Nitai Cook Interviewed by Unity Imani-ImoJah, Mountain Yard Teachers
Unity: Explain your thinking behind offering a cartography (map making) plan.
Nitai: I wanted to bring awareness to where we live in context to the bigger world around us as well as bringing spatial relationships between here and the greater world. I noticed some students didn’t have a concept between city and state. I started talking about the neighborhood and the children narrowed the idea down, all the way to the location of their heart.
U: How did the plan unfold?
N: It started with me having a diagram showing neighborhoods fitting into counties, counties fitting into states, and all the way up to countries, galaxies to the universe! It was pretty open-ended. I had students drawing their neighborhood, their school, and their home. We looked at atlases, and talked about the symbols we see and how the colors define the space. It was a wonderful conversation with dialogue back and forth and I felt the students understood the concepts.
U. Did the plan stay with map drawing, or did it move into tangents?
N: A lot of the students stayed with map drawing, but there were many conversations about where we live and places in the world which led to the conversation about Egypt and what was happening there. Carlos and Yogi were talking about leadership quite a bit. I suggested trying to role play because it felt disempowering to just talk about it because it seemed so abstract and hard to relate to what was going on. We were also talking about the U.S. giving monetary aid to Egypt. The role play we decided on was between the U.S. Administration and the Egyptian Government with Mubarak. Carlos chose to be President Obama, Yogi chose to be the U.S. Treasurer, and I was President Mubarak. We used different voices to represent our characters. We took our roles seriously. It made an abstract situation become real for us. It brought a harmonizing aspect to these positions of power that usually alienate people. There was a real sense of diplomacy. Carlos & Yogi, as their characters, had an agenda, but were very diplomatic about what they wanted. They showed an awareness of how complicated the situation could be. They were careful, and demonstrated a sense of respect for each other. It didn’t turn out like it did in real life, but I felt like we had gained a deeper understanding of what politics entail. In the end, we all became aware of how role-playing gave us insight and understanding into the situation in Egypt.