone a single presentation to make it age-appropriate and engaging. While talks are focused, most are both interdisciplinary and appropriate for a number of subjects. In addition to providing in-depth information in an interactive way, speakers will model skills from the Common Core standards and share their personal academic stories with the students they meet.

Whether you teach social studies, art, science or literature, at least one of these presentations can enrich your course.

This program is generously funded by the Title VI-funded Area Studies Centers along with the Center for Latin American Studies and the Center for African Studies here at UC Berkeley. Visiting your classroom is a chance for valuable professional development for our speakers.

Sign up here to attend our Speakers Bureau Open House on November 10, 2016, from 5:00 to 8:00 PM.

Featured: The Travels of Ibn Battuta

October 5, 2016

The Travels of Ibn Battuta: a Virtual Tour has been one of ORIAS' most successful, most widely used projects. The Travels of Ibn Battuta: A Virtual Tour began as a Web resource written in 1999 by Nick Bartel for his students at Horace Mann Middle School, San Francisco, California. It was one of several large online resource units Nick constructed during the early days of curriculum on the internet. Most units were lost during technical changes over the years at San Francisco Unified School District, where the original pages were hosted. Since that time, online resources for teaching world history through traveler's narratives have increased dramatically, but Nick's pages are still some of the most valuable for classrooms. In 2012 he gave permission to ORIAS to rebuild and rehost the site at UCB, where it could be updated and "rescued" from the virtual void. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies provided funding to help in this process.

This month, ORIAS moved the project to its website. While much of the text is the same, some updates have been added, reflecting the growth of online resources since the project's inception. These include the addition of some new images and embedded videos, as well as updates to possible student projects to reflect changes in technologies and resources widely available to students. Your comments and suggestions for further work are welcome!

Featured: Women in World History - Resources

August 1, 2016

Here's a thought-exercise for World History teachers. It came out of conversations at the ORIAS summer institute on Women in World History, based on an assignment described by one of our presenters:

How would your curriculum change if your default historical subjects were women, rather than men?


  • Regarding the origins of settled agriculture, how long would you spend discussing the relative benefits of birth-spacing versus having large families?
  • How would you assess the value of Athenian democracy?

  • What would you teach students about interpreting written documents? What would you say about the societal role of literacy?

  • Would property rights and marriage laws edge out professional status and voting rights in classroom discussions about power?

  • How would you describe the protagonists' motives in narratives of long-distance trade and imperial conquest?

  • What changes would you highlight in teaching about industrialization and the republican revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries?

Of course, these are not new sorts of questions. Histories of "everyday people" and subaltern histories challenge traditional narratives, reframing events, political structures, social categories, and philosophical ideals in myriad ways. Many teachers already work to incorporate these various lenses into their courses.

In a similar spirit, the goal of this exercise is not to write men out of the past. Rather, the point is to highlight the way gender already colors every aspect of what we teach in a social studies classroom, from the structure of our units, to the weight we give specific events, to the ways we teach students to think about sources. It illustrates the pervasiveness of a particular sort of generically masculine character as the invisible subject of much classroom (and textbook) discourse. This is especially evident in a World History context, where required curricular content can feel infinite and teaching time is always at a premium.  

It is tough to fit new material into an established course and even harder to alter a curriculum's basic structure. On the other hand, women and girls make up at least 50% of most classroom populations. ORIAS received lots of inquiries about this year's summer institute because so many teachers are actively looking for strategies to bring women in from the curricular edges, where the "If we have time" lessons generally reside.

For me, the most positive takeaway of the ORIAS summer institute on Women in World History was the graphic illustration that this is not a zero-sum game, in which one set of students can win only if the others lose. For example, Beverly Bossler's presentation, "Women in Late Imperial China" imparted a nuanced view of the relationship between Confucian philosophy, personal behavior, and the late imperial state. She used women's experiences as a tool to explain the connection between state power and invididual behavior, to highlight differences between the lives of elites and commoners, and to show ways Han people differentiated themselves from their Manchu conquerors in the Qing dynasty. All of these topics were accessed through questions about how women were expected to behave, how women actually behaved, and how we know the answers to either of those questions. Nothing was sacrificed, a lot was gained.

Collectively, the talks showed that lessons incorporating gender are useful in the social studies classroom. Visual, textual, and material depictions of masculinity and femininity (and non-binary genders) can do double- and triple-duty to elucidate a wide range of concepts across time and space.

So is historical information about women's lives available? Can you build gender analysis into your teaching, without adding an additional school year's worth of material to your school year? Is there a universal benefit to doing so?

The speakers at our summer institute on Women in World History answered all these questions with a resounding Yes. They amply demonstrated the possibilities through their presentations. We invite you to use their post-presentation video interviews to experiment in your own classes. Each video is accompanied by a guiding question you might use to focus your lesson, along with a handful of background resources. 

See Resources