Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 29, 2013
Brooklin School art teacher tours Turkey
Brooklin School art teacher Peggi Stevens at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey in July. The Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox basilica, then Imperial mosque and now a museum. Stevens attended a three-week trip for educators to learn about the Ottoman Empire, paid for in part by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
by Jessica Brophy
The three weeks Brooklin School art teacher Peggi Stevens spent in Turkey learning about the Ottoman Empire were “truly amazing,” she said.
Stevens traveled Turkey with 29 other elementary and high school teachers from July 8 through July 26. Stevens’ trip was sponsored in part by Primary Source of Watertown, Mass.
Primary Source is a nonprofit organization promoting history and humanities education. The organization has roots in Maine, and received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to sponsor educators on learning opportunities like these.
For more back to school information, check out our full Back to School section here
The trip included approximately two weeks in Istanbul and a week traveling the countryside. “We studied culture, society, politics, trade,” said Stevens. “The days were packed, and at night we kept journals and read for the following day.”
One of the most interesting and unexpected things she learned about was Turkey’s rich agricultural history and present-day farming activities. Sunflowers, olive trees and fruit trees are all common in Turkey, where there is a lot of water available for farming.
Stevens said everyone involved in the trip will be submitting lesson plans and ideas back to Primary Source to share with other educators. The art—particularly the use of tiles and color in mosques—will likely shape her lessons.
During part of the trip, the Muslim holiday of Ramadan was celebrated. This meant Muslims fasted all day, and then capped off the day with feasts and “noise and fanfare,” each evening around 8:30 p.m., said Stevens.
“It was eye opening to realize we need to teach and learn more about the Middle East and the Islamic culture,” said Stevens. She used the example of mosques, saying a mosque isn’t just the Muslim equivalent of a church, but rather a whole series or complex of buildings with many different purposes, including bathing and commerce.
“It’s so enlightening to learn how much I don’t know, as a teacher,” said Stevens, who said it inspires her to keep learning.
Certainly Stevens plans on integrating her experiences into her classroom, and hopes to present a few talks to parents or through the library as a means to share what she learned with people. She said she may connect with some high school teachers to pass along a few of the more complex lessons to be learned about the Ottoman Empire.
“It’s so worth it,” said Stevens on the importance of experiences such as these. “It just makes for a better understanding of the world.”
For more back to school information, check out our full Back to School section here.