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Beautiful Patterns, Common Threads


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Beautiful Patterns, Common Threads

Lesson Plans/Activities

This is a VERY sketchy list at this point. Please consider it a "work in progress". It will expand dramatically as I get a chance to look over the web site and reflect on it a bit more -- and, hopefully, as YOU work with it and come up with ideas you want to share with others!

For the time being, these are written in the form of instructions for students. As the teacher, you'll have to psyche out how to implement them in your classroom. I'll work on re-writing them in more traditional lesson plan form when I return (or, again, if you do so yourself, send it on in!).


1 - Browse the web site. Find an activity or "way of life" that is common to two or more societies. These are like "strands" that link together the different cultures. (The teacher can guide this activity by having individual students or groups focus on a particular "culture universal", for example. "Culture universals" can be defined as "those behaviors and patterns of thought taught by all cultures, but expressed in a different way by each"; they might include, broadly speaking, economics, food, clothing, shelter, religion, politics, family/community, communications, art/literature/architecture, and recreation. You might wish to use the "thematic checklist" in this section as a guide.)

2 - Make a chart or other visual product showing the similarities and differences in how that "way of life" is expressed in those different societies. Identify or use photos from the web site to support your findings.

3 - Compare to the U.S. or to your own city or local community: do you see that activity or "way of life" being done / expressed here? how? where? by whom? how similar or different do you think it is to how it is in Southeast Asia?

4 - Is there anything you'd take from the "Southeast Asian way" that you'd like to see included in your own life or that of your community? How could you get that going?

5 - Do further research. This may include writing students in Southeast Asia to ask questions about your topic.

6 - OPTION: Create a product that can be incorporated into the web site, where (for example) someone interested in your topic can be linked directly to some "illuminating" photos. Accompanying text would be wonderful!


(Note: This should be started BEFORE students have looked over the site; or, if they've had a peek, they should be assigned to work with a country they haven't looked at.)

1 - Using as many maps as you can find for one of the countries I visited in Southeast Asia -- topographic, climatic, natural resources, cultures, etc. -- make educated guesses about what you'd expect to see in these countries. Use the cultural universals (see Activity One) as a guide. What foods might you see a lot of? What kinds of clothing would you expect people to wear? What kinds of buildings might you expect to see, and what might they look like (for example, what materials might they be constructed from)?

2 - Looking through the photos for your country, find evidence supporting or refuting your hypotheses.

3 - IF YOU'RE DOING THIS DURING MY JOURNEY: If you start this activity before I visit a given country, you can write me and ask me to look for particular things. I can take photos to support your ideas; these can be used in reports or other products you create.




1 - Choose a theme related to the social sciences: for example, gender roles.

2 - Generate a hypothesis: e.g., "Women play more traditional roles in Southeast Asian cultures than they do in Western societies."

3 - Re-word your hypothesis in a form that is statistical and can be measured in numbers: e.g., "If I observe women at particular points in time (like in the snapshots on the web site), I will see a higher percentage performing traditional tasks on this web site than I will as I observe women in my own community."

4 - Look through the web site. Find evidence related to your hypothesis. Do so by gathering your data in numerical form.

5 - Write to schools in Southeast Asia to ask for their perspective and/or any data they may have related to your hypothesis.


1 - Browse the web site. Find as many instances as you can showing Chinese and/or Indian influences in Southeast Asian cultures.

2 - Relate your findings in the form of a collage, a map, or another product that can be added to the web site.

3 - Look through the site for other examples of things or ideas that have spread from one part of the region to another, reflecting "cultural diffusion." Add these examples to the product you created.

4 - EXTENSION: "Syncretism" refers to the way peoples take two or more cultural ideas or practices and merge them together to create entirely new ways of living and/or thinking. Sometimes, these new ways replace the old; but, they show the clear influence of the ideas or practices they were born from. Look through the site for as many examples as you can of "syncretism" having happened in Southeast Asia. You may want to focus on foods, clothing, religious ideas and practices, dramatic arts, visual arts, music, games/ recreation, or other aspects of culture you're interested in.


(These activities use specific reading selections located in the web site.)

1 - Read the Ram Kamhaeng inscription from Sukhothai in northern Thailand. It describes life during the reign of this great king. Q: What are some things that describe life in Sukhothai at that time? Q:By inference from the story, what were OTHER places (outside Sukhothai) like during this time?

2 - Life in Ayutthaya (LINK) IN DEVELOPMENT

3 - Read the Interview with Attan Pong. Carry on a class debate using these questions. Q: Do you think the "soup" or the "salad" description fits your community better? Q: Which do you think your community SHOULD be like?

4 - Read the Letter to the Editor in the Thailand section that addresses how economic development should best proceed in that country. Carry on a class debate using these questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the author's point of view? What things do you agree with, and what do you disagree with?
  • Do you think Thailand should take loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help them deal with their curent economic crisis?
AFTER your debate, follow the news to see what Thailand decided to do, and gather data to support or refute the view that what they DID do (and what you THOUGHT they should do) was the "right" way to proceed.


1 - Around Bangkok, about the only places you'd find signs with English on them (even those would also have Thai) are around the airport and on Sukumvit road, a major tourist destination. Most of the signs relate to businesses. Why would the signs be in those particular places and not others? Why would the foreign language being used be English, and not another language?

2 - The introduction to the Thailand site identifies it as a "land of contrasts". Look through the photos from Thailand and find individual shots or combinations of shots that bring out those contrasts (old vs. new; rich vs. poor; north vs. south; etc.).


These activities will use two sources, to come. One is a set of lists of the costs (in local currencies, with conversion rates) of fruits and vegetables from urban and rural markets. The second is my expense log from the entire trip. It has very detailed information: each entry consists of date, city, item, and cost in local currency, with conversion rates attached. Using this log, students will be able to determine...

-how much each currency is worth in U.S. dollars

-what I spent, in local currency and in U.S. dollars, as a total in each country, or as a per diem amount by country or altogether.

They will also be able to categorize the spending, making charts or graphs to show the amount and/or percentage spent in each category. They will be able to determine the categories on their own, or you'll be able to give them to them; they might include food, lodging, transportation, communications (telephone/internet), educational materials, entertainment, travel resources (project-related/other), entry fees, health, gifts, and miscellaneous. I wrote those here so I wouldn't forget! They will also then be able to compare prices on different products/goods to those in the U.S., and (if I get it together quickly enough) will be able to make predictions about prices I'll find in certain places BEFORE I get there--e.g., that prices will be higher in Manila for certain things than in the countryside. The exercises will be designed to be used with individual, paired or small-group arrangements.


1 - Make a collage using photos from the site that show as many uses as possible of bamboo, a truly miraculous renewable resource. (TO THE TEACHER: examples would be -- shoots used for food; leaves used to wrap food, to make baskets and thatch roofing; wood used for poles to propel boats, for furniture, as house posts; etc.)

2 - Research the way bamboo grows and what conditions are necessary for its optimum growth. Report: could bamboo be grown successfully in the place where you live? Would it be advantageous to do so? Why or why not?

Copyright 1999 by Avi Black
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