SPICE launches 'The Road to Beijing'

The Stanford Program on International and Cross-cultural Education (SPICE) has just announced a major new interdisciplinary, interactive initiative for middle school and high school students on the road to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. “The Road to Beijing” initiative includes a new documentary featuring world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, a new documentary developed by NBC that features Olympians who will participate in the Beijing Olympics, curriculum materials addressing Beijing and issues raised by the Olympics, an interactive website, and teacher professional development. SPICE serves as a bridge between the interdisciplinary work of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and K–14 schools in the United States and independent schools abroad by developing multidisciplinary curriculum materials on important international themes.

“Learning about other cultures and about the migration of ideas among communities is vital in today’s world. In presenting a full range of perspectives, SPICE curricula broaden students’ views of the world and deepen their understanding of their own lives.” Yo-Yo Ma

The Road to Beijing initiative has four major educational components. First is a four-lesson curriculum unit, geared to middle and high school students, that (1) introduces students to the modern city of Beijing through its history, geography, and major attractions and sights; (2) explores some economic, environmental, political, and social issues of modern China and the challenges of hosting the Olympics; (3) introduces some of the Olympians participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympics through a documentary by NBC; and (4) examines musicians’ reflections on Beijing and China through a documentary produced by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. Stanford scholars, such as Andrew G. Walder, the Denise O’Leary and Kent Thiry Professor of Sociology, served as advisors of the curriculum unit.

A second component focuses on two documentaries that are available through the SPICE website. The documentary, The Road to Beijing, produced by the Silk Road Project and narrated by Yo-Yo Ma and featuring music of the Silk Road Ensemble, is available with the Road to Beijing curriculum unit as well as through the SPICE and Silk Road Project websites. An accompanying teacher’s guide is available as well. Olympics broadcaster NBC joined the collaboration with SPICE and has produced a short documentary that features U.S. and Chinese Olympians. The first interview features Stanford alumnus and U.S. gymnast David Durante. The NBC documentary and an accompanying teacher’s guide is also available on the SPICE website.

Third, a new Road to Beijing website showcases many of SPICE’s curriculum units on China, along with new interactive features on the modern city of Beijing and the historic Silk Road. In 2007, SPICE completed a curriculum unit called Along the Silk Road in collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project. A new Silk Road game, designed by David Cohn, Cammy Huang, Gary Mukai, and Johanna Wee, will now allow students to walk and explore the historic Silk Road. Yo-Yo Ma commented, “The wonderful work SPICE is doing to educate young people about the historic Silk Road trading route is significant on many levels. Learning about other cultures and about the migration of ideas among communities is vital in today’s world. In presenting a full range of perspectives, SPICE curricula broaden students’ views of the world and deepen their understanding of their own lives.” Other China-focused curriculum units that have been produced by SPICE include Chinese Dynasties Part One: The Shang Dynasty through the Tang Dynasty, 1600 BCE to 907 CE; Chinese Dynasties Part Two: The Song Dynasty through the Qing Dynasty, 960 to 1911 CE; China's Cultural Revolution; Ethnic Minority Groups in China; Hong Kong in Transition: A Look at Economic Interdependence; Religions and Philosophies in China: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism; and 10,000 Shovels: China's Urbanization and Economic Development.

As a fourth component, the Road to Beijing initiative offers teacher professional development seminars, another hallmark of SPICE’s work over the past three decades. Many seminars have already been held at Stanford and for the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools, the European Council of Independent Schools, and the Chicago Public Schools. Most recently, the SPICE staff and Albert Dien, professor emeritus of Asian Languages, gave four seminars for the Chicago Public Schools in May 2008. Each seminar featured a lecture by Albert Dien and interactive demonstrations of SPICE curricula by the SPICE staff. In October 2008, SPICE and the Silk Road Project will work with the New York City Public Schools.

In collaboration with organizations such as NBC and the Silk Road Project, SPICE will continue to channel its interdisciplinary work on key international issues (and their historical and cultural underpinnings) — political economy, security, the environment, and health — to schools in our nation and the world. SPICE invites interested teachers to visit its new website, show their students the new documentaries, and engage their students in a study of historic topics concerning China, such as the Silk Road, as well as contemporary topics concerning China, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics.“We are delighted that SPICE is once again sending the university’s path-breaking, interdisciplinary scholarship and research out into the world, educating a new generation of students and scholars about contemporary issues occasioned by the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and China’s historic rise,” said FSI Director Coit D. Blacker.

Gary Mukai personally introduced the new Road to Beijing initiative to Stanford alumni in Chicago on June 16, 2008, at a Leadership Circle Event.