Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World: The History Blueprint Approach
The California History-Social Science Project proposes a session on its History Blueprint Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit for 7th-grade students. The History Blueprint initiative combines the expertise of historians and K-12 teachers to create a comprehensive history curriculum - including lesson plans, primary sources, digital media, strategies to teach historical analysis and develop academic language, assessments, and online support – which is then freely available online. The first unit, on the US Civil War, was launched in 2012. Supported by an Our Shared Past grant from the Social Science Research Council and the British Council, a team of 7th-grade teachers and university historians, led by Teofilo Ruiz of UCLA, is designing a second History Blueprint unit entitled “Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World,” which will incorporate cutting-edge historical scholarship to teach young students about shared networks and practices among the diverse peoples of the medieval Afro-Eurasian world. The unit will be framed with this historical investigation question: “How did exchanges at sites of encounter in the medieval world influence the surrounding cultures?” Examining the Mediterranean world, maritime technological transfers and multicultural entrepôts, the unit will immerse students in sites of encounter – Sicily, Majorca, Quanzhou, Mali, Cairo and Calicut - where merchants, travelers and scholars participated in shared cultural, economic and scientific networks. Beginning with the study of concrete objects – maps, ships, astrolabes, silks and spices – the unit will guide young students to an understanding of Afro-Eurasian interconnections and shared values from 1000 through 1492, as it also provides pedagogical support for reading and analyzing primary sources and developing historical thinking. The session will examine different aspects of the Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit from three perspectives. Teo Ruiz (history professor, University of California, Los Angeles) will discuss the historiographical issues which inform the Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit and the ways in which the Blueprint can develop and strengthen connections between the academy and the K-12 schools, as he explores the process of collaborating with teachers from the academic perspective. Shennan Hutton (California History-Social Science Project, UC Davis) will outline the Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World unit’s objectives and activities, and discuss the goals of the History Blueprint project. Michelle Delgado (History teacher, Edward Harris, Jr. Middle School) will present selected lessons from the unit, and analyze the process of collaborating on the Blueprint project from the perspective of a classroom teacher. The first two presenters will speak for fifteen minutes each, and the teacher will engage the audience in lessons for thirty to forty-five minutes. A question-and-answer period will follow. The session targets a mixed audience of faculty and K-12 teachers.