The Silk Road Project Summer 2007 Newsletter

New Curriculum Brings Cultural Exchange to Chicago Classrooms

The Silk Road Project and SPICE collaborate to integrate art and music into study of world history

A new curriculum is being introduced in Chicago Public Schools and is available nationwide. Copes can be purchased from SPICE

Silk Road Ensemble musicians were the focus of the January 2007 issue of Calliope, a children's magazine about world history

Hundreds of Chicago Public School teachers will soon lead classroom explorations using a new curriculum developed by the Silk Road Project and the Stanford Program on international and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE).

Excitement has been brewing since last August, when Chicago teachers had a hand in designing the curriculum during intensive training sessions. The teachers each received a final Along the Silk Road packet, which includes a DVD, music CD and a Silk Road wall map. The Art Institute of Chicago, which hosted the first training, invited the teachers to bring their students to the museum for special programs to enhance the learning experience.

Along the Silk Road provides students in grades 6 through 10 with “a platform from which they will come to recognize and value the diversity of the world,” said Laura Freid, CEO and executive director of the Silk Road Project. “We hope to instill in them a lifelong appreciation of the benefits of cross-cultural exchange.”

SPICE is internationally recognized for producing educational tools to increase awareness and understanding of issues relating to Asia. The first SPICE curriculum to so thoroughly incorporate art and music, Along the Silk Road offers interactive exercises to enrich students’ understanding of cultural, artistic and scientific contributions made by nations within the Silk Road region.

“The Silk Road Ensemble’s performances not only lead the audience on a musical journey but also illustrate to the audience that a diverse world can be united through music,” said Gary Mukai, director of SPICE. “This mission of the Silk Road Project is similar in many ways to the mission of SPICE, which seeks to educate young students about the growing diversity and interdependence of the world. Along the Silk Road, which was co-developed by the Silk Road Project and SPICE, serves as a vehicle to promote the missions of both projects to young students around the world. The SPICE staff feels very honored to have crossed paths with the Silk Road Project staff and musicians.”

The eight lessons in Along the Silk Road examine the physical features of the historic Silk Road, communication and commerce among travelers and traders, belief systems, philosophies, music and other arts and the history of human migration. Filled with resources including maps and handouts, the curriculum provides guidelines for instructors and tools for students to engage in Silk Road trading exercises and participate in many other hands-on activities.

The curriculum addresses United States national standards for world history, social studies, geography, music education and English language arts.

Through the generous funding of the Albert Pick, Jr. Fund and the Polk Bros. Foundation, Along the Silk Road will be distributed to many more Chicago Public School teachers who will be trained in its use. The curriculum will reach thousands of schoolchildren over the next few years.