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00707012
2012.09
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KOREAN

Opportunity to Learn and Feel Closer to Korea/KF Workshop for American Social Studies Educators

I had the privilege of participating in the 2012 Korea Foundation Summer Workshop for American Social Studies Educators, held on July 4-8. The workshop was certainly one of the best professional experiences of my career, which will help me bring the history of Korea alive for my students in America.

Development of Korea-related Curriculum

Visiting Seokguram Grotto, the eastern terminus of the Silk Road.I teach a humanities course to 9th graders that combines ancient history and literature. When I applied for the KF Summer Workshop, I thought that I might bolster the unit I teach on Confucianism and be able to offer a curricular touchstone to the Korean students in my school, for whom there are no other courses available about Korean history, literature, or culture. With these goals, I set off for Korea. I joined some 40 other American social studies teachers, and together, we explored the wonders of Korea.

Strolling the streets in Seoul.I felt like I learned six months’ worth of content in just two weeks, because the topics of classroom seminars included politics, art history, pop culture, values, demographics, and language, and the field trips included visits to the DMZ, and over a dozen museums and temples in Seoul, and to the countryside in the south. We also had ample unstructured time for exploring on our own, which we did with gusto. We even visited a Korean high school and teach a short lesson there.

I have taught a 9th-grade humanities course for eight years, and in that time I’ve found that my students enjoy learning how complex ideas fit together and hearing good stories about the past. My constant challenge is to find ways to connect the ancient past with the modern world in order to help my students understand why history is important and to help them see connections between the past and present. The workshop presented an abundance of information that will make my job of connecting Korea’s past to the present very easy.

Useful Knowledge for Classroom Instruction

Visiting the DMZ which divides the two Koreas.The first unit I will offer comes from the seminar presentation about Hangeul by Chang Mi-kyung at Korea University, which connected nicely to our visit to both the Cheongju Early Printing Museum and Haein Temple, home of the 80,000 woodblock Buddhist texts. The connections between these lessons and sites span generations but ultimately will offer my students insight into Korean history, culture, and values. They will enjoy learning about what motivated King Sejong to create Hangeul, for example, and they’ll be intrigued to make paper books by hand as I did with the other participants at the Early Printing Museum.

Workshop participants experience traditional paper making at the Cheongju Early Printing Museum. My students will appreciate the story about Colonel Kim Young-hwan, who defied orders to destroy Haein Temple during the Korean War, and the penalty he paid before he was recognized as a hero for saving a national treasure. A closer look at the temple also offers a chance to see the Buddhist influence in Korea over the centuries.

One of the challenges of teaching history in a classroom is getting the students to picture in their minds something that they have not seen for themselves, but there were several seminar presentations that effectively utilized images that I can use for my classes. The seminar presentations on the history of traditional art by Choi Mun-jung, Korean cultural symbols, norms, and values by (Andrew) Kim Eun-gi, and Hallyu by Oh In-gyu, offered a variety of images and videos from the ancient world to the modern that tell the story of Korea. I plan to use some of the various images offered to us, which range from ancient carvings, paintings and drawings to modern graphic art and music videos. These icons of Korean culture helped me, and thereby will help my students, grasp what has changed and what has remained consistent in Korean culture over time. The images and the insight offered provided me with a multitude of access points for my students.

Meaningful Experience at Seokguram Grotto

There are two particularly valuable personal experiences I had in Korea that I will carry with me back to America and will never forget ― the visit to Goyang Foreign Language High School Seokguram Grotto. My visit to the Korean high school will help shape my discussions with my colleagues about pedagogy and curriculum development in my school. High school education in America is under a lot of pressure, and the effective way to measure its success is highly controversial. Knowing more about the success and challenges of Korean education will help to make me a better teacher. The visit to Seokguram Grotto was a great surprise to me because it connected to a trip I took several years ago to Turkey, where I visited the Spice Market in Istanbul, which is the western terminus for the overland Silk Road.

Workshop participants visit the Cheongju Early Printing Museum. /Workshop participants visit Bulguk Temple in Gyeongju.

The Seokguram Grotto is the eastern terminus for the Silk Road, so I was thrilled to be there and compare the differences between the two locations. I really enjoyed hearing about how Buddhism spread via the Silk Road, and the significance of the cave temple. It was so exciting to me that I devoted a blog post to it (www.ransonnotes.wordpress.com). I know my students will appreciate the story of the temple, which will help them understand how Buddhism spread eastward from India. I was really happy to have had such personally gratifying experiences through the workshop.

All this is just the beginning. I have high hopes for what I will be able to offer my students about Korean history, and I expect that after I teach it this year I’ll be adding more details to my plans. The KF Summer Workshop has offered me the chance to make the history of Korea come alive in the minds of my students, who are 10,000 miles away, and probably have given no thought to the country yet. I am grateful for the opportunity to be an ambassador of Korean history and culture to my students and colleagues, and I hope to instill just a piece of the wonderful experiences I had in Korea this summer.

Andrew Ranson
Teacher, Glenelg High School
Maryland, U.S.A.

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