Journey Along the Silk Road

This lesson plan ties together the subjects of history, geography, religion, art and economics while taking into account the fact there are many ways in which children learn.

All students make up a 13th – 15th century character and write a Rihla, or Travel Journal describing their journey from their home to one of the great Islamic cities known for its grand markets and universities. Since people traveled primarily along the great trade routes, students will learn about the Silk Road as well as the Islamic world as they work on this project. The students can write their travel journal as if they’re traveling for the sake of trade, education, or religious pilgrimage, or even a combination within those options, since people often combined things like trade and intellectual pursuits on one trip.

The focus of this lesson will be on the city of Cairo, with its Khan al Khalili Market which was built in 1382, and can still be visited today. The city also boasts Al Azhar University that was established in 972 and is the oldest continuously functioning university in the world. Students still travel to Al Azhar today to study Islamic science, law and theology. Of course teachers and students can select other cities as their interests direct them.

Students also select two additional activities from a list of options. Because of the broad scope of this subject, I’ve provided a list of activities students can select from that takes into account Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. This list suggests activities that accommodate various learning styles. Students must select activities from two different modes of learning: for instance, one from the Linguistics list and one from the Natural Science list. They can work in a group or alone. Teachers may want to add options to the list below, taking into account the specific interests of their students.

At the end of this program, students will share their projects with the class during a Celebration of Learning. This could be simple, or it could develop into a costumed banquet with food, music, and students playing the role of the character they made up for their Rihla, such as a Malaysian indigo merchant or a Syrian calligrapher.