Digital Resources for Teachers

40 Maps that Explain the Middle East by Max Fisher on ps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.

Abd el-Kader Project: A unique education project to encourage students to read and reflect on the life of Emir Abd el- Kader, the subject of an acclaimed new biography by John W. Kiser, Commander of the Faithful. Known today as the Algerian George Washington, this famous 19th century warrior-saint was honored at the peak of his fame by President Abraham Lincoln, Pope Pius IX, Queen Victoria and countless Muslims for his courage in defending Christian lives in the name of Islamic law and human rights.

Access Islam: Funded by the US Dept. of Education, this site gives students and teachers access to Internet-based videos, lesson plans, a glossary of important terms, timelines, and associated materials aimed at educating grades 4-8 about Islam.

The African and Middle East Reading Room 
The African and Middle East Reading Room is part of the African and Middle Eastern Division area studies program of the Library of Congress with African, Hebraic, and Near East sections. Primary sources and easy access make this collection a genuine treasure trove of information. A current resource contains a collection of websites covering the 2011-12 Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. In the Near East section alone, more than 35 languages are found are represented from Arabic to, Persian, Turkish, Central Asian (non-Cyrillic only), Armenian, and Georgian.

The Arab Gateway
Calling itself “an open doorway to the Islamic world,” Al-Bab aims to introduce non-Arabs to Arabs and their culture. You can explore country guides, current issues, arts and culture articles, a reference section, and topics ranging from traditional Arab history to the importance of oil. Be sure to check out the music section!

ArchNet is an online community focused on the architecture of the Islamic world. You will have free access to thousands of photographs of monuments and art objects from across the Islamic world.

Arts of the Islamic World: A Teacher’s Guide
Designed by the Education Department of the Smithsonian Institute’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M.Sackler Gallery, this unit highlights three categories of art: the book, mosque, and portable object.

Asia Society
The Asia Society has resources on the South Asian countries that are included in the Near East – Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran – as well as an overview of conflicts, religions, trade, and cultures. Good lesson plans, found under the Education & Learning then Resources for Schools section, include units on the Silk Road, Indian Ocean, geometry and Islamic art, and Persian painting

Best of History Websites
With links to over 1000 sites that have lesson plans, activities, games, quizzes and solid information, Best of History is a rich resource of tools and information. This is a project of the Center for Teaching History with Technology.

Bridging World History
This is a free Annenberg Media set of videos, activities, lesson plans and more related to North Africa and Southwest Asia, specifically exploring Egypt and Israel. The content is appealing to students and features a World History Traveler section with activities. Explore the website; the Social Sciences discipline section has useful resources.

Children and Youth in History 
Developed by George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, Children and Youth in History is a free website with four key features:

  • A Primary Source Database with 350 resources along with guidance on how to use those sources critically and tools for annotating and organizing the sources;
  • 60 Website Reviews that focus on valuable online resources for studying and teaching the history of childhood and youth in world history;
  • 11 Teaching Modules that provide historical context, teaching tools, and strategies for teaching with sets of primary sources drawn from the Primary Source Database; and
  • 25 Teaching Case Studies by experienced scholars and teachers that model strategies for using primary sources to teach the history of childhood and youth.

The Brown University Watson Institute for International Studies is developing project-based teaching units for high school classes, many of which are free for teachers to use. There is a focus on teaching with the news, allowing students to think critically about current events and the media. Check out their recent material on ISIS, Iran and the Nuclear Issue, and the U.S. Role in a Changing World.  

CIA World Factbook
This is an indispensible and up-to-date resource giving political, demographic, and other information on every country. Note that information, especially on ethnicity, may vary between country profiles, so that one country considers its population “Arab”, another “Bedouin,” another “Emirati,” etc.

Cobblestone Press: The publisher of engaging periodicals including FACES, Appleseeds, Cobblestone and Calliope aimed at elementary and middle school audiences. You can search back issues for topics such as Afghanistan, Islam, oil, Ibn Battuta, the Silk Road, and others. There is also a teaching guide for Islam under the “Theme Packs” section.

Council on Islamic Education: This research institute is comprised of Muslim scholars and professionals aiming to strengthen American public education through detailed lesson plans, online forums and publications.

Discover Islamic Art
The online Museum with No Frontiers is a collaboration between many museums and offers 18 virtual exhibitions on a variety of dynasties and topics, ranging from the Umayyads and the Normans in Sicily to women, water and the role of gardens and flowers in Islamic art. It has exquisite photos of Islamic architecture and artifacts from the Mediterranean world and engaging online activities for students.

Edsitement: This collection of excellent lesson plans has a number of excellent resources on the Middle East. Try searching for Middle East and for Islam. You’ll find, for example, a guide to reading Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and a mapping activity for elementary students called “On the Road with Marco Polo: From Venice to Hormuz,” among many others.

EdSitement – National Endowment for the Humanities
Specific EdSitement features like Teaching the Middle East have been mentioned elsewhere, but their general site deserves a looks for its huge variety of lessons and resources on all sorts of history, culture and language. The strongest Middle Eastern resources are those on the ancient world.

Education World
The mission of this website is to connect educators to what works, offering PD materials, lesson plans, and lists of resources that give accurate information about a multitude of subjects. Type “Islam” in the subject into the search box to access tools for teaching about the religion in your classroom.

Educators for Social Responsibility Online Teacher Center: ESR provides teaching resources and lessons about conflict resolution, peacemaking, stereotyping and social responsibility.

Explore the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf
Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a carefully curated collection of resources recommended and reviewed by distinguished scholars in the fields of anthropology, world history, religious studies, interfaith dialogue, the history of art and architecture, and world literature, as well as interdisciplinary fields such as Middle East studies, Southeast Asian studies, African studies, and Islamic studies. Six public libraries hosted focus groups to review many of the titles, and all titles were reviewed by librarians and other humanities practitioners with extensive programming experience.

The Freer Gallery
This Smithsonian Museum’s website features online versions of past exhibitions of ancient Near East and Islamic artwork the stories behind them.

Georgetown University: Georgetown’s Community Resource Service (CRS) is an educational outreach program for K-12 teachers and educators in the District of Columbia and its suburbs. The program seeks to break stereotypes and give a more realistic view of Arabs and Muslims. Its website offers curriculum aids and background modules to assist teachers.  The CRS also offers access to a lending library, workshops, consultations and informational emails.

Global Voices: Global Voices is an online resource that brings together a variety of these voices, showcasing blogs from throughout the region. You can follow the struggles of musicians in Bahrain, the life of Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian blogger who is currently in jail facing the death penalty and Samar, a Saudi Arabian girl who has been imprisoned for disobeying her father. Rather than having just one blog on a subject, they compile several blogs and comments to provide a more informed view of an event, for example on the blog about Samar, there are comments that push for her freedom, while other people have made posts that are skeptical of her and her story. These blogs are not all political; they also address social and economic concerns.

Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Though the CMES Outreach Center was discontinued in 2014, several valuable resources have been archived and made available for teachers. Organized under the headings, Teaching about Religion, History, and Culture; Teaching Geography and Government; Technology Tips for Educators; Visual Culture and Pop Culture; content is as varied as Hip Hop and Education in the Middle East to Teaching about the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nowroz, the Iranian New Year.

Islamicity: The Islamicity site provides a wealth of information about Islam and also has a quiz about Islam. Be sure to check out their variety of Quran recitations in Arabic, along with some oral renditions of Quran interpretations in different languages.

Khalili Collection
The Khalili Collection has a variety of Islamic art, from miniatures and tapestries to ceramics and fine examples of calligraphy.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
This site provides a lengthy chronological survey of Islamic history and art through its collections.

The Louvre
The Arts of Islam section has excellent information about Islamic art from both ancient and modern times.

Media Construction of the Middle East: A Digital Media Literacy Curriculum
The Ithaca College School of Humanities and Science created Project Look Sharp. The site  provides useful lessons with visuals and the use of primary sources which high school/college students analyze to understand the role of the media in interpreting Middle East issues. Log-in is required but content is free; the issues covered are stereotypes, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the 2003 Iraq war, and Muslim “Militants.” More recent events are not covered. s not been updated in

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Online
The Timeline of Art History on the MMoA website is an excellent resource for Near Eastern art.

Mideast Images – Lessons from the Past for the Future
An online archive of images from the Middle East concerning topics of religion, people, design and architecture, and historic events, this site also includes a showcase of ancient cities – Aleppo, Baghdad, Cairo, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Palmyra, parts of which were recently destroyed (August-September 2015) by the Islamic State. Given the erosion of cultural heritage in the region, this website is especially valuable right now.

Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC)
Established in 1981, the Middle East Outreach Council (MEOC) is a national nonprofit organization working to increase public knowledge about the peoples places, and cultures of the Middle East, including the Arab world, Israel, Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan. MEOC’s target audience is non-specialists at the K-12 and college levels, although its services are also relevant to broader community needs. MEOC operates an active list-serve for educators and also awards exemplary works in children’s and youth literature on the Middle East and Islam.

Middle Eastern American Resources Online
This site offers teaching resources on Middle Eastern-Americans including:

  • Teaching modules designed to incorporate the Middle Eastern American experience into the coverage of U.S. History and Geography, Government, and English Language Arts in junior and senior high schools.
  • Video modules illustrate Middle Eastern Americans at work, talking about their identity, celebrating their heritage in public, and telling stories about their pioneering grandparents.

A particularly interesting curriculum module for high school English-Language Arts instruction, Voices from the Heartland: Young Yemeni Americans Speak, uses interviews and oral histories to look at one community’s history and cultural practices.

Middle East Complexities: Culture and Conflict
This resource guide, created by a librarian at St. Louis Community College, provides resources to help understand and analyze the often conflicting cultural, religious, political, and historical forces at work in the Middle East. There is a special focus on the history and recent events of Syria, and the conflict caused by the Islamic State.

Montada Project
Funded by the European Union, this website provides fun games for kids to learn about the intricacies of North African mosaics and architecture.  So far, the website is only in Catalan, French and Spanish, but Google Translate does offer the option to convert the text into the English language.

National Geographic – Map Machine:  Create interactive maps online to highlight any area you choose.

National Geographic – Geography Awareness Week: Contains resources for students and teachers in recognition of Geography Awareness Week, November 15-21, 2015.

National Geographic – Educational Resources
The site offers a vast site encompassing all geographic areas of the globe, including the Middle East and North Africa. National Geographic supports geography education through high-quality lesson plans, daily blogs, professional development opportunities, current maps and map outlines, a teacher store and much more.

National Resource Centers for Foreign Language, Area & International Studies
Funded by the US Department of Education, through Title VI, this is a database of university-based Arab, Near East, Middle East & North Africa area studies centers at institutions across the United States. Many of these resource centers provide outreach programming for K-14 students and educators, as well as for the local community. Curriculum modules and age appropriate material. Some outreach centers may engage in topical presentations upon request.

Newseum – This site allows students to search newspaper and archives from around the world. They print the front page of 800 newspapers daily. It is a great resource for research and place to go to get multiple perspectives on issues.

Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean
This site provides a world history curriculum about the Mediterranean region. Modules include Becoming Global and Staying Local: The Mediterranean from 300-1500 CE and Mediterranean Transformations in a Changing Global Context, 1450-1800.

PBS Global Connections – Foreign Policy: PBS resources provides background information, and videos covering the role and effects of U.S. foreign policies and actions in the Middle East.

PBS Global Connections – Geography: PBS resource on Geography and the Middle East. Provides an overview on geography-related subjects in the Middle East along with great background essays designed for use in the classroom.  Also includes a list of resources for classroom use.

PBS Global Connections – Lesson Plans: K-12 lesson plans include three lessons that treat the role and effects of U.S. foreign policies and actions in the Middle East. Lesson plans cover issues relating to Middle Eastern nation-states, U.S. foreign policy, roles of women, stereotypes, and natural resources.

PBS Global Connections – Middle East: Though no longer producing new content, Global Connections uses PBS material to supplement a rich collection of background articles, lesson plans, an interactive timeline, and other resources on the Middle East. Topics include religious extremism, roles of women, U.S. foreign policy, stereotypes, natural resources, nation-states, geography, science, culture, faith, and the politics and economy of the region. All materials are cross-indexed to help educators quickly find topics and materials that are most relevant for their classroom needs. PBS also has excellent lesson plans on the documentary Promises at the Point of View site.

PBS, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet: The PBS website for the film Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet includes a “virtual hajj” with maps and explanations of the hajj. It includes a video clip on the introductory page that can give students a good idea of the sheer numbers of pilgrims engaged in hajj.

Project Hijab
Published by Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, this is a set of interviews with women from the Muslim world about why they do or do not choose to wear hijab, or veil.

The Qantara project, which is part of the Euromed Heritage program, is an excellent resource for the history, culture, geography, and art of the Mediterranean nations. An exciting infographic looking at themes, histories, and materials related to the Mediterranean countries can be found on the homepage, though it is in French!  The astrolabe video is one standout item.

Rethinking the Region: New Approaches to 9-12 U.S. Curriculum about the Middle East and North Africa
This site contains a full downloadable curriculum with themes on Women & Gender, Plural Identities, Empire & Nation, Political & Social Movements, and Arts & Technology.

Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj: The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj has compiled a slide show describing the rituals of each day of the hajj. The site also has a great deal of other information on the hajj and regulations for pilgrims and hajj organizers from each country.

Saudi Aramco World
This magazine features articles on not only the Middle East, but topics related to Muslim societies more broadly. There are excellent photos and classroom connections in every issue. The magazine is searchable online—all past articles are indexed and available free of charge (as are print subscriptions for teachers). An additional valuable feature is the digital image archive.

Smithsonian Freer Sackler Gallery Arts of the Islamic World: A Teacher’s Guide (PDF)

Smithsonian slideshows and presentations:
Caravan Kingdoms: Yemen and the Ancient Incense Trade
The Adventures of Hamza
Caliphs & Kings: Art and Influence of Islamic Spain
Haft Awrang (Seven Thrones): A Royal Persian Manuscript by Jami
Iraq and China: Ceramics, Trade, and Innovation
Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey
Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center Indian Ocean History
This site provides an interactive tour through the history of the Indian Ocean trade routes.  (The many lessons which go with it cover world history, economics, geography, and literature standards.

Teach UNICEF provides educators with global learning resources and programs. Through a focus on global citizenship and child rights, TeachUNICEF engages students in an exploration of humanitarian issues and inspires them to take action to improve their world.

Teaching the Middle East: A New Online Resource for Teachers
Edsitement, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, brings you a variety of practical curricular materials. Within one well-designed, user-friendly interface, Teaching the Middle East: A Resource for Educators presents scholarly perspectives, downloadable imagery, related links from across the Internet, textual resources, as well as selections from the Oriental Institute Museum’s own collection of Middle Eastern art and artifacts in a clear and logical online format. Because typical World History teachers are generalists, Teaching the Middle East allows a teacher to “brush up” very quickly using scholarship from an institution that leads in the field of Middle Eastern studies. Moreover, from a “use in the classroom” perspective, a teacher can assign students to use the website or make copies of any of the individual “essays” as readings for a thoughtful classroom reading-discussion format.  5 themes contain a total of 14 teaching modules. The five themes are Writing and Literature, Rulership and Justice, The Question of Identity: Ethnicity, Language, Religion, and Gender, Empires to Nation States, and The Middle East as Seen Through Foreign Eyes.

Together Muslim Voices – The New York Council for the Humanities’ Muslim Voices program is a set of book lists and public programming designed for children and teens, which pair books featuring Muslim protagonists with humanities themes such as courage, community, faith and freedom. Muslim Voices aims to create a space for children and teens—both Muslim and non-Muslim—to recognize the common bonds that unite us all and learn about various Muslim cultures and traditions throughout the world.

Turkish Cultural Foundation
This website offers portals into the culture, cuisine and music of Turkey. Each portal offers great images, slideshows and essays.

United States Department of State – Bureau of Near East Affairs
An up-to-date resource providing information on current events and regional topics, as well as the Middle East Digest, a collection of excerpts from the U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefings that are related to U.S. foreign policy interests in the Middle East.

The University of Chicago Middle East Library Archive
The Middle East Department of the University of Chicago Library maintains an archive of early photographs of the Middle East, which have been scanned and made available online. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the spread of the art of photography and the influx of Europeans into the lands of the Middle East conjoined in the creation of a large number of photographs produced by professional photographers. Enjoy this glimpse of the past which features images of iconic sites as well as daily life in the region.

University of Michigan Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies: The outreach website provides several interactive education sites and many curriculum units, covering conflict, Arab culture, women in the Arab world, religion, and art. Michigan also has some excellent simulations, including ones on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Earth Odysseys.

University of Texas Austin Center for Middle Eastern Studies: The University of Texas’ Center for Middle Eastern Studies produces interactive web units designed for students and educators that allow you to explore such interesting topics as the historical importance of Cairo, Turkish Jews, and Cyprus.

UT Austin’s 15-Minute History Podcasts
Take a listen to these 15-minute podcasts on different historical topics, many of which are Middle East-related, such as an episode on Islamic Extremism in the Modern World.

UT Austin Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
The University of Texas at Austin Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection contains maps of the Middle East from various time periods.

The University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies discusses common misconceptions and stereotypes of the Middle East, its people, geography, and religions in an easy-to-navigate flyer. This is suitable for students as well as teachers who may be less familiar with the region.

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Touted as the “world’s greatest museum of art & design”, the V&A Museum, located in London, has a well-developed engaging resource for teachers, Voyage Through the Islamic Middle East, with creative projects, interactive lessons and learning objectives centered on Islamic art.

WebChron – The Web Chronology Project
This web page features a spectacular array of hyperlinked chronologies for the whole world. There are particularly includes a chronology of Islam and of other religions, of the Middle East and Southwest Asia, of technology, art, music, literature and speculative thought.

World Atlas Travel: This resource has a map and summary of the major landforms in the Middle East.

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