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Outreach World Website Lauded by Federal Government

Developed and hosted by the UCLA International Institute, the online hub for K-12 area studies has been showcased in Washington, D.C., and garnered praise from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Outreach World Website Lauded by Federal Government

Photo by Christina Whitt

By Jonathan Friedlander

"One of the best online resources for education in the humanities"

As K-12 teachers make greater use of the Web to search for resources, they are making OutreachWorld, a site developed and hosted by the UCLA International Institute, into a favorite. The site offers free instructional materials on Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Commended by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, OutreachWorld also received high praise from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which called the site "one of the best online resources for education in the humanities” and linked to it from the prestigious EDSITEment portal.

OutreachWorld was on display during the first week of December 2006 at the annual conference of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) in Washington, D.C. and, days earlier, during International Week in the capital, at the U.S. Department of Education. Under its International Research and Studies Program, the department had provided funds for the site's development and launch in 2003. Rahul Bhushan, the site's principal web designer, accompanied me to the NCSS conference and demonstrated site features to participants; Diane James, the site's editor, had joined me at the previous year's conference in Kansas City.

Christopher Rose of UT-Austin's Hemispheres, a contributor to OutreachWorld, at the NCSS conference.

The collaborative project involves not only the UCLA International Institute's area studies centers but their counterparts at some 60 universities around the country. These National Resource Centers (NRCs, also designated by the Education Department) upload instructional units, lesson plans, reference materials, and other resources developed by educators involved in K-12 outreach programs. OutreachWorld also features a database of award-winning books, links to multimedia lending libraries at NRCs around the country, articles on research and best practices in the field of international studies outreach, and a calendar of NRC-sponsored professional development workshops and overseas travel opportunities for K-12 educators.

The instructional materials attract, by far, the greatest number of users, due to their variety and high quality. For example, in-depth case studies in Understanding Migration, a curriculum module produced by Hemispheres, a consortium of area studies centers at the University of Texas at Austin, cover Brazil, Egypt, India/Pakistan, Israel/Palestine and Nicaragua. Michigan State University contributed a 20-unit series on Africa. Harvard and Tulane Universities have produced an abundance of resources on the Middle East and Latin America, respectively. Likewise, the University of Kansas has enriched OutreachWorld with curriculum units on East Asia.

OutreachWorld highlights the synergies and contributions of area studies centers at institutions with multiple NRCs, including the Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Washington, and UC Berkeley and Yale. These and more than 100 other NRCs work with many thousands of teachers in schools throughout the United States—in the most extensive K-12 endeavor in international studies education and training in the country.

In addition to its extensive use by classroom teachers, OutreachWorld is used in teacher credentialing and certification programs at colleges and universities nationwide. "I have students complete an assignment using OutreachWorld," said Professor Mark Newman, a specialist in social studies and history pedagogy at the National College of Education, National-Louis University in Chicago. "Many have come up to me and praised the website, saying it's a superb resource that has been a great help in their teaching." Department heads and resource specialists in America's precollegiate schools are increasingly recommending OutreachWorld to their faculty corps, many of whom are introduced to the website at local and regional NCSS conferences, or at the annual International Studies Schools Association conference. The site will be showcased once again at the 2007 NCSS conference in San Diego.

As traffic on the site grows, OutreachWorld is embarking on a series of vital initiatives. One is a strategic project to incorporate foreign language instructional materials, with help from the UCLA Center for World Languages, the National K-12 Foreign Language Resource Center at Iowa State University, and others. The goal is to promote study of less commonly taught languages at the precollegiate level, especially in social studies. A parallel effort is devoted to incorporating instructional materials by K-12 teachers who have taken part in the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program, for example on study tours to Egypt, Jordan, and Syria organized over the past four summers by the UC Santa Barbara Center for Middle East Studies. In light of these prospects, we feel confident in predicting that, for OutreachWorld, the best is yet to come.

To tap the riches of this national resource go to

Jonathan Friedlander, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, is principal investigator for the OutreachWorld project.