Teachers trek to Penn for training in language and world cultures

School is out for most students, but teaching is a year-round profession. This summer, groups of K-12 educators will assemble on Penn’s campus for unique educational opportunities to learn more about world cultures and the Chinese language.

Running July 17-21, the Penn Global Summer Institute is an annual weeklong program that assists regional K-12 teachers in building global content into their lesson plans. This year’s theme is “Legendary Empires: Power, People, and Politics,” co-organized by Penn’s national resource centers and the Penn Museum.

The Institute will build on multidisciplinary expert presentations from history, anthropology, and the arts to explore fabled kings and queens, dynasties, colonial rulers, and modern empires.

Spanning the globe from the ancient Middle East and Ethiopia, to India and Southeast Asia, Penn faculty and staff will lead presentations and discussions with teachers, taking time to help them develop and discuss ideas for future lesson plans.

In addition to important academic content, hands-on activities will include a musical workshop with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, an Arab cultural education organization, and field trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new South Asia Gallery and the Penn Museum’s special exhibition, “Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq.”

Daily lunches will also be catered from area restaurants representing cultures of the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia.

“This is an incredibly valuable experience for area teachers. In today’s hyper-connected world, teachers have instant access to incredible amounts of global information—but how should this be navigated?” says David Dettmann, associate director of Penn’s Center for East Asian Studies(CEAS). “Expert presenters at Global Summer Institute provide nuance and balance to content to enable teachers to effectively teach about the world we live in.”

In late July, another group of educators will gather at Penn for the STARTALK Penn Chinese Teacher Advancement Program. The federal initiative seeks to increase the number of U.S. citizens learning, speaking, and teaching critical-need foreign languages. Presented by Penn’s Chinese Language Program and CEAS, STARTALK runs from July 24 to Aug. 8, and will focus on “One Belt, One Road,” the Chinese government’s sweeping new plan for global trade throughout Central Asia and South Asia.

Penn professors from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations in the School of Arts & Sciences and the Chinese Language Program will work with teachers enrolled in STARTALK who want to incorporate fresh One Belt, One Road global content into their Chinese language curriculum. Teachers will develop lesson plans, visit the Penn Museum, do group projects, and receive multimedia production and editing training.

“We want to support K-12 world language educators to develop better language and culture instruction,” says Mien-hwa Chiang, director of Penn’s Chinese Language Program, who oversees STARTALK.

This summer’s iteration of STARTALK is designed for experienced Chinese language teachers to advance their knowledge of China, and teaching skills on One Belt, One Road, which has largely been ignored by U.S. media.

“Students of the STARTALK teachers will learn the real-world importance of China and relate Chinese language to the global economic, political, and cultural context,” Chiang says.