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In Fall 2021, dozens of K-12 teachers from across the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) participated in two virtual Educator Dialogues, gaining strategies and resources to support newcomer students and globalize STEM education. 

The dialogues, organized by the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and the University of Arizona’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, provided professional development on important global education topics and a platform for teachers to connect from different world regions. 

“This program was developed in response to a need we were hearing from teachers who wanted ways to connect with their colleagues around the world,” said Emma Harver, director of outreach for the Consortium.  

The two dialogue sponsors also offer the Teachers Collaborating Across Borders (TCAB) program, an intensive virtual exchange experience for 18 teachers from the U.S. and 18 from the MENA region. “We received hundreds of applications this year for the TCAB program,” Harver explained. “We wanted to provide additional educational opportunities for this large group of teachers who are interested in connecting with their peers.” Unlike TCAB, the Educator Dialogues were open to any teacher in the U.S. and the MENA region. 

The first dialogue held October 17, 2021 provided training on social and emotional supports for newcomer students in the United States, Middle East, and North Africa. This topic is especially relevant as communities across the U.S. and the MENA region experience an influx of migrant, immigrant, internally displaced, and/or refugee youth. 

The session offered approaches for helping students around the world thrive in their new environments, drawing on lessons learned from the Study of Adolescent Lives after Migration to America (SALaMA), a study based out of the University of Washington in St. Louis examining the well-being and psychosocial support needs of students from the MENA region. In addition to the strategies offered by the SALaMA research team, teachers collaborated on a Google Doc throughout the session to offer their own ideas for supporting newcomer students. 

The second dialogue, held November 7, 2021, focused on globalizing STEM education to strengthen international connections and help students understand the global nature of our environment.  

 In an interactive session, teachers received ideas and resources for globalizing STEM courses through citizen science activities that can connect teachers and students across the U.S., the MENA region, and beyond. The webinar featured the GLOBE program (Global Learning and Observations to benefit the Environment), NASA’s worldwide educational initiative to promote science and learning about the environment. Teachers participated in an interactive thermometer reading activity, discussed the utility of studying clouds and contrails, and learned how to use the GLOBE Observer App in their classrooms. 

After the presentations, participants met in breakout rooms to reflect on the information presented in the sessions using guiding discussion questions. 

Educators joined the two programs from a variety of countries and U.S. states, including Algeria, Israel, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. The programs were held on Sundays at noon Eastern Time to accommodate different time zones and weekend days in the U.S. and the MENA region. 

Participants appreciated the opportunity to receive professional training side-by-side with their colleagues abroad, increased their cultural competencies, and gained new tools for global teaching. “I really enjoyed connecting with other people around the globe,” said a North Carolina teacher from Weatherstone Elementary School. “This was a great experience!”  

The Educator Dialogues series was sponsored by the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and the University of Arizona’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, made possible by a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

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