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Teachers delve into global water and culture issues

Joni Eaton
Jason Koski/University Photography
Joni Eaton tries out a dragon boat oar during a International Studies Summer Institute presentation on dragon boat festivals in the Physical Sciences Building.

To glean a deeper understanding into how the geography of water plays a significant role in economic, environmental and political situations, and in culture, tradition and the arts worldwide, more than 50 middle and high school teachers attended an International Studies Summer Institute (ISSI) at Cornell called The Cultural Geography of Water, June 24-26.

Sponsored by the Cornell Educational Resources for International Studies (CERIS), a collaborative outreach group made up of staff from the six area studies programs at Cornell and the Einaudi Center for International Studies, this multidisciplinary workshop engaged educators in activities on integrating world area knowledge on global issues, culture and traditions related to the topic of water. The material was presented across curricula while meeting New York State English Language Arts, Social Studies and Visual Art standards.

“This summer institute is part of CERIS’ mission to address the needs of New York’s low-income rural and urban schools,” said Nicole Koschmann, education outreach coordinator for the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell and CERIS.

This is the fourth ISSI that CERIS has sponsored, with more than 200 teachers attending from 26 school districts in New York.

This year, faculty, staff and graduate students from Cornell, Ithaca College, Syracuse University, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges presented. Gail Holst-Warhaft, director of the Mediterranean Studies Initiative at Cornell, for example, discussed the Mediterranean Basin; Mara Alper, of the Park School at Ithaca College screened her latest video work on water rituals; and Cornell Professor Michael Walter presented on water development in rural India. In addition, Kara Wilcox, a global studies teacher at Dryden High School and last year’s ISSI Curriculum Grant recipient through Einaudi’s South Asia Program, presented “Water’s Impact on South Asian Women,” a curriculum unit she designed for New York state global history and geography students. 

Also during the three days of activities, Beverly Guan ’14, a dancer in Cornell’s undergraduate Chinese dance troupe Illuminations, demonstrated a water dance and Amy Kuo Somchanhmavong, associate director of Cornell’s Public Service Center and president of the Ithaca Asian American Association, spoke on the significance of the global sport dragon boat racing. In collaboration with the Johnson Museum of Art, the teachers experienced water-related artwork and forms of water poetry from around the world.

About half the teachers who attended the workshop stemmed from low-income districts and about one-third teach in rural districts. The teachers came from 29 schools in 26 school districts across 17 New York state counties. Twenty-five teachers were high school teachers and nine were middle school teachers. The others were either elementary school teachers or special education teachers that work with all grades.

Most of the participants were social studies teachers, but several were also visual art, science, foreign language, English as a Second Language, literacy, special education, and family and consumer science teachers.

The institute this summer was co-sponsored by the Syracuse University South Asia Center and was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education Title VI Program.

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