Resource Highlight: “Arab American Stories” Documentary Series with Classroom Tools

Arab American Stories is an Emmy Award-winning 13-part series presented by Detroit Public Television that explores the diversity of the Arab-American experience. Each half hour features three short, character-driven documentaries produced by a variety of independent filmmakers which profile Arab Americans making an impact in their community, their profession, their family or the world at large. Each story is juxtaposed around a particular theme, including: Unexpected Paths, Bridge Builders, Entrepreneurs, Art & Life, Innovators, Traditions, Creating a Community, Serving the Nation, Expressions, Civic Leaders, Artists, and Lasting Contributions. The series features people of all walks of life whose stories illustrate the Arab-American experience: artists, scientists, musicians, chefs, actors, businessman, cops, teachers.

For example, students can observe a Lebanese-American butcher whose dedication to his work and family inspired a local theater company to write a performance piece about him. Then you can meet an Egyptian/Polish/American writer who mines her multi-cultural experience for a coming of age novel, or the Lebanese-American cousins who invented the Swarmatron, an electronic instrument which was used on the Academy Award-winning soundtrack of The Social Network.Arab American Stories was shot all over the country by a team of talented filmmaker/producers who brought their varied experience to the stories. In addition to the vivid shared experiences, the website offers a history of Arab Americans, an outline of the community demographics and home countries, a list of additional resources and a special section For Educators.

For Educators offers accompanying viewing guides and lesson plans created to assist educators in positioning the episodes as part of lessons across multiple disciplines. Like the series, the lessons cover a broad range of topics and help students explore the characters and concepts presented in the episodes further. Students are also challenged throughout the lessons to think about community, culture, identity, and the American experience as seen through the 39 Arab American stories. Lessons and episodes cover a wide variety of education objectives and subjects. The series should not be viewed solely as a history or social studies resource. Teachers will find concepts and objectives across the education spectrum including:

The lessons have been designed with an interdisciplinary approach meant to engage students in dialogue. Each lesson contains:

Best practice for use of media in the classroom:

Through the people they meet in each video, students will be given real-life context to the concepts that are presented in the lessons. The people they meet in the stories bring these abstract issues and problems to life. Students will be challenged to:

All lessons are designed for grades 9-12 and are aligned to the new Common Core standards. Activities are designed from the Common Core emphasis on analysis, understanding and demonstration of understanding.

Watch an episode featuring Sergeant Mike Abdeen and deputy Sherif Morsi run the ground-breaking Muslim Community Affairs unit for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Complete episodes are available here, while excerpts with accompanying curriculum material for educators can be accessed through this link.

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