The Geography Ninja

Great Escapes: Southeast Asia

Greetings Ninjas!  I know – I promise to be more active and then life gets in the way.  Still, this post following so shortly upon my last post (for me, anyway) represents true growth in that area.  Woo hoo!  All this while trying to stay on top of teaching AP Psychology – yikes!

In any case, this post comes to you courtesy of Southeast Asia.  No, I’m not on vacation on some exotic isle – I wish.  But, for this post, I’ve decided to highlight a region I truly love – one that is HIGH on my list of Places to Visit Next.  Southeast Asia is a region that typically gets short-shifted in Geography.  It is usually placed at the end of the year and has been cannibalized by snow days, tutoring days for state exams and other time eaters during the year.  Not to mention that it is often crammed together into a unit with Australia, or even East Asia.  Even the books give it little mention.  So, I have spent quite a bit of time researching ways to make this unit more interesting for my students.  One way is to have them create a travel scrapbook of places they’ve “visited” on a trip through the region.  It’s a fun way to end the year and gives the kids a chance to apply the knowledge they’ve learned about Geography concepts.  I’ll write up the complete lesson some day and post it for your use – if you like.

Gordons Great EscapeIn the meantime, I have a few other resources to review that you may (or may not) find helpful in your class.  First is my cookbook of the month – Gordon Ramsay’s Gordon’s Great Escape Southeast Asia.   I love using cookbooks in my classroom because they often  provide really fascinating glimpses of a culture’s history and traditions by tracing the important ingredients, influences, and dishes.  In addition, many cookbooks now feature great pictures to “borrow” for photo analysis activities.  This book excels at the latter.  The photography is exceptional – probably owing to the fact that this book apparently accompanies a TV series.  Alas, I believe the series is only available for viewing in Britain, but the pictures are truly spectacular.  Where this book falls down is that it deals primarily with stories from Gordon’s trip, rather than featuring the countries and their glorious cultures.  Little attention is given to exotic ingredients or their descriptions, so it does little to help the typical American learn about how to procure ingredients and prepare these dishes.  I am fairly familiar with the cuisine (my oldest and dearest friend is half-Thai, and her mother has been teaching me!), but most of these dishes were completely unfamiliar to me – and I was lost as to where to find some of these ingredients.  In summation, this might be great for visual introduction to the region, but as a classroom resource, it is probably not worth the money.  Now, if you could lay your hands on the series – that might be another issue all together.

SE Asia Try the World BoxMy next resource is uber fun, and while it may not be ultra practical for class it will certainly get you in the mood to teach.  I have been a subscriber to Try the World for several months now, and it is my absolute favorite food delivery service.  While I don’t live in the back-of-beyond, I do live in a fairly small city – small enough that the Asian buffet is considered exotic.  Interesting ethnic ingredients are like unicorns here.  So, to have a box of specialty treats curated from one highlighted country show up at my door is like Christmas – 6 times a year!  This month’s box?  Thailand!  How appropriate.  It’s like they KNEW.  The boxes cost about $40 and include a half dozen or so impossible to find, but oh so lovely ingredients.  They highlight products that are made by family businesses using traditional recipes and are natural or organic, sustainably grown and support the local community.  NOTE:  Not all of the products hit all of those goals, but they try!  There is a booklet in the box with a map (yay maps!) showing where the products originated and an explanation of each item and how it’s used (you don’t get THAT in the store!)  Also, there are recipes included and sometimes movies, songs, or games you can incorporate to make a themed evening.  The online magazine offers more AND there are Spotify playlists.  While the products in the box aren’t usually large enough to share with your entire class, they would make interesting show and tell items, and the other cultural resources would make a great addition to class.  My kids always loved food and music days, even if they only lasted a few minutes – just enough to get a “taste” (sorry) of the place.  The Thailand box ends today, but there will be another fascinating country highlighted in next month’s box, so don’t worry.  And, you can order items from the boxes online in case you absolutely fall in love with an item – which I fear might happen with this month’s Coconut Flower syrup!  Can you say total yum?

For more resources on Southeast Asia, please check out the Online Learning Unit: A World Transformed: The Geography of Southeast Asia.  It contains a wide variety of links, maps, lectures from Texas State University professors, and lesson plans (written by moi – shameless self-promotion, but they’re free, so….) highlighting the region.  You can access them via the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education’s website under Resources>Online Learning Units.  You will have to request access, but, as I said, it’s free and they are happy to sign you up to access the materials.  Stay warm, and I’ll see you soon!


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