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10 great resources for teaching about the Middle East

It’s okay. Go ahead.

Really . . . it’s okay to take some time out of your current curriculum to spend a couple of days talking about the ongoing protests in Egypt, parts of Africa and the Middle East. These events provide a great chance for social studies teachers to discuss a wide variety of topics including:

  • geography – oil
  • history – colonialism and imperialism
  • economics – supply and demand
  • government  – democracy and autocrats

I posted some handy resources earlier that specifically targeted Egypt but I keep running into folks who are looking for a broader view. So I put together a quick list of stuff on teaching about the Middle East. Use the list to educate yourself, have your kids browse through different sites for a jigsaw activity, ask kids to develop a possible US or UN response to the various protests based on culture and history,  play some games . . . I’m sure you’ll figure something out.

1. Global Conflicts is an award-winning educational game series used for teaching citizenship, geography, and media courses. The games allow students to explore and learn about different conflicts throughout the world and the underlying themes of democracy, human rights, globalization, terrorism, climate and poverty.

The one you’re interested in is called Global Conflicts: Palestine.

2. Another great simulation is Peacemaker. The game asks you to figure out how to solve the conflict between the Israeli government and the Palestinians. Both Global Conflicts and Peacemaker are designed specifically for teachers and have loads of instructional resources. (Both are great examples of “serious games.”)

3. Teaching the Middle East: A Resource for Educators was developed by scholars from the University of Chicago to provide an overview of Middle Eastern cultures and their contributions to the world. You get access to Foundations, Historical Perspectives and Classroom Connections.

4. The Newseum is awesome. Among other things, it has an agreement with 800 newspapers from around the world to display their current front page. They have a separate section for Middle East newspapers. A great way to gain different perspectives on current events.

5. Another great media resource is HeadlineSpot. They also have a separate section for Middle East media goodies.

6. TeachGlobalEd aims to provide K-12 teachers with easy access to high quality scholarship, primary sources and web-based connections to five world regions, global issues and work in global education. Click the Middle East link on the left to get history, geography, current events and more.

7. The people at OutReach World have put together a database of interdisciplinary, cross-regional and standard-specific units, lessons and instructional aids designed by teachers and scholars and tested by practicing teachers affiliated with the National Resource Center network.

8. PBS Newshour Extra always has great stuff. You can find a variety of lesson plans here.

9. PBS also has a very nice site called Global Connections: The Middle East. There are several ways to use the site’s content. A timeline provides easy access ot events across a range of themes over the past 100 years. You can also explore the timeline through the lens of a single theme, such as economics or religion. To help put it all into context, the site offers a series of “connecting questions” which pose higher-level inquiries that cut across themes and time.

10. Just last week the Eisenhower Museum and Library released some 35,000 pages of previously classified documents. One is especially interesting. On page 10 of a diary entry dated October 8, 1953, Eisenhower comments on the CIA-orchestrated coup in Iran. A nice quote to perhaps start a discussion about current events, WikiLeaks, covert operations, national sovereignty and Bush’s “New World Order.”

Another recent development that we helped bring about was the restoration of the Shah to power in Iran and the elimination of Mossadegh. The things we did were ‘covert.’ If knowledge of them became public, we would not only be embarrassed in that region, but our chances to do anything of like nature in the future would almost totally disappear.

So really. It’s okay. Take some time. Your curriculum will be right where you left it.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dear Glenn,

    I will write more later by email on how much I am learning from you, but–for now–let me thank you for this well-structured summary of truly excellent resources on the Middle East.

    Wow! Things in that region are moving faster than one can keep up with them.

    Take care.

    Dave Lambert

    February 21, 2011
    • glennw #


      Thanks for the kind words! Glad you found the resources useful.

      And you’re right . . . keeping up is getting harder. Just read that the US citizen being held in Pakistan was working with a CIA-led team of operatives. Things are hopping all over that region.

      Have a great week!


      February 21, 2011
  2. Great list. When I was a kid I learned a lot about the Middle East by playing a simulator called “Conflict: Middle East Political Simulator.” It stuck with me.

    I’m actually playing with making a series of mnemonic device videos memorizing the middle east map (for people starting from zero). If you get a chance to take a look, I’d love to hear any feedback you have:

    Thanks for history tech!

    March 4, 2011
    • glennw #


      Awesome! I love the little mini-Jordan dunking on the overlay! These are just the kinds of things kids can use to help them remember stuff – visuals, activating prior knowledge and some structured mnemonics.

      I know teachers who would love to see more of these. Let me know when you have more to share and I can help spread the word a bit.


      March 5, 2011
  3. Thanks! I’ll let you know when the next one is finished!

    March 5, 2011

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