by Marsha Rakestraw

Recently the issues of Syria, chemical weapons, and the possible U.S. response have been at the top of news headlines and conversations worldwide.

But how many teachers have brought those news stories and conversations to their classrooms?

When I was a first-year teacher, the war in the Persian Gulf had just begun, and while everyone was talking about it outside the classroom, it didn’t even occur to me (or any of the other teachers) that my students would want to talk about these issues — or benefit from learning about them. It wasn’t part of the curriculum, after all.

Steve Goldberg, teacher, and founder of the Triangle Learning Community, says, “If a middle or high school today is NOT teaching its students about Syria, then it’s cheating students of a rare opportunity to be engaged global citizens.”

Exploring these issues offers students a chance to think critically and creatively (and question what they’re hearing and seeing); communicate passionately and compassionately; hone their research skills; make connections to history, science, math, language arts — most any subject; and to use their skills and the solutionary lens to discuss choices that could do more good and less harm for all.

If you’d like to bring these issues to your classroom, here are six resources to help:

  1. We at IHE have created a new Global Issues Guide on Syria (on our Pinterest page), with links to news reports, video clips and more.
  2. The New York Times Learning Network has posted a lesson plan that helps students explore the issue of how the United States should respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
  3. The Choices Program offers a lesson plan for discussing the U.S. response to Syria via news sources and role plays.
  4. PBS has created several lesson plans for teaching about Syria, including “An Attack on Syria – What Would You Do?”.
  5. I Am Syria has created a resource and teaching guide to help teachers facilitate exploring the Syrian refugee crisis with their students.
  6. Educator Steve Goldberg offers a brief primer on how a teacher might approach teaching about Syria to sixth graders.

Even for those of us who are concerned citizens, rather than classroom teachers, we can use resources like these to broaden our knowledge (and hopefully perspective), and to bring accurate information and positive solutions to any conversations we have with others about what’s happening in Syria.