Teaching Geography and Government


  • 1. Water in Context in the Middle East

  • 2. Comparing Revolutions—Learning from the Arab World and the Fall of Communism

Water in Context in the Middle East

In September 2012 the Outreach Center convened an interdisciplinary workshop on water in the Middle East region, bringing together K-12 teachers, museum educators, and Harvard and MIT faculty. Workshop presentations put into conversation anthropological, archeological, remote sensing, and Geographic Information System approaches to the study of water, exploring interdisciplinary and cross-curricular approaches to the cultural and environmental study of water across pre-collegiate and university levels. Through the resources provided below we hope to support educators in exploring the questions:

  • How do natural resources and human cultures affect each other in the Middle East?  
  • How can cultural knowledge inform implementation of technological approaches to water access?
  • How can perspectives of the social sciences inform literacy in hard sciences such as mapping and geology? 

Below you will find recorded presentations from the workshop, as well as essential questions, background readings, and viewing guides for each video. The viewing guides contain "time tags" to direct you to particular content and questions in each presentations. Below this are further online resources.  

Workshop Presentation Recordings and Resources

Jason Ur: Water in Ancient Mesopotamian Civilizations  

Essential Questions:

  • How does access to natural resources impact the development of cities and civilizations?
  • How do humans exert control over their natural environment during the development of early civilizations?
  • How does control of natural resources impact the authority of leaders, and the structure of government?

Related Resources:



Farouk El-Baz: Remote Sensing of Arab Deserts  

Essential Questions:

  • How does water in a landscape change over time?  
  • How can technology be used to discover water in places where it is not visible?  
  • What role can discovery of water play in peace building processes?  

Related Resources:


Jeffrey Blossom: Map Literacy 

Essential Questions:

  • How do maps communicate information?
  • What choices to map makers make and why do they make them?
  • How can information be visually “translated” from data tables to maps? 

Related Resources:



Steven C. Caton: Water, Expert Knowledge, and the Politics of Sustainability

Related Resources:

Additional Links and Resources 

Comparing Revolutions—Learning from the Arab World and the Fall of Communism 

This one-hour webinar held in November 2011 includes presentations by former Center for Middle Eastern Studies Outreach Director Paul Beran and Davis Center Outreach Director Cris Martin as well as questions and discussion and employs a comparative lens to see what lessons and questions from Russian history can inform current thinking about political transformation in the Arab world.