• Lesson 4: On the Road with Marco Polo: Crossing the Deserts of China

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    After resting up and replenishing their supplies in the trading city of Kashgar, Marco Polo and his father and uncle continued eastward on their journey from Venice to China.

  • Lesson 5: On the Road with Marco Polo: Marco Polo in China

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    After a long trek across the Gobi Desert, Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle finally arrived at the Shangdu, the summer palace of Kublai Khan. At this time, most of Asia was under control of the Mongols, a nomadic people whose homeland was in the Gobi.

  • Lesson 2: On the Road with Marco Polo: From Venice to Hormuz

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    Marco Polo's father and uncle returned to Venice when he was 15 years old. Two years later, when they set off again for China, they decided to take Marco with them. Students will take a “virtual” trip with Marco Polo from Venice to China and back. The first leg of the journey ends at Hormuz.

  • Lesson 3: On the Road with Marco Polo: From Hormuz to Kashgar

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    The Polos were so concerned about the seaworthiness of the ships they found at Hormuz that they changed their plans and decided instead to follow a series of trade routes across Asia to China. Students will "accompany" them on this leg og the trip, from Hormuz to Kashgar.

  • Lesson 4: Non-British Surnames

    Last names as we know them now

    Modern American society is known for its ethnic diversity, and this, of course, is reflected in a wide variety of surnames. In this activity, students will learn about the origins and meanings of surnames commonly used in the United States that derive from non-British cultures.

  • Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before? Samsara and karma in the Jataka Tales

    Malaysian Buddha figurine.

    Many English speakers are familiar with the Sanskrit word karma, which made its way into the language during the first half of the nineteenth century. It is often used in English to encapsulate the idea that “what goes around comes around.” This lesson plan is designed to bring the meaning of karma and the related concept of samsara to life through the reading of the Jataka Tales.

  • Morality "Tails" East and West: European Fables and Buddhist Jataka Tales

    Malaysian Buddha figurine.

    Fables, such as those attributed to Aesop, are short narratives populated by animals who behave like humans, and which convey lessons to the listener. Jataka Tales are often short narratives which tell the stories of the lives of the Buddha before he reached Enlightenment. In this lesson students will be introduced to both Aesop’s fables and to a few of the Jataka Tales, and through these stories will gain an understanding of one genre of storytelling: morality tales.

  • Lessons of the Indian Epics: The Ramayana: Showing your Dharma

    The Citadel of Lanka, a detail from "Hanuman Visists Sita in Lanka,"

    The story of the Ramayana has been passed from generation to generation by numerous methods and media. Initially it was passed on orally as an epic poem that was sung to audiences by a bard, as it continues to be today.

  • George Orwell's Essay on his Life in Burma: "Shooting An Elephant"

    George Orwell confronted an Asian elephant like this one in the story recounted  for this lesson plan.

    Eric A. Blair, better known by his pen name, George Orwell, is today best known for his last two novels, the anti-totalitarian works Animal Farm and 1984. He was also an accomplished and experienced essayist, writing on topics as diverse as anti-Semitism in England, Rudyard Kipling, Salvador Dali, and nationalism. Among his most powerful essays is the 1931 autobiographical essay "Shooting an Elephant," which Orwell based on his experience as a police officer in colonial Burma.

  • Lessons of the Indian Epics: The Ramayana

    Lessons of the Indian Epics image

    The Ramayana (ram-EYE-ya-na) and the Mahabharata (ma-ha-BA-ra-ta), the great Indian epics, are among the most important works of literature in South Asia. Both contain important lessons on wisdom, behavior and morality, and have been used for centuries not only as entertainment, but also as a way of instructing both children and adults in the exemplary behavior toward which they are urged to strive and the immoral behavior they are urged to shun. In this lesson, students will read an abridged version of the Ramayana, and will explore the ways in which the story of Rama contains elements, such as the Epic Hero Cycle, that place it within the epic poetry tradition.