During the summer of 2000 CMES and select University of Arizona faculty led a group of 15 K-12 social studies teachers from Arizona and other states to travel to Syria for curriculum design. The trip was sponsored by a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Grant and provided teachers the chance to experience the rich tapestry that makes up Syrian society.
Syria, which is located in the Middle East, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest abounds with a bountiful history and a diverse population ethnically, linguistically, and religiously. CMES provided teachers with professionals that understood various aspects of the society to ensure that the trip was successful for the participants and that they were able to experience the country to the fullest.
Select University faculty members and in-country lecturers accompanied the group on the four week trip; the group toured Syria and learned about Syria's ancient past and the country's contributions to the world. The members were exposed to the cultures and faiths of the people living in modern day Syria and were able to visit various places of worship.
This trip provided teachers with an experiential learning program. It is hoped that this experience will translate into more and more accurate Middle Eastern content in their courses that is directly relevant to the daily life and choices of their students, and, in the process of achieving these goals, erode misconceptions and stereotypes about the Middle East in general and Syria specifically.
The success of the Teach Syria 2000 trip inspired many of the Fulbright-Hays trips which followed and are still being conducted annually during the summer. Teach Syria 2000 provided a positive foundation for the future. It gave educators an experience to remember and valuable knowledge for their classrooms, schools, and their students.