Monday, July 31, 2017

K+ Summer School 2017

Does the Telly Lie? Media and the Middle East is an interdisciplinary course allowing students to expand their knowledge and skills in government, English, and sociology. The course will guide students in exploring the role of media in society. Through the lens of Western news coverage of the Middle East, students will consider how knowledge and ‘fact’ are created in society and how they might evaluate truth claims. Students will wrestle with potential ‘myths’ told in mainstream media about a region generally portrayed as mired in conflict and be challenged to look “beyond the bombs” to consider biased assumptions about the role of gender, environmental resources, and democracy in the area. The course will build students’ specific knowledge of the Middle East’s religions, cultures, and politics while also encouraging them to reflect on similar issues in their own settings.

Through the final assignment, students will use the analytical reasoning skills developed in the course to critically evaluate a series of news articles and/or programmes. Students will compare and contrast stories from a variety of sources on a Middle East topic selected by them. Students will be expected to show an understanding of the broader implications of their own and societal understandings of and approaches to information. As such, emphasis will be placed less on the actual topic chosen and more on the reflective reasoning abilities demonstrated. This way, students will be given a taste of the evaluation processes expected at university.

Participation in the course will build students’ critical thinking while empowering them to be more active and thoughtful citizens of the world.

I got to teach this course at King's last week with their annual spotlight summer camp for widening participation students...quite possibly for the last time!

K+ at King's College London is a two-year programme of events, activities and academic workshops created to help support students' university application and provide the skills needed to reach their potential as an undergraduate student. One of the highlights of K+ is the Spotlight Summer School, complete with academic tutorials; information sessions on applications, personal statements, and finances; tours; student life taster sessions; and a trip to the London Eye.

Twenty Year 12 students gave me a riot of a time as we explored feminism and dress codes, epistemologies and academic politics, and censorship and Islam. As made evident below, the entire week was entirely serious.







Okay, so...there may or may not have been included in the festivities a visit from #thelittlestgeographer Rif Raf and a run through the fountains. But I'm not swearing one way or the other. Notice the students with books and giving presentations!! It wasn't all eating biscuits and rampaging through the Strand with a toddler...


Monday, July 17, 2017

Return to the Burn

As a highlight of every summer, the Marshall Scholars visit The Burn, a gorgeous manor house in the Cairngorns near Glen Esk (the very low highlands of Scotland).

Our activities whilst in England's northern neighbour include dancing a ceilidh (the very fun and fast-paced Scottish variation to an American squaredance), touring (and tasting at...) a whiskey distillery, roaming about cliffs and castle ruins, squishing our toes in a sandy beach, and roasting marshmallows over a campfire. It is, all in all, rather magical.

Also on the agenda this year was a few pre-seasonal salmon running the stream - pretty large fish leaping out of the water up the rapids to get to their spawning ground. Super, super cool to see in person.

I was entirely remiss in taking photos at most places, but here are a few from the North Sea...



Sunday, June 25, 2017

AMENDS Oxford

This last week in Oxford, a bit of magic happened. Once again, some of my favourite humans gathered through the AMENDS platform. More formally:

The mission of AMENDS is to facilitate a platform for promising youth leaders working from across the Middle East, North Africa and the United States to maximize their initiatives by providing them access to opportunities for developing key skills, networking with established leaders and sharing their initiatives with a larger audience.

In February of 2011, as protests were erupting across North Africa and the Middle East, two Stanford undergraduates met at a coffee shop. They had been born and raised in Bahrain and Chicago respectively. A conversation ensued about the power of youth leaders to create positive social, political, and economic change, the necessity of sharing their ideas and experiences with the world, and the profound potential of collaboration and understanding between the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States. This conversation gave birth to AMENDS – a student-led initiative sponsored by Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies with faculty advisors Professor Larry Diamond and Professor Frank Fukuyama.

Each April, the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS) holds a Launch Summit providing young changemakers with proven track records access to opportunities for developing key skills, networking with established leaders and sharing their initiatives with a larger audience. The result is a growing generation of change agents working to ignite concrete social and economic development in the MENA region.

Our Fellows are people like Rahmeh, the co-founder of Jordan’s SheCab company that provides safe transport and economic empowerment for women in the region; Fadi, a young Palestinian entrepreneur whose alternative energy start-up in Ramallah who has secured a contract with the PLO to deliver 10% of the West Bank’s energy need through wind power; and Cole, an American advocate connecting policymakers in Washington DC with activists on the ground in the Middle East.

Alumni of the annual Summits have joined across the years to form the AMENDS Global Fellows, a new organization dedicated to equipping these changemakers and their initiatives. Activities include annual reunion Forums where Fellows gather for continued resource sharing; regular online workshops connecting initiatives working on similar issues in disparate countries; and internal crowd-sourced support for translation, grant-writing, and other needs the Fellows are able to provide for each other. The AMENDS Global Fellows has made possible partnerships like that of curriculum developer Laura and science educator Hamza, who built a countrywide extracurricular intervention for STEM learning in Jordan, and peace researcher Becca and choral director Micah, who brought an Israeli-Palestinian youth choir to sing in London’s West End.

During AMENDS’ first five years, we have built a strong presence at both Stanford University in California and Koç University in Istanbul. Student teams work with university administration to host the Launch Summit (generally held at Stanford) and Fellows Forum (held at Koç for the past three years). We value these partnerships, and our presence in the US and Turkey is and will continue to be strong. But it is time – both in terms of organizational growth and due to current political realities – to expand.

The 2017 AMENDS Summit will be our sixth annual gathering with new delegates. This year’s 33 delegates were selected by the Stanford Student Team from a pool of 500 applicants. They represent 19 countries and work on a range of issues, from gender equality and diversity to environmental justice to education policy. In Sudan, Shiemma Ahmed manages an online platform for craftswomen in Darfur to sell their wares. In Iran, Esmaeil Pirhadi pioneers a hardware startup to provide sensory treatment for disorders like autism and PTSD. In Libya, Abdulrahman Zurghani runs coding classes for youth.

Shiemma, Esmaeil, and Abdulrahman have been directly affected by the recent executive order on immigration, with American visa appointments cancelled. Other delegates from countries like Lebanon have already had their applications denied – despite the support of Stanford University and AMENDS’ proven track record. Meanwhile, Turkey’s visa requirements have become much stricter in the past two years, and a number of alumni were unable to attend the 2016 Fellows Forum and face continued barriers with access to Istanbul.

AMENDS is about social change, and relies on relationships to create new ideas and make new projects possible. We know the power of working together face-to-face over a weeklong conference and remain committed to inclusion. With this in mind, we would like to turn the global security and geopolitical turbulence of 2016-2017 toward something good: the launch of AMENDS Oxford.


The AMENDS community already has any number of ties to Oxford. Fellows like Jessica Anderson, Corey Metzman, Zach Levine, and Sam Sussman have earned postgraduate degrees from the University. Stanford Team Members Marwa Farag and Madeleine Chang have studied there as well, while former AMENDS President Meredith Wheeler was a 2014 Rhodes Scholar, now joined by Fellow Hashem Abu Shama, who was recently selected as the first Palestinian Rhodes Scholar.

We launched the Oxford branch of AMENDS this summer by hosting the New Delegates’ Launch Summit in parallel with the Fellows Forum from 19-23 June 2017. The new Delegates and alumni Fellows were paired for two-way mentoring. Though the timing of Ramadan made logistics, eating, and sleeping somewhat crazy (celebrating Muslims didn't eat or drink during daylight hours, which goes from like 3:30am-9:30pm during British summer!), it was inspiring to share the holiday season together in such a beautiful and historic place.


The AMENDS Talks, when new Delegates shared the fantastic work they're doing with the wider community, were inspiring as always. More wonderful were the informal moments in the garden of idea sharing, resource swapping, and partnership growing.

It's truly amazing what you can do when you throw cool people in a room and let them go about the business of making change.





Monday, June 5, 2017

King's Cancun

I've just landed back in the UK after a fun two weeks in Mexico - my first time in that country, despite having grown up in the US.

The XVI World Water Congress was held in Cancun 29 May - 3 June. I attended to talk about Dar Si Hmad's fog-harvesting - and while there, also presented a co-authored chapter on ‘Hydro-hegemons and International Water Law’ during a session launching the Routledge Handbook of Water Law and Policy.

Somewhat more excitingly, though, my time in Cancun included a week of ‘speculative fieldwork’ with four doctoral candidates from King’s Water prior to the Congress. During that week, we explored the Yucatan Peninsula’s cenotes - underground limestone sinkholes leading to the Karst Aquifer. Our time included 7 semi-structured interviews with researchers, policymakers, and practitioners; 8 technical visits to sinkholes; an informal stakeholder analysis; and a great deal of discourse analysis and interdisciplinary conversations during travels as we examined how the cenotes were advertised and used by various stakeholders.

At the Congress, the team presented its results with hydrologists from our local research partner, CICY - the Centre for the Scientific Study of the Yucatan. We had a lot of fun with both the cenotes and our new hydrologist friends...as you can see. :)


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spring Up School

I've been teaching this week with King's College London's King's Scholars programme, a widening participation initiative working with pupils in Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster. King's Scholars explore what university is like through a variety of fun activities. #SpringUp17 was a weeklong 'day camp' for students in Year 8. They spent most of their time at King's with PhD students getting to know different subject streams at university. 90-minute 'taster sessions' gave them a feel for Dentistry, Geography, History & Politics, Languages & Literature, Law, Medicine, and Science.

The course I teach with The Brilliant Club, "Does the Telly Lie? Media and the Middle East", gets used in K+ Summer Spotlight. K+ is a similiar programme for older students, who choose one subject area and dive deeper instead of surveying all of them. For K+, "Does the Telly Lie?" is grouped into the Languages & Literature stream, so I was asked by the Widening Participation Team to create another Lang & Lit class for use in the Spring Up School.

You have ninety minutes to teach a class full of Year 8 (13-year-olds):
  1. what universities research under the theme 'Languages and Literature',
  2. what it's like to be an L&L student at King's College London,
  3. which careers you might pursue after studying L&L,
  4. a high-level exercise exploring a particular issue in L&L, and
  5. how to complete an independent learning project taking that issue further.
Go!!!

What do you do?

Use Disney, of course!!

I thought a good bit about what it is that brings Languages and Literature together as an area of study, and decided on the idea of translation. Most obviously, we translate languages: Portuguese into Mandarin, Dutch into Arabic. But all of L&L is, in a way, about translating - transforming one form of communication into a context more easily understood and/or enjoyed by people. We translate Chaucer's Old English into its modern form. We translate archaic plays into fun new blockbuster films. We translate across cultures and time periods. We translate ideas and emotions into stories. You get the idea.

So we talked about famous alumni of King's College London who studied Languages & Literature, and what they did with their careers. (They include the lyricist Sir W. S. Gilbert of the famed Gilbert & Sullivan operas, renowned poet John Keats, bass guitarist John Deacon of Queen - who wrote 'Another One Bites the Dust', sci-fi 'godfather' Arthur C. Clarke, and modernist writer Virginia Woolfe.) We then talked about what translation is, and how many kinds of things we need to translate to understand each other and communication.

And then I gave them each a poem, a short French glossary, and two sentences' worth of grammar rules - and made them try to translate poetry. Shockingly, it didn't work well. "Is this masculine or feminine?" "You haven't given me the right verb tense!" "But miss, it doesn't RHYME!" "This has no rhythym."

After discussing the massive problems they were facing with direct translation ('plug-and-play words'), we took a look at a piece of multi-lingual poetry done very well. Ladies and gentlemen, I present: "Let It Go". (With apologies to the poor Year 8s whose little brothers and sisters watch this movie every. single. day.)


Groups then discussed why this worked so well when their attempts did not and debated whether Google Translate will ever be able to replace human interpreters. Presentations to the class got everyone up front - and for some of the students, this was the first time they'd ever spoken formally to a large group of people they didn't know.



For our last activity, we turned again to Disney...this time having some fun with how badly relying solely on Google Translate can go.


Meanwhile next door, I had drafted my colleague Dan to teach the Geography stream. I wouldn't go so far as to say his session was COOLER than mine...though he did bring in far more toys! He had students evaluating the ecological status of different sites along the Thames based on real bugs in sampling trays. Indicator species of insects can tell us a lot about the general nutrient levels, average temperature, and overall health of an ecosystem.


In other classes, the Year 8s considered the legality of 'stop and search' policies, questioned the factors that led to Donald Trump's election, examined the interdisciplinarity of science, and identified shark teeth. They've now been sent back to school with a quite massive task: deciding which of the streams was their favourite, and writing an essay about the topic they explored in that subject area. Good luck to all of them!

As a fun surprise, pupils were there from City Heights...a school where I've previously taught with The Brilliant Club! Some of my mentees from a course on mathematical astrophysics (asking whether the stars would be able to float in the bath) got quite confused as we suddenly debated translation theory instead of calculating density measurements. It was great to have a mini reunion with them.

Thanks so much to the King's Widening Participation Team, and great job to all the attendees of the Spring Up School - you were brilliant! Here's to making space at university for everyone who wants to come explore. :)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Conservation Optimism continued!

Next in the series from my Moroccan research team's visit to the UK: filming at the zoo for children's education!! This post was written by Salma, another of our amazing Environmental Youth Ambassadors. Check out more: http://darsihmadorg.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/zsl-london-zoo-filming.html.


Most of the conservation conversation is unfortunately available only in English, limiting access to its content for non-English speakers. Our Water School project’s main goal is to introduce the children of rural Southwest Morocco to global environmental issues. The curriculum, which we've published open source in Arabic and English, is delivered by our amazing teacher Fatiha in the main language spoken by local children, Tachelhit. We believe this is critical in making local communities feel as though they have a stake in environmental issues, valorising indigenous languages and cultural diversity, and engaging children in learning.

After attending the Conservation Optimism Summit in London, Dar Si Hmad’s Environmental Youth Ambassadors visited the ZSL London Zoo on the 23rd of April to create additional visual content about conservation work. The team spent a full day interviewing zoo employees, filming various animals in their habitats, and presenting the Society's conservation efforts. These films are being edited by the EYA Team now and will be published in Tachelit and Arabic - bringing the great work of the ZSL London Zoo's conservation and education to local Moroccan communities so they can be a part of the ongoing effort.



I got the chance to interview Andy and Ana, members of the Zoo's presentation and education teams.

First, Ana walked us through a typical day of her work in the zoo. As a part of the ZSL Education Team, Ana is in charge of coordinating visits with local schools and serving as a tour guide for  children. The Zoo offers a variety of educational workshops that include nursing and feeding interactions with animals, conservation education, and animal biology. Then, Ana introduced us to her favourite animal in the zoo - the seahorse - and talked about its natural habitat and where it can be found around the world.



Next, Abdelhaq accompanied Ana to the Zoo's indoor rainforest, a recreation of the sloth's home. Anna welcome the Water School kids to the Amazon in her native language, Portuguese, and then Abdelhaq asked Anna in Tachelhit to talk about the special features of this 'lazy' animal who has evolved to sleep nearly twenty hours a day. The two sloths slept through their 'interview' with the EYAs, but one of them did wake up later that afternoon for feeding time - so we captured some of his verrryyyy sllooooowwwww movement on film. Our camera was also visited by a curious colleague of the sloth (a golden-headed lion tamarin), who wanted her turn in the spotlight!








 


















In the Zoo's Aquarium - the first ever in the world - our partner Hamad from the Kuwait Dive Team spoke with Ana about coral reefs, the bleaching of these amazing habitats caused by climate change, and how we can help protect our ocean. Our trip there made national news in Kuwait.
 
Moving across the world to Asia, we met Andy. Andy’s job at the zoo is to give live educational presentations to visitors. After I interviewed him about Asiatic lions - a close cousin to Morocco's national animal - Andy changed into his ranger clothes and pretended to be an employee of Sasan Gir, a forest in India where lions live. Using a unique animatronic model, Andy and his team gave a live simulation of rescuing a lion found injured in the park. Children visiting the Zoo to learn about lion conservation got to help perform first aid on the full-sized 'lion' and heard about how he would be cared for.



South of the Equator, we visited Penguin Beach, where Andy talked about the amazing birds that swim and don't fly. His talk gave us a lot of great ideas about how to teach adaptation and evolution to our Water School classes - and of course it was great fun to watch the penguins dive for food! At least, our youngest research partner Rafael certainly thought so.


















The Environmental Youth Ambassadors also filmed videos talking about their favorite animals. Mahdi visited the BUGS Building to pay homage to one of the world's most crucial species: bees. Mahdi talked about pollination and how important bees are to in plants' reproduction - and our own survival! Meanwhile, Hamad and I explained how the radar technology submarines and satellites use is inspired by the incredible adaptation of nocturnal bats. Just like our fog-harvesting project is inspired by an insect's clever wings, the natural world has informed so many of today's greatest innovations. Copying animal adaptations and environmental systems in engineering is called biomimicry, and it can be seen everywhere...in transportation and agriculture, swimming suits and children's games. Nature is our greatest teacher - and that's what the ZSL Education Team and Dar Si Hmad's Water School are all about.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Conservation Optimism

Here's what I've been up to...hosting my Moroccan research partners for the past two weeks! This is just Part 1 of the rather epic multi-city journey. ;)

See the original on Dar Si Hmad's blog: http://darsihmadorg.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/conservation-optimism.html



In Agadir and London, we are #ConservationOptimism


This post was written by Project Coordinator Mahdi Lafram, just days after returning to our Agadir office from a trip to the United Kingdom. While our new RISE Participants were celebrating Earth Day with a Field Day at the beach, three of our first Environmental Youth Ambassadors shared our Water School at the Conservation Optimism Summit.




“I am conservation optimist because my Moroccan team of youth are AMAZING”

As we were walking throughout the premises of Dulwich College in London, we saw this sentence written on a post-it and stuck to a wall. We were delighted. Salma, Abdelhaq and myself flew to the United Kingdom to take part in the inaugural Conservation Optimism Summit, invited and supported by Dar Si Hmad’s research partner, dedicated volunteer and EYA program mentor Rebecca L. Farnum - you certainly guessed who wrote the sentence above!

Organized by the University of Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the three-day event in London gathered hundreds of attendees from around the world to share success stories from the field. Both of my teammates got on an airplane for their first time to come share their environmental activism experience. We were excited to take part in this global meeting, learn about other conservation initiatives and, above all, tell the story of youth in conservation in the Middle East and North Africa.



As environmental activists, we often think that to engage people effectively in protecting the natural world, we need to make them feel guilty and aware about the consequences of their daily life activities on the environment. The Summit aimed to communicate another discourse. A discourse of optimism, positivity, and hope.

Conservation is too often seen as a crisis discipline, one in which bad news predominates. Although nature is facing huge challenges, we feel there are many positive stories out there where conservation has made a difference to people’s lives and to the status of wild nature. Progress, at the moment, tends to be overshadowed by negativity. It may well be happening, but it can be slow-burning, local and less immediately obvious than the sometimes overwhelming challenges faced.
We believe this is counter-productive.

Budding and perennial conservationists need to feel inspired and continue in the profession, not put off by pessimism. The public, businesses and government need to know that their actions can make a difference. With this summit, we aim to reframe the conservation movement by celebrating positive thinking in conservation, and putting forward a road map for change towards an optimistic and forward-thinking future. (http://conservationoptimism.org/)

That’s why we need to rethink our communications. In regards to that, we participated in a workshop titled Selling Success: Marketing a better world with Conservation Optimism. It was all about developing a positive communication campaign framework. The workshop was led by marketing and behavior change professionals from Ogilvy Change and PHD Worldwide and took the form of an interactive ‘speed marketing challenge’. In addition to various workshops, the summit included different plenaries by conservation researchers, professionals and activists. It was compelling to see how the optimism movement has gone far into spreading a positive outlook on conservation locally and abroad. Moreover, we had the opportunity to share the Middle East’s perspective on youth-led conservation through a joint workshop with our partner organisation Kuwait Dive Team represented by Hamad Bouresli, and chaired by our research partner Becca Farnum.

At Dar Si Hmad, we believe strongly in a positive hope about Earth’s future. Our award-winning fog collection project gives people a future of prosperity, progress and optimism in Southwest Morocco, which was among the key messages we’ve disseminated at a special seminar held at Stanford House, University of Oxford as part of our research visit. We presented DSH projects and their social impact on the local communities. The team felt especially lucky to meet Dr. Michael J. Willis, the King Mohammed VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies at St Antony's College, and Dr. Michael Gilmont, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute, and get their perspectives on our work.

Many thanks to Rebecca L. Farnum and King’s College London for their generous support of our trip.

Join the #ConservationOptimism conversation on social media and tell us why you’re optimistic and how you’re making a change. Let’s celebrate our success and be positive about our Earth and its critters. After all, as our newest research partner Rafael knows: "little creatures like me are born every day!" We believe that, working together, we can make a great future - for him and for us.