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Volume 55, Number 4July/August 2004

In This Issue

Click for the Table of Contents

Reader's Guide

By Julie Weiss

For students: We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.


Class Activities

The activities in this section are designed to engage students with the material in Saudi Aramco World while encouraging them to connect it to the larger themes they explore in their other studies. This month’s activities revolve around two themes: Treasure Hunt and Variation.

Theme: Treasure Hunt

Have you ever been on a treasure hunt? You’re given a list of objects, and you have to go out and find them. Most of us go on small-scale treasure hunts quite regularly. Can you find a pair of shoes you like that also fit? Can you find your favorite flavor of ice cream at the convenience store? Concert tickets after they’re sold out? A stove bolt in the basement? This issue of Saudi Aramco World presents three instances of treasure hunting. Take a look—and see what you can find!

How do people decide what they want to find?

In a treasure-hunt game, someone else tells you what to look for. In real life, you need to make your own decisions. Read “Looking for the Khalasah” and “‘Carrying Dates to Hajar.’” In the articles, Eric Hansen provides a written map of the route he took to find the world’s best dates. Translate his story into a timeline or flow chart that shows how he became interested in dates and what made him want to find the world’s best dates. Now think about something you want. How did you come to want it? Write a narrative identifying what you want and explaining why you want it. Then describe how you might obtain it, taking into account such sources as your needs (e.g., for shoes), your resources (e.g., your friends) and so on.

When you’re trying to find something, how do you decide where to look?

Sometimes it’s hard to know. Read “The Diness Discovery.” It describes a treasure hunt—more or less in reverse. John Barnier began his hunt by finding a treasure: glass-plate negatives and albumen and silver prints. His hunt then focused on finding information: Where did the treasure come from? In a small group, make a board game that shows the path Barnier took to find the answers. Include his findings along the way, his setbacks and detours he took or might have taken. Use a little artistic license here. Remember that there are many places to look, and it’s not always clear which will be the most productive. And don’t forget to include chance! Use photographs from the magazine to illustrate your board game—as the background, or as stops along the way, or maybe as goals.

What happens when there’s one best place to look for certain “treasures”?

“Brooklyn’s Musical Oasis” suggests that anyone, anywhere in the world, who wanted to locate a specific piece of Arab music—particularly one that was rare or obscure—would do well to look first at Rashid Music Sales. What makes Rashid one of the world’s major hubs for Arab music? How does the Rashid family benefit from being a major source for Arab music? How do the Rashid clients benefit? What drawbacks, if any, might arise because the Rashid stock is so large and comprehensive? You might look at the big, multi-store bookstores like Barnes and Noble or Borders for a possible comparison. Both sellers and buyers benefit from the large scale of the stores, yet some people worry about how such large stores diminish a sense of local community and reduce the diversity of things for sale, whether it’s books or music. Might similar concerns apply to Rashid Music Sales? What other concerns can you think of?

Now think about your own experience. Describe a treasure hunt you’ve been on, or might go on, that probably has only one place to look. What is it? Have all class members write their places on chart paper so you have a class list. Ask the same questions about the destinations on your list that you asked about Rashid Music Sales. What generalizations can you make about single-destination treasure hunts?

Theme: Variation

Variation, according to the dictionary, refers to different forms of something. Take dogs, for example. All dogs are dogs (you can tell the difference between a dog and a cat), but numerous varieties (breeds) exist within the species. The following activities will give you a chance to explore variations in both the physical and cultural worlds.

How does variation function in the natural world?

Charles Darwin, whom you probably know as the scientist who devised the theory of evolution, observed that each island in the Galapagos Islands had its own kind of finch. Each was recognizable as a finch, but he observed distinct variations among different members of the species. What caused the variations? In his theory of natural selection, Darwin wrote that the species and varieties that survive and thrive are those that are best suited to their environment. What exactly does that mean? Let’s bring the theory down to earth. Let’s say you plant a garden in a shady yard. You plant five different types of flowers, but only one survives—the hosta, which is the only one of the five that grows best in shade. The plants that need a lot of sun—the marigolds and asters, for example—died in your garden because they didn’t get enough light. Now think of that same situation on a larger scale, and you’ve got the idea behind variation and natural selection.

Why do so many varieties of dates exist?

According to “Looking for the Khalasah” and “Carrying Dates to Hajar,” 600 different varieties of dates exist. All biological creatures vary. Nature produces variations among dates, just as it did among finches in the Galapagos. Here’s the question Darwin might have asked about dates: What is the best fit between dates and the environment? Read “Looking for the Khalasah.” Highlight the passages that explain where dates grow best; which types of dates flourish in which environments; and the decisions about where to cultivate dates in the United States. Which of the selection processes occurred naturally? Which did humans help along? To answer the questions, make two lists. On the first, list examples of natural selection among dates. On the other, list examples of how people decided which types of dates to plant. For example, what reasons did American farmers have for preferring medjool dates rather than khalasah? How important were commercial factors?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of variation among dates?

After reading the two articles on dates, brainstorm as a class reasons why variation among dates is a good thing—for farmers, consumers, and date plants themselves. Then brainstorm how variation might cause problems for the same three groups. Overall, would you say the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, or vice versa? Explain.

How does cultural variation compare to biological variation?

Now turn your attention to cultural variation. One important difference between cultural and biological variation is that culture is human-made; it does not refer to physical variations among humans (such as height, body type, and eye, skin and hair color). People create cultures, and there are as many variations among them as there are physical variations among the date palms. How do different cultures coexist?

Read “Marseille: Where Worlds Adjoin.” Write answers to these questions: How did Marseille come to be a meeting place for quite different cultures? How did colonialism affect Marseille’s cultural landscape? What cultural groups coexist in Marseille today? How do the people of Marseille ensure their peaceful coexistence?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cultural variation in Marseille?

It’s nearly a cliché to say that cultural diversity is a good thing, but here’s a chance to explore what makes it so, and what problems might come along with diversity. Repeat the brainstorming activities you did above in order to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of cultural variation.

Analyzing Visual Images

This issue of Saudi Aramco World’s Reader’s Guide offers an unusual opportunity to analyze photographs that were taken in the 1850’s, when photography was still new. How can you tell that the photographs in “The Diness Discovery” are early photographs? How do early photographs differ from today’s? The following guidelines can help you find responses.

  • Focus: Which objects in the photos are sharply focused? Which appear to be blurry? What might account for the difference? How do photographers today use in-focus and out-of-focus images in their photos? Find examples. How do they compare to these early photos?

  • Production Process: What evidence do you see in the photos of the process by which they were taken and developed? (Hint: Check out the lower left-hand corner of the panoramic photo in the popup window.) Read the sidebar “A Demanding Process” on page 26 about the wet-plate collodion process. How does knowing about the process affect your thinking about the photos themselves?

  • Subject matter: “The Diness Discovery” reports that Mendel John Diness’s photography business failed in the 1860’s, but that his stereographs of the Holy Land sold well. Why were people in the 1850’s particularly interested in photos of the Holy Land? To answer the question, research the role of religion in the United States in the 1850’s. How is it similar and how is it different from today?

While photos are much more common today than they were in the 1850’s, there are still certain subjects that people love to see photos of. Think, for example, of recent photos of Mars, or images from the Hubble telescope, or photographs of the discovery of the Titanic. What other photo subjects do people today find particularly interesting? Why?

Julie Weiss Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Lowell, Massachusetts. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies and develops curricula and assessments in social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language.