At the end of July 2017, twelve Philadelphia-area educators embarked on a trip outside the United States for the South Asia Center (SAC) overseas professional development program for K-12 educators, “World Heritage Sites and Cities: Teacher Training in India and Nepal.”
Building on our work to develop the concept of World Heritage Education, in honor of Philadelphia’s new status as a World Heritage City, SAC developed this teacher training program with the Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) and several other collaborators.
The 18-day trip contrasted the colorful culture of India’s cities with the peacefulness of Nepal’s majestic mountains. From the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, India to a jungle safari in Chitwan, Nepal this teacher training took educators through diverse ecological and cultural landscapes in the subcontinent before concluding in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. In India, the group visited World Heritage cities like Agra and Amer, and World Heritage sites such as the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Jantar Mantar, and Jama Masjid Mosque. Teachers navigated the congested Nepalese World Heritage city of Kathmandu, walked through the maze of Buddhas in Lumbini (which some consider the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha), and enjoyed watching birds and wildlife in Chitwan National Park.
The itinerary maximized learning through personal exploration, guided tours and lectures on the subjects of history, culture, education and the environment. Accompanied by SAC’s Associate Director Rachelle Faroul, Senior Master Teacher Fellow Dr. Sarah Sharp, the G Adventures guide Manu Rao and expert on South Asian architecture and history Dr. Pushkar Sohoni, teachers were able to dig deeply into the significance of these historical landmarks and were guided through thoughtful comprehension of content areas.
Teachers were encouraged to contemplate the value of intercultural encounters with their interactive meeting with two local schools in Delhi, the Sri Ram School and Vasant Valley School. They were thrilled at the opportunity to visit local classrooms and network with colleagues across borders. Some teachers even made connections to start a pen pal program to foster cross cultural connection among their students.
According to Sharp, “the goal of this trip was to provide Philadelphia-area educators with the opportunity to try to better understand some of the numerous World Heritage sites and cities that are integral to the history of India and Nepal through actual visitation. Hands-on interaction and guidance enabled teachers to develop global education curriculum units that bring India and Nepal to students in Philadelphia.” “As daunting as this plan seemed at the start,” Sharp concluded, “these educators applied their tremendous creative energy to the challenge and succeeded in developing lesson plans and units related to their experiences this summer.”