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In This Issue

Classroom Guide

For students: We hope this 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.


Jump to McRel Standards


In this edition of the "Classroom Guide," you have a chance to look at one small, ordinary thing�the spice called "cloves"�using different tools. You can think of the activities that follow as building blocks. For most of the activities, you will use the article "Zanzibar: Cloves and Stone" to see how intricate one seemingly simple item can be. In the process, you can see that using different methods of asking questions�and using different kinds of information to answer them�provides what you think of as a "textured understanding" of something that at first glance seems very simple. In the final activity, you'll look at pictures of another thing�a mysterious ancient structure�and try to figure out what it might be. You'll see that sometimes you have to look deeply at something to know anything at all about it.

Object #1: Cloves

Before you begin these activities, number the paragraphs in the article "Zanzibar: Cloves and Stone." The numbers will help orient you as you explore cloves.

The First Building Block: Personal Experience

Get some whole, dried cloves from the store or your kitchen. You probably recognize them, or at least their sweet smell. Put a few in the palm of your hand. What do they look like? Describe their appearance, considering color, size and shape. What do they feel like in your hand? What is the texture like? Are they soft or hard, smooth or rough? Smell them. Describe the smell. Do you like it? Finally, taste a clove. Describe the taste. Again, do you like it? After you've explored the clove with your senses, write a few sentences about it.

The Second Building Block: Geography

Where do cloves come from? You may have got yours from the supermarket, but cloves don't grow in little jars. They grow on trees. And where are those trees? Read the first five paragraphs of "Zanzibar: Cloves and Stone." On a map, find the following significant places in the back story of cloves. If you're using a wall map, use pushpins. If you're using a virtual map, you can use virtual pushpins.

  • Zanzibar and Pemba, where the author began his journey
  • Moluccas, where cloves originated
  • Egypt, which supplied cloves to Europe in the 1200's
  • Venice, where cloves were sold at the time

What do you notice about these different places? By looking at the location of these different places in relation to each other�what geographers call relative location�you can make some good guesses about who was growing, selling and buying cloves. You can also get a sense of how far people could travel at different times in the past. (If you want to know even more, you can look at other kinds of maps to find out what kind of weather cloves need in order to grow, and what the wind patterns are, since winds might have affected travel.) Write a few sentences that summarize what geography has so far added to your understanding of cloves.

And keep your map handy. You'll be using it again.

The Third Building Block: History

A good place to start when you're going to be working with history is to make a timeline. You can make a timeline by drawing a horizontal line on chart paper, or you can stick a piece of tape or yarn to the wall, or you can make a timeline on the computer. Whatever form you choose, start your timeline in 500 bce, when the Chinese were using cloves, and end your timeline in 2011. Roughly divide the timeline into increments so that you get a sense both of the order in which things happened and how much time passed in between events.

Now go back to the reading. In the last part of paragraph five, you discovered that European countries, especially Portugal and the Netherlands, were looking for a sea route to get cloves directly. You probably learned about the spice trade when you studied European exploration. For Europeans, finding a way to get spices without the Venetians getting a piece of the action was a major impetus for exploration. Cloves were one of the spices they were after. Read the next paragraph in the article. When did the Portuguese arrive in Mozambique? Mark the event on your timeline, and label it. When the Portuguese arrived, they discovered that trade had been going on in the area, apparently for some time.

Go back to your map. (It's often hard to use history and geography separately, since people and objects are anchored both in time and in space. You're going to be using both building blocks from here on out.) What goods were exported from Africa? Trace on the map the routes that these exports traveled and the places that they ended up. Then trace the routes back to Africa from those destinations. What goods were exported to Africa?

Write a few sentences that summarize what history has added to your knowledge about cloves so far. And hold onto your timeline. You'll be using it again.

The Fourth Building Block: Culture

Culture refers to values, beliefs, traditions and behaviors that a group of people share. Culture is a very important building block to use when you're trying to understand people, no matter where they lived or when they lived there. Now that you know that cloves, in addition to being objects, are important to people, culture is an important element in your study of cloves. To find out about culture as it relates to the history and geography of cloves, read paragraphs 7 through 11.

Religion is part of culture. You might be wondering: how could religion possibly have anything to do with cloves? Answer that question. Explain to a partner why religion has shown up in this article. (Hint: Think about what you've already learned about the geography and history associated with cloves.) On your map, find the place where Islam began, and trace Muslim traders' journeys to Africa. What evidence in coastal Africa suggests that Muslims lived there? According to the evidence (and the article), when did Muslims first arrive in the area? Mark it on your timeline.

Language is another part of culture. What evidence exists that people from the Arabian Peninsula and Portugal spent time on the east coast of Africa? What other cultural evidence suggests a connection?

Write a few sentences that summarize what knowledge of culture has added to your understanding of the history and geography of cloves. And yes, you'll be coming back to culture, too.

The Fifth Building Block: Politics

People create their cultures when they live in specific places at specific times. In general, those people are organized into some kind of political unit�a city, a country or a colony, for example. Whatever the unit, there is generally some kind of leadership or government in place. That government�what we can call the political leadership of the place�is another of your building blocks.

Read paragraphs 12 through 18. Look back at your timeline. When did the Portuguese arrive in Zanzibar? What happened in 1698? Mark it on the timeline, and find and mark Oman on your map. As you keep reading, mark the key events on your timeline and locate them on your map.

And it's time to add another block�.

The Sixth Building Block: Economics

Economics is the study of the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Since trade is part of the distribution of goods, economics includes trade. As you learned in paragraph 15, trade was important to Sa'id bin Sultan. And what did he want to trade? Cloves! Write a short statement of how Zanzibar and Pemba changed as a result of Sa'id bin Sultan's economic interest in cloves. How does the clove industry in Zanzibar and Pemba relate to its geography?

Now you've got some basic building blocks: personal experience, geography, history, culture, politics and economics. From here on out, they get jumbled when you're learning about cloves. Read the rest of the article. Mark which of the building blocks apply to the information in each paragraph. (More than one might apply at a time.) Share your work with another student. Have you used the same building blocks in the same places? If not, should you add more blocks�or persuade your partner that the blocks don't apply where he or she thought they did?

Finally, try using these building blocks to analyze an object other than cloves. Think about an object that's part of your daily life. Write it at the top of a piece of chart paper or at the top of a virtual document. Make a chart or other graphic organizer that lists your building blocks and has space for you to write questions that you have about the object that fall within each block's perspective. Have everyone display their work. Bring a pack of sticky notes with you as you go around the room looking at each other's projects. If you think of other questions about the different objects, and those questions fall into the building-block categories, write each one on a sticky note and put it up in the appropriate place.

Visual Analysis

Object #2: The Mysterious Structures

Castles of the Fields

Castles of the Fields
Turn your attention now to yet another object. Look at the photographs of the "Castles of the Fields" on pages 2 and 3, but try not to read the article or the captions. For the purposes of this activity, all you need to know is that the "castles" are located on the outskirts of Isfahan, Iran (find and mark it on your map), and they are nine to 12 meters high (30 to 40 feet). What do you think they are? As a class, brainstorm your ideas about what the mysterious structures might be. As each person calls out a guess, explain how you came to that hypothesis. What is it about the structure that makes you think it is whatever you think it is? When you've got a good list, read the article "Castles of the Fields." Did anyone guess the actual purpose for the structures? Go through the article the same way you went through "Zanzibar: Cloves and Stone," identifying information about the objects that fits into the different building-block perspectives. Make a chart, like the one you used before, to organize the information about the objects into the different building blocks. As you wrap up, think about other situations where you might be able to use these building blocks. Hopefully you'll find them very useful.


MA11 Standards Alignment
McRel Standards

The Unread Masterpiece of Evliya Celebi

World History

Standard 28. Understands how large territorial empires dominated much of Eurasia between the 16th and 18th centuries

Language Arts

Standard 6. Uses skills and strategies to read a variety of literary texts


Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 17. Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

Castles of the Fields

World History

Standard 28. Understands how large territorial empires dominated much of Eurasia between the 16th and 18th centuries


Standard 15. Understands how physical systems affect human systems

Standard 16. Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources

Roads of Arabia


Standard 6. Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions

Standard 9. Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 17. Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

World History

Standard 3. Understands the major characteristics of civilization and the development of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley

Standard 6. Understands major trends in Eurasia and Africa from 4000 to 1000 BCE

Standard 11. Understands major global trends from 1000 BCE to 300 CE

Standard 13. Understands the causes and consequences of the development of Islamic civilization between the 7th and 10th centuries

Of Cloves and Stones in Zanzibar


Standard 11. Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Standard 17. Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

World History

Standard 13. Understands the causes and consequences of the development of Islamic civilization between the 7th and 10th centuries

Standard 16. Understands the development of agricultural societies and new states in tropical Africa and Oceania

Standard 25. Understands major global trends from 1000 to 1500 CE

Standard 26. Understands how the transoceanic interlinking of all major regions of the world between 1450 and 1600 led to global transformations

Standard 43. Understands how post-World War II reconstruction occurred, new international power relations took shape, and colonial empires broke up

Standard 45. Understands major global trends since World War II

Bollywood’s Global Faces


Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 11. Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

World History

Standard 45. Understands major global trends since World War II


Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy, and English as a Second Language curricula,and produces textbook materials.