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Encounters of the First Kind: Early U.S. and Middle East Relations

The Middle East is a highly complex region with a rich cultural heritage. It is the cradle of civilization that has also produced three of the world’s greatest religions. It occupies a strategic position on the world map: center position at the crossroads of three continents with the most strategic waterways of any place on the planet. Then there is the highly charged political and economic issue of oil that has historically positioned the world’s superpowers.

I have endeavored to create a curriculum unit that examines the earliest interactions between the United States and the Middle East. It seems like a natural insertion into the study of American history, the examination of the young America and the ancient Middle East.

This curriculum unit is designed for fifth and eighth grade students who are studying American history. There is a strong emphasis on geography and primary source materials. Students are introduced to a variety of primary source documents in their exploration of early U.S.-Middle East interactions. They will use maps, historical documents, paintings, photographs, material culture and comics.

Mona Kolsky
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