Earth Odysseys is an interdisciplinary adventure learning activity that "sends" students to places they may never visit in person. Using a web-based format, middle school and high school students are engaged in an intensive interaction with peers from around the world, and with a staff of university mentors. Student participants learn about the world's geographical and human diversity as well as the rich and varied cultural expressions of its people. We are pleased to announce a new Odyssey for Fall 2013, in which we will explore Morocco through the eyes of Fulbright Scholar Nadia Selim.
The Odysseys program is set up to have two major tiers of involvement for participating students. First, the students receive biweekly reports from the Odysseys traveler(s). Such reports might look at how people think about the relationships between men and women, or the different ways in which people deal with death. Others might focus on the daily experience of life itself, especially for an American living in a country where many people have never met an American "in person." The students in each of the Odysseys classrooms are expected to read and discuss the reports in their classroom and then to make some individual or collective comments on those reports.
Our Fall 2012 Odyssey is an exploration of life in China. In the reports written by our Odyssey explorers, Sarah and Matthew Baughman, they chronicle both what they saw and experienced, as well as their efforts to understand those experiences. In the Odyssey drawing upon on Sarah and Matthew's explorations, online and classroom discussions will focus on the social, cultural, personal and political issues they encountered, and will build off their observations about the people they came to know, and their reflections on the interplay between people and their social environment.
With the assistance of a team of university student Mentors, Odyssey participants will consider how similar issues play out in their corner of the world. The two tiers, then, involve looking at the world through the eyes of our traveler and grappling with the issues he raises about life along the route of his travels, and engaging in reflection and discussion about how those issues play out in our lives, wherever we might happen to be.
We also have curricular activities in our course pack and on our web site to augment the discussions, and to provide background on the issues, places and historical settings explored in our discussions. The Earth Odysseys project is intended to provide flexibility for teachers and to allow for differing levels of engagement.
Earth Odysseys has been used by students throughout the world for over 20 years. For more information on Earth Odysseys, contact Jeff Stanzler at stanz [at] umich [dot] edu.