Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Transforming Learning with Videoconferencing

Hi Everyone!

This website is designed by Miss Avery and Mrs. Kopecki as an online resource for teaching about Turkey and the Islamic world. Our two classes are currently engaged in a Videoconferencing partnership and this website was designed to document and reflect that partnership.

This virtual collaboration between our two schools has been made possible through a grant from ACES located in Hamden, Connecticut. The Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) is the Regional Educational Service Center for the twenty-five school districts in south central Connecticut.

Transforming Learning with Videoconferencing has successfully connected students from economically, geographically, and culturally diverse communities for the past six years. This program provides students and teachers from various districts the opportunity to become virtual partners and work collaboratively to develop an authentic task that extends their classroom curriculum. Transforming Learning with Videoconferencing addresses many of the foundation skills and competencies as outlined in The Connecticut Framework and the Connecticut Common Core of Learning. Students work towards developing the proficiency, confidence, and fluency in speaking, listening and viewing needed to meet the literacy demands of the 21st century. Students explore information and arguments from various points of view to think critically and creatively to solve problems. Through the natural progression of the collaborative process students begin to appreciate the world views and perceptions other students based on their cultural identities.
We hope you enjoy our journey into the Islamic world, connecting the learning through various curriculum. Please feel free to share your comments with us. We'd love to hear your comments. These lessons can be used as individual class lessons, or as part of a Unit on Turkey, or as a Unit on the Islamic World.

This is our 3rd year piloting this program, continually revising, editing and adapting new learning and experiences. We will be adding an exciting new technological component to this unit, incorporating the iPOD, as students create their own multidimensional presentation. These presentations will take the viewer on a journey as they explore the Islamic world, connecting with the art, culture, religion and history of the region.

Check back often as new information is continually posted.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Peering Inside Iran and the Persian Culture Workshop

What a wonderful Saturday workshop we attended on March 13, 2010, sponsored by The Outreach Center, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University and Milton Public Schools!

Much about Iran and the Persian culture remains behind a veil. In this workshop partipants learned about the history of Persia, the art of Persian tile making and listened to the history of Persian Mythology with a lecture by Dr. Arash Afraz, MIT.

Each teacher created a tile design upon viewing various images of Persian tiles. We look forward to seeing the final mural project in a few weeks.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Where in the world is this Mosque?

What Is A Mosque?

A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The mosque serves as a place where Muslims can come together for prayer as well as a center for information, education, and dispute settlement. The Imam leads the prayer.

Many mosques have elaborate domes, minarets, and prayer halls. Mosques originated on the Arabian Peninsula, but are now found all over the world.

Where In The World Is This Mosque?

(An 8th grade student will read the question into the camera and the 6th grade students will use their map and Social Studies skills to find the country where each mosque is located. A 6th grade representative will then answer the question into the camera. Roles will be reversed for questions 3 and 4).
Grade 6--
This country, birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed and located at 24 degrees North and 46 degrees East, is the home to the Prophet’s Mosque, and one of three of Islam’s holiest sites. (Saudi Arabia-Prophet’s Mosque in Mecca.) **Show picture
Grade 8-- This country, located at 29 Degrees North and 106 Degrees East is at the Eastern end of the Silk Road and has a mosque in Xian dating back to the 8th century. (Xian, China-The Great Mosque of Xian). **Show picture
6th Grade--This country, whose capital was once the ancient city of Constantinople, is located at 40 Degrees North and 28 Degrees East and is home to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. (Istanbul, Turkey-Sultan Ahmed Mosque) ** Show picture
8th Grade-- This country, located at 33 Degrees North and 36 Degrees East, has a mosque that was once St. John’s Christian Church before the Muslims rebuilt it as a Mosque in the 8th century.

Intro: (6th Grade) (2.10.09)

Religious Functions of Mosques

All adult Muslims are required to offer prayers five times daily. Most mosques will organize a formal time of prayer for each of the daily timeslots. In addition to holding the daily prayers, mosques hold weekly services as a form of the Sabbath. While daily prayers can be performed anywhere, it is required to attend Friday prayers at the mosque.

There are two large holidays (Eids) in the Islamic calendar, during which there are special prayers held at mosques in the morning.

Islam's holiest month, Ramadan, is observed through many events. Since Muslims must fast during the day during Ramadan, mosques will host “break the fast” dinners after sunset.

The third of the Five Pillars of Islam states that Muslims are required to give approximately one-fortieth of their wealth to charity. Since mosques form the center of Muslim communities, they are where Muslims go to both give charity and, if necessary, collect it.

Where In The World Is This Mosque? (2.10.09)

(A 6th grade student will read the question into the camera and the 8th grade students will use their map and Social Studies skills to find the country where each mosque is located. An 8th grade representative will then answer the question into the camera. Roles will be reversed for questions 3 and 4).

Grade 6 question: " This country, located at 33° N and 44° E has a mosque that is visited by millions of ShÄ«ah pilgrims every year. "(Iraq: Al-Abbas Mosque.)

Grade 6 question:
" This country, located at 6°N and 3° E has its National Mosque in its capital. (Nigeria: Abuja National Mosque).

Grade 8 question:
"This country, located at 40° N and 3° W has an hypostyle (lots of columns that hold up the ceiling) mosque with columns arranged in a grid pattern (Spain: Mezquita Mosque.)

Grade 8 question:
"This country, located at 33°N and 7°W, is one of two mosques in this country that is open to non-Muslims." (Morocco: Hasan II Mosque.)

Print photographs of the Mosques at the link. Share images with students after they have discovered the location on the world map, posting on the board.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Where Is Turkey? (A Search And Discover Lesson)


  • Working in small groups of 8, Miss Avery and Mrs Kopecki's classes students will collaborate remotely through videoconferencing technology on a Search and Discover Turkey session. In the process they will:

  • locate Turkey on a map of the world and determine its location in relation to the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Connecticut.

  • identify and locate specific geographical regions and features of Turkey.

CT Social Studies Content Standard:

Geography-to explore the physical and cultural characteristics of places and world regions and how those characteristics affect people.

Lesson Length: One class period


  • 1 Map of Connecticut

  • 1 map of The Middle East

  • 1 Map of The World

  • 1 Search and Discovery Sheet

  • Pencils and Pens

  • Colored Pencils

1) Working in groups of four, (four six graders/four eight graders) the group leader will print ONE copy of the following: (This could be done ahead of time).

2) Your first task is to locate and label the approximate locations of Prospect, CT and Wethersfield, CT on the Connecticut map. Use may use this Connecticut Map to help. Share your locations with each other.

3) Your next task is to color the United States and Turkey on the world map. Share your maps with your partner groups.

4) Next, your groups will use this Interactive Middle East Map or the flip chart Atlas of the World to locate, label and color the following countries onto your map of the Middle East.

  • Turkey

  • Jordan

  • Saudi Arabia

  • Lebanon

  • Israel

  • Iraq

  • Iran

  • Egypt

  • Kuwait

  • Syria

  • Bahrain

  • Qatar

  • United Arab Emirates

  • Oman

  • Yemen
4) Lastly, your group will read Turkish Odyssey and complete the Seach and Discover Sheet about Turkey. Read the "About Turkey" introduction page as well as Geography and Population to help you find the answers to your questions.

Concluding Activity

  • Discussion Question: Compare and contrast the geography of Turkey with the geography of the United States. Share you responses with your videoconferencing partners.

To test your memory of the countries in this region after completing the lesson try the map at:


Monday, May 5, 2008

Islamic Art, Religion and Culture

Grade Level
grades 6-8

Anticipated Time Period
Two one hour lessons

CT ART State Standards
Content Standard 3: Content
Students will consider, select and apply a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas.
Content Standard 4: History and Culture
Students will understand the visual arts in relation to history and culture

CT Social Studies Content Standard: Culture
All world religions and belief systems have geographic origins and founding leaders, principles, and teachings.

Contacts among different cultures led to changes in belief systems, art, science, technology, language, and systems of government.

The early Arab, African, Chinese, European, Greek, Indian, Roman, and American civilizations contributed significant cultural and scientific legacies.

Lesson Goal
Students will understand the connection between Islamic Art, culture and religion by exploring the Middle East.

Students will identify the Five Pillars of Faith.
Students will recognize the symbols used in Islamic Art

PowerPoint on ‘Islamic Art, Religion and Culture'

Question Sheet on Powerpoint Presentation
Activity sheet on the Five Pillars of Faith
Pencils, crayons, colored pencils, markers

Teacher will share PowerPoint presentation on ‘Islamic Art, Religion and Culture’
Class discussion on Five Pillars of Faith
View slides of’ Islamic Art and Culture’(National Gallery of Art)
Take a virtual tour the Suleymaniye Mosque (DVD-Saudi Aramco WORLD)

1) The classes will view remotely a PowerPoint presentation of 'Islamic Art, Religion and Culture' followed by a joint class discussion.

Click on this link to view the powerpoint: Islamic, Art Religion and Culture

2) The teacher will project the ‘fill in the blank’ questions on the board (or distribute hardcopy to the students) and students will remotely answer and discuss the questions as a joint class discussion.

3) Give each student a copy of the ‘Five Pillars of Faith’ and have them complete the art activity sheet on the ‘Five Pillars of Faith’, using markers, crayons or colored pencils.

Link for Activity sheet of Five Pillars:

Extension Activity Assessment
Students will share their art activity sheet ‘Five Pillars of Islam’ with classes and teachers remotely (through videoconferencing) and will create a bulletin board of their ideas.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Math Connections/Geometry and Islamic Tiles

Objective: to explore in a hands on manner geometric concepts related to tile design in Turkey and all of the Islamic world using animal, floral or geometric motifs.

Grade Level: 6th -8th

CT Math Standards: Geometry and Measurement

Identify lines of symmetry and reflections, rotations and translations of geometric figures.

Identify polygons that have line and/or rotational symmetry

Use a coordinate plane to make and test conjectures about changes in the coordinates of the vertices of polygons as a result of a transformation (translation and/ or reflection) and describe the results in writing


Wooden Pattern Blocks
Rigid Plastic Mirrors
Copy Paper
Tracing Paper
Mirrors Template

Examples of Islamic Tile Designs

Time Frame:

Two 60 minute periods


1. Going to the Transformations In Math website, the teacher will remotely lead a review of the three basic types of transformations ( reflections, rotations, and translations).

2. Going to Symmetry Is All Around Us website, the teacher will lead a review of the types of symmetry. Next, using this image of Iznik Tile from Turkey's Topkapi Palace, the teacher will remotely lead a review with both classes of the types of symmetry seen in this Islamic design (rotational,line and point).

3. Activity # 1 Demonstrating Fold Symmetry

a. Using a protractor, the teacher will use mark a center point on a sheet of copy paper and make a 6 inch line of symmetry (mirror line) thus dividing the paper into two symmetric parts (2-fold symmetry). **The students should model the teacher through this demonstration.**

Ask: How many degrees are the measures of the two angles that are created? (180 degrees)

b. The teacher will next draw a second 6 inch perpendicular bisecting line through the center of rotation and divide the copy paper into four congruent parts (4-fold symmtery).

Ask: How many degrees are the measures of the four angles that are created? (90 degrees)

c. Students will use a protractor to divide a circle into 60, 45 and 30 degree angles and label the various fold symmetries (6-fold/8-fold and 12-fold symmetry).

4. Conclusion Day One/Introduction Day Two: Discuss with students how the Islamic artists used the geometry knowledge of geometry to produce beautiful works of art that demonstrated visually their vision of the universe (logical and orderly) as well as the unchanging laws of God.

6. Activity # 2 Creating Symmetrical Pattern Designs

a. Students will use a copy of the Mirrors template and the colored patterned blocks and rigid plastic mirror to explore various geometric patterns.

b. They will then select a pattern to reflect and rotate and copy that pattern onto the angle of their choice on the Mirrors Template.

c. Using a ruler and protractor, the students will then create a 6 X 6 inch square on a piece of tracing paper and divide the square into its appropriate folds depending on the angle chosen. (Stress that the angle will determine the type of fold symmtery they will have. Have them recall yesterday's activity on fold symmetry).

d. Using a marker they will next trace the design onto the tracing paper and REFLECT the design over one line of symmetry. They will then turn the tracing paper over and trace the design with the marker.

e. This process must be repeated over every line of symmetry until there is a completed geometric design.

Conclusion: Identify lines of symmetry and fold-symmetry as well as transformations used. have the students write down all the types of symmetry their design contains (line symmtery, rotational symmtery)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Iznik Pottery Factory


There is a widely held but quite erroneous belief that figurative painting is not found in Islamic art due to prohibition by the Koran. Religious rulings issued only in the ninth century discouraged the representation of any living beings capable of movement but they were not rigidly enforced until the 15th C. Figurative art is especially rich in tiles as well as stone and stucco reliefs of the Seljuk period, adorning both secular and religious relief monuments. The subjects included nobility as well as servants, hunters and hunting animals, trees, birds, sphinxes, lions, sirens, dragons and double-headed eagles.*Iznik Tiles are world famous tiles produced in the city of Iznik, formally known as Nicaea. Iznik is an ancient, lovely walled town on the shores of Lake Iznik. Earthenware’s had been made here since the 7th B.C. Iznik is the city that launched a thousand tiles. Set on the shores of a peaceful lake just a short boat and bus ride from Istanbul, Iznik is a delightful small town with such an intriguing history.*Some of the most beautiful floral art of all time came from the Anatolian city of Iznik.*In 1331 it was the turn of the Ottomans to take control of Iznik and it was the Ottomans who helped t he town stamp its even more famous mark on history.*In 1514 Sultan Selim I occupied Tabriz in Iran and exiled its tile makers to Iznik. There they set up shop and added a precious coral red glaze to the more conventional blue and white tiles. The rest as they say ‘is history’. Iznik tiles went on to grace mosques worldwide but especially those of Istanbul. Unfortunately their popularity was also to be their downfall. So much did Sultan Ahmet love the tiles that when he started work on his great ‘Blue’ Mosque he insisted that the Iznik tile makers should work on nothing else until it was completed. In the way of things enthusiasm didn’t necessarily translate into decent wages and many of the tile makers voted with their feet and headed out for better paying jobs in Kutahya. The inevitable result was that Kutahya was soon ‘in’ and Iznik ‘oput’ in tile fashion circles.*Is is no surprise that the collapse of the pottery industry in Iznik in the 17th C parallels the decline of the empire itself.-Reputedly there were 300 functioning kilns in Iznik when work began on the Blue Mosque and only nine still in business when it was completed seven years later.*Iznik production began in the Byzantium period but reached its perfection in the 16th & 17th C during the Ottoman period*Iznik tiles are heavily created by the quartz (clay is 80% quartz) found in this region. The quartz in the clay gives it is great whiteness. This type of clay is very difficult to work with, requiring high temperatures. The clay is very porous which acts to protect the clay against the extreme temperatures which allows it to expand and to contract if used outdoors.*Iznik tiles are very suitable for mosques because of their acoustic abilities and their ability to bend and conform to various shapes.*Tile making is one of the oldest and most respected arts in Turkey.*Decorative motifs and patterns found on Iznik Tiles are a rich blend of Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Seljuk and Arabic influences that contributed to Turkish art.*The decorative patterns used are: swirling leaves, clusters of stylized tulips, delicate floral balanced with geometric rhythms.*In addition to tiles, the town's potteries continued to produce china ware for sale to the public as well as the palace*The earliest tiles made at Iznik were blue and white.*The blue and white Chinese porcelain and celadon ware which poured into the markets of the Near East from the 14th century onwards became extremely popular among the wealthy who could afford such precious objects. Iznik's potters had to compete to survive, and they did so by imitating the Chinese designs from Yuan and early Ming. They began to turn out plates and dishes similar to the much admired Chinese porcelain(blue & white) and before long had not only mastered these designs but began to give them new forms according to their own tastes. The result found favor not only within the Ottoman Empire but beyond Iznik potteries. Blue and white plates, bowls, lamps, candlesticks and other items made in Iznik during the 15th century are decorated in the style we now, consisting of scrollwork and floral designs, which was popular during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II (1451-1481).*Turquoise was added to the traditional Iznik palette of blue and white from the 1530s onwards.*From the 1540s onwards, mauve and purple also appear in Iznik designs, followed by green and the exquisite coral red unique to Iznik ware.*In addition to a wide range of flowers, pomegranates, artichokes and tree motifs occur in the compositions of this period. The tiles and other pieces were exuberantly decorated with hyacinths, tulips, carnations, roses, and stylized floral scrollwork and geometric patterns.*The Turkish Ministry of Culture proclaimed 1989 as Iznik Year, and numerous events and activities relating to Iznik pottery were held.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Islamic Clay Tiles

Grade Level
Grade 6+

Anticipated Time Period
Two hour lesson

CT State Standards
Content Standard 3
: Content
Students will consider, select and apply a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas.
Content Standard 4: History and Culture
Students will understand the visual arts in relation to history and culture.

Unit Goal
Students will study the art of the Middle East

Students will identify the characteristics of Islamic Art
Students will create a ceramic tile with motifs found in Turkish art
Stoneware clay
Relief Sculpture
Score, Incise, Carve
Kiln, firing, bisque, stoneware
Islamic Art
Iznik Pottery

preliminary sketch completed in math lesson/pencils
Stoneware clay, rolling pins, pin tools, modeling tools
Clear glaze and underglaze
Brushes & water
water soluable marker
Students will view examples of Iznik tiles and see examples of the process: wet clay, bisqueware, glazed stoneware
1. Students will bring to the art class their original symmetrical design on white paper
2. Roll out slab of stoneware clay, creating even thickness in slab.
3. Trace paper pattern with a water soluable marker.
4. Lay paper pattern, marker side down, onto clay slab. Press marker design onto clay
5. Students will use modeling tools to incise or carve in their relief designs, exploring various textures, patterns and designs.
6. Clay tiles will dry slowly in the art room for one week and then be placed in the kiln.
7. Students will use underglazes for coloring their tile, covering with a coat of clear glaze. Tiles will be fired to correct temperature.
Extension Activity Assessment and Evaluation:
Rubric: based on creativity, concept, work ethic, craftsmanship, and glazing

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Year One: A wonderful year with virtual collaboration!

We finished our unit on Turkey and The Middle East. This has been year one of a two year collaboration between Highcrest School and Long River Middle School. What a wonderful time we each had learning about Turkey and Islamic Art, Religion and Culture. We had a terrific time at the "Meet and Greet" at Highcrest school. Our Islamic tiles came out great! So many wonderful designs. Thanks for a great year everyone!

Saturday, February 3, 2001

Office for the Arts at Harvard

Ms. Avery and Mrs. Kopecki attended a three day workshop entitled "Tile and Mural Design and Construction" at the Office for the Arts at Harvard over a course of three Saturdays this past January and February.

The course was led by Dr. Wasma'a Chorbachi, an Art History professor at Harvard University and explored a range of mathematical concepts related to tile design using animal, floral or geometric motifs. They learned many new techniques and design skills as they worked on both raw and fired clay tiles.
The course explored construction methods, decorating skills and principles of Asian, Islamic and European design.

Dr Wasma'a Chorbachi has provided them with a wealth of learning and practical knowledge for their unit on Turkey.

Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Connections, Connections!

Recently Mrs. Kopecki and I spent a lovely spring day in Boston. With no real agenda in mind, we let our feet do the walking around this historic city and we ended up making quite a few Turkish connections! First stop was lunch at The Kabab House of Boston on Kilby's street, Liberty Square. There we enjoyed some appetizers from the meze bar and shared a Kofte Kebab, which is a mix of lamb and mixed beef patties with rice and mixed salad. Delicious! Next, we stopped at the Granary Burial ground where we saw the graves of several famous Americans such as Paul Revere and Samual Adams. Then we walked around little Italy and had to stop for an afternoon cappucino, before hiking it to The Museum of Fine Arts (for the after 4pm FREE tour of the permanent collections.) After making our way through the ancient East Asian collections and Egyptian collections we found the Islamic wing and found a display of Iznik Pottery as well as other Koptic Korans and Islamic ceramics. We also were excited to see some contemporary pieces by our Islamic Tile professor from Harvard, Wasmaa Chorbachi! She designed some beautiful pieces. Before leaving the museum we were able to buy some Iznik tiles from the museum store! Too cool! (For I never bought one while actually in Turkey).
After hiking it back to the Boston Commons, with a short dinner stop along the way, we ended our delightful in Boston. Though we came to Boston with no plan in mind for the day, we saw and did quite a bit and made lots of connections with our many previous travels and experiences. Life-It's all about the connections!