by Johnny Hanson

In Austin, Texas, at Garza Independent High School, doors are shut and classrooms are empty.

On the school’s website, a letter that principal Linda Webb wrote in reaction to the COVID-19 shutdown says, “All Garza students are expected to log on to Garza Online and continue their academic coursework remotely.”

On any other day, U.S. history and economics teacher Jacqueline Vidal would be working closely with her students to prepare them for the upcoming statewide achievement tests. Now, she finds herself at home due to a citywide lockdown, preparing to teach her students remotely.

“The first thought I had was about how I was going to continue to build a relationship with my students and not have that face-to-face time — how am I going to keep them engaged, and what creative things can I do with them?” said Vidal.

AramcoWorld Classroom Guide

AramcoWorld Brings Lessons of the Globe to Schoolchildren Stuck at Home
Texas teacher Jacqueline Vidal is using the AramcoWorld Classroom Guide to engage with her students now attending school from home during the coronavirus outbreak.

With little time to plan, Vidal started thinking about her economics lessons and wondered how she was going to present them in an interesting way that would hold their attention. So she turned to a resource she already knew well: AramcoWorld’s Classroom Guide.

She went to the AramcoWorld website, scrolled through the more than 40 lessons, and clicked on an entry titled “Balancing Conservation and Economics.” There, she said, she found a great lesson to give to her students.

“What’s great about this lesson is that I can teach economics and conservation in Asia using the AramcoWorld story, and then tie it back to a local perspective in the U.S.,” she said.

AramcoWorld assistant editor Alva Robinson said the magazine is already designed for readers to explore different parts of the world, and it is part of the publication’s mission to bridge people across cultures and places. The Classroom Guide builds off that.

“The Classroom Guide provides learning experiences for students and independent learners,” Robinson said. “It serves as a repository of activities for classrooms and individuals that help enhance our readers’ understanding of our subjects, while also deepening skills in reading, writing, and comprehension.”

Vidal said she often uses the Aramco- World magazine as a teaching tool because of its in-depth stories and beautiful pictures.

“I trust the resource, and to me, there is value in that,” she said. “The most challenging thing to do is connect with your students, and these resources allow me to do that. They look at the stories and the pictures, and they begin to ask a lot of questions.”

Over 15 Years of Coming into The Classroom

AramcoWorld editor Dick Doughty started the Classroom Guide in the print edition of the magazine in 2004 as a resource for teachers. He worked with freelance curriculum specialist Julie Weiss, who had previously produced educational supplements for Newsweek.

The free resource soon appeared online, providing lessons that meet certain U.S. educational core standards, all based on features in the magazine. Students and teachers can learn from topics such as “Problem Solving, Climate Change and Policy, Clarifying and Probing Questions,” and “Evaluating Art as Visual Representations,” and more.

“The Classroom Guide is an important outreach tool for the magazine,” Doughty said. “Teachers work really hard and don’t have much time to plan, so we provide this resource because they are one of our most important stakeholders. The Classroom Guide allows teachers to jump-start their lesson planning by using the magazine. It’s designed to be flexible and to inspire, and with it, they can reach classrooms of students, year after year.”

Helping Out More Teachers and Students

AramcoWorld digital editor Johnny Hanson said they are currently working to put the Classroom Guide in front of more students now in need of online resources. They are doing this through print, the AramcoWorld newsletter, and in social media.

“We see this as a great opportunity to help teachers, students and parents who are now acting as teachers, as they all try to keep up with schooling from home with dynamic resources,” Hanson said. “Beyond our Classroom Guide, we are also highlighting our video channel, virtual tours, and recipes as people spend more time at home.”

Teachers such as Vidal believe having this kind of educational resource is important now more than ever.

“There are teachers out there right now struggling to find resources they can be creative with,” she said. “The AramcoWorld Classroom Guide is a great resource for teachers to have, all in one place.”

— The Arabian Sun: April 15, 2020 | Vol. LXXV, No. 16