Updated: Mar 16, 2020
By Kim Stalnaker, McKinley Technology High School
As a 9th grade World History I teacher at McKinley Technology High I often struggle to find ways to connect my students to a curriculum with a focus on medieval history. The content feels remote and unrelatable and many of the primary documents have difficult and antiquated language. This year I decided to focus on the broader theme: The Great Global Convergence. With this theme, we would consider at the end of each unit whether global interactions had created more conflict and loss of culture or more tolerance and understanding.
Many of our units are an examination of empires and civilizations that interacted with multiple cultures and often found ways to benefit from the diversity of their land. We began the year with the examination of the Islamic religion, how it spread to the rest of the Middle East, and later to West Africa. Following our study of medieval West Africa, we analyze the multicultural “gunpowder empires” of the Mughals and the Ottomans.
Since the course requires an in depth study of the spread of Islam throughout Asia and Africa, I thought a visit to a local mosque could deepen students knowledge of the subjects we are studying. When I heard from several people about the recently built Diyanet Center Mosque in Lanham, Maryland, I was determined for us to attend. This mosque was built with funding from the Turkish government and looks like a mosque that could be found in the Middle East. In addition, the mosque includes many other amenities for the Muslim community in the DC area.
Thanks to the Granted Foundation, I was able to take 50 students and several chaperones to the Diyanet Center. Since students are able to ride free on public transportation, D.C. Public Schools does not fund school buses for field trips. However, the location of the Diyanet Center was not practical via bus and/or metro.
After the trip, I asked students something new they learned from the trip and something that surprised them. Students commented on the beauty of the mosque and surprise at the other buildings that served the community, such as the cultural center, the pool, the bathhouse, the guest house, and the cafeteria. The visit highlighted the Diyanet Center not just as a place of worship, but a bigger community. The moment students remember the most was when our guest speaker sang the call to prayer in the mosque and showed us the clock that indicated the times of prayer. Students left with a greater understanding of Muslim culture in the region and how it connects to the original tenets of Islam.
Thank you Granted Foundation for this amazing opportunity!