Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lansing teacher off to Saudi Arabia

November 21, 2007

Saudi Arabia may share a border with war-torn Iraq, but compared to its neighbor it receives little attention.

That's about to change, however, for Lansing High School social studies teacher Bianca Elliott.

"There is so much more to (Saudi Arabia) that we're not seeing, and I 'd like to go see it for my own self," Elliott said. "I don't want the TV or the newspaper to tell me what to see."

Elliott leaves for a 10-day tour of Saudi Arabia today with a group of 24 other Americans chosen by the Institute of International Education to promote closer educational relationships between the United States and foreign countries.

The group, consisting of kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers primarily in social studies or media, will tour the country and learn about its politics, economics and education. They will visit the major cities of Dhahran, Jeddah and Riyadh, picking up information along the way to bring home and share with their communities.

"I'm going in trying to learn as much as I can on many different levels," she said.

During the application process for the tour, Elliott had to submit a three-year plan on how she would use the information she received within the classroom and among her peers and community.

Her primary goal is to incorporate her new knowledge into her own social studies classes at the high school. She said students always like to know you've been to the place you're lecturing about because it brings an element of reality to the classroom that a book can't.

"I'll be able to see it, taste it, feel it, and bring that back to the students," she said.

In addition to daily lessons, Elliott said she has connections at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth and the University of Kansas in Lawrence. She said she hopes to give presentations at both institutions regarding her acquired information.

While Elliot has never been to Saudi Arabia, she travels internationally whenever she can because she said she likes learning about and observing other people's cultures.

"I'm going to be seeing a different culture and seeing how Muslim people really live, rather than how they're portrayed on television," Elliott said.

Another aspect she's looking forward to is being a woman going into a country that views the gender in a different way than the United States.

"It's going to bring a voice to the classroom that hasn't been there before," she said.

Steve Dike, Lansing High School principal, said he saw Elliott's trip as being an extension of the high school's goal to give students more perspectives of foreign cultures.

"It's another opportunity to expose students and at least get other cultures back into the curriculum," Dike said.

While other high school teachers have traveled abroad, mostly with students, Dike said Elliott's trip would be slightly different in that she will go alone and bring the knowledge back with her. A substitute will cover her classes in her absence, and Dike said he was excited for the opportunity to expand the world for the students of Lansing.

Elliott said she was glad she had the support of others and that it has only fueled her excitement up to this point.

"This is just a great opportunity because the kingdom is pretty closed off," she said, "so to be able to actually be on site is going to be pretty exciting."

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