The South Dakota Council on World Affairs (SDCWA) is one of 12 councils across the United States taking part in a three-stage program underwritten by the Turkish Cultural Foundation. The program is designed to better acquaint people about Turkish culture and heritage in a place often called "the cradles of civilization."
The South Dakota program began in May with a workshop for elementary and secondary teachers. Teachers were introduced to the history, geography, religion, culture, literature, art and architecture of the country.
Four South Dakota teachers were selected to travel to Turkey July 25 through August 10. Kathryn Miller, Brookings Central Elementary counselor; Rachel McConaghy, Big White Country School in Wall; Tracy Nelson, Brookings Hillcrest Elementary physical education teacher; and Jesse Sealey, Geddes Community School K-8 principal will join teachers from six other states traveling across Turkey for 16 days.
"We were pleased to receive over a dozen applicants for this first-time program," said Harriet Swedlund, executive director of the SDCWA.
The applicants wrote narratives describing their interest in learning and teaching about Turkey, their travel experiences and how they planned to use the experience in their teaching when they return.
"As a school counselor, I teach students to be tolerant of other people," said Kathy Miller, Brookings. "It will be a great learning experience to observe Islamic traditions in Turkey and then communicate with my students about those experiences."
The teachers will arrive in Istanbul where they will visit a neighborhood with a synagogue, mosque and church standing side-by-side as an example of "religious tolerance and mutual respect," according to the tour's agenda. In the days following, the teachers will visit other religious, art and historic sites as well as modern day schools and businesses.
"I enjoy learning about other cultures," said Rachel McConaghy, Wall. "The more my students learn about other cultures, the less likely they are to pre-judge other people." McConaghy teaches in a country school outside Wall where she lives since moving from Ohio eight years ago. The trip to Turkey will be her first international travel.
"It's an amazing opportunity," said Tracy Nelson, Volga. The Hillcrest Elementary School physical education teacher hopes to learn about Turkish cultural dances to bring back to her students. "For students to learn that children in other countries play the same games, like 'duck, duck goose' only with different words, helps them make connections with other parts of the world and it improves the quality of all our lives."
"I'm interested in seeing all the historical sites and sharing that with our teaching staff as well as students," said Jesse Sealey, Geddes Community School K-8 principal.
Over the next year, the Council on World Affairs plans to offer a variety of programs on different aspects of Turkish culture in order to complete the third part of the grant.
"The resources we already have in South Dakota will help strengthen our understanding of other cultural presences and help feed out mission to bring world affairs information and discussion to the region," concluded Swedlund.
SDCWA began in March 2004 offering speakers and other programs on world affairs. The World Affairs Councils of America formed in 1918 and is the largest international affairs non-profit group in the country comprised of 484,000 members, 87 councils and 26 affiliates.
For more information on the SDCWA or the program with the Turkish Cultural Foundation, contact Swedlund at 688-5416 or firstname.lastname@example.org.