Susan Brown

Saltonstall School, Salem MA

Explore Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with a teacher delegation to deepen instruction on the history, culture and geography of this important region, specifically about the Silk Road, cultural diffusion and the influence of Islam.

Where I've Been

  • Almaty, Kazakhstan
  • Bishkek, Kazakhstan
  • Kochkor, Kazakhstan
  • Ozero Sonkel, Kazakhstan
  • Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
  • Dushanbe, Tajikstan
  • Khujand, Tajikstan
  • Kuli Iskandarkul, Tajikstan
  • Bukhara, Uzbekistan
  • Khiva, Uzbekistan
  • Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  • Tashkent, Uzbekistan

My Fellowship in Images

Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan- We hiked to the river and had lunch. Just lovely!
Yurt stay in the Valley of the Flowers, Kyrgyzstan. The scenery was so beautiful and the yurt was so cozy.
Village School, Sarytag Village, Tajikistan- Even though it was summer vacation the kids from the village came out to meet us. They taught us how to count in Tajik and we taught them "Head and Shoulders". Wonderful visit!
Iskander Kul (Alexander's Lake), Tajikistan - Beautiful lake surrounded by rugged, rock-covered, jagged mountains
Sunset on the Registan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It was wedding season in Central Asia. We saw brides and grooms in almost every park and historical site we visited. Lovely!
Miri-Arab Madrasah, Bukhara, Uzbekistan- 16th century religious school still in use today. Bukhara is famous for its stunning architecture (as is Samarkand and Khiva).

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

This fellowship increased my understanding of Central Asia as a crossroads in history. Because of its location, this region was key to the expansion, wealth and development of countless factions, groups and empires. I gained an appreciation of the extent of cultural diffusion as not only goods travelled these trade routes, but also religion including Buddhism and Islam. I saw firsthand how geography influences culture through the development of the yurt and the use of mud brick in building.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

The silk road (both “old” and “new”) will be a vehicle for teaching geography, economics and cultural diffusion. I will use images and materials from my fellowship through an online digital platform to enhance my students’ learning about this region of the world. I will expand my teaching about the spread of Islam to more thoroughly include the advancements and achievements of the scholars and innovators of the Muslim world.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

I was pleased to be able to keep a blog of my fellowship. I do not have a social media presence so this was new for me. The internet connection was at times challenging, but it was gratifying to be able to share with colleagues, friends, family and students about the things I was experiencing. Being able to upload images helped folks see what I was seeing and to feel connected to the culture people and history.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

This fellowship allows me to bring a new part of the world to my students. As I model curiosity and the joy of being a life-long learner, they too will see that they have the ability to understand and engage with the world in new and empowering ways. Additionally, their study of this region of the world will help them replace any misconceptions and stereotype of Islam with information and knowledge. The focus on the Silk Road will deepen their global understanding of history.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

I will work collaboratively with my teaching team to bring my fellowship learning to life for my students. As I plan and develop the lessons, my team will add material and activities that will enrich the project. I will also share the lessons we develop with my colleagues across the district. In addition I will present to the school and district about the fellowship and offer materials and images as resources.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

My students will create their own virtual Central Asia “museum exhibits” that will showcase their learning around three important topics: Silk Road & cultural diffusion, geography and Islam. These exhibits will be shared with the larger school/ district community including the students’ families.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

Increasing understanding about our diverse world is a challenge for us as individuals and as a larger community. Creating an atmosphere of curiosity and openness to different experiences, peoples and cultures is part of the ongoing work my students can be a part of. Sharing what they have learned about Islam, Central Asia, geography, culture and history with the school and the community can contribute to dispelling myths and replacing misconceptions with information.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

I knew so little about Central Asia and its role in world history. I was awestruck by the physical geography and how the people have thrived for centuries in this region. On a personal level I was touched by the friendliness and warmth of the people I met. I can’t wait to share the history of the silk road and the accomplishments of the people with my students and to help them see themselves as global citizens.