Introducing the Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World Project

Originally posted on August 3, 2012 by Shennan Hutton

I have big news. The History Blueprint team is going to design a 7th-grade unit called “Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World,” which will be supported by an Our Shared Past grant from the Social Science Research Council and the British Council. 

Here’s what we have proposed: 

The California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) will use our network of professional historians and K-12 teachers to design an innovative curriculum unit entitled “Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World” for seventh-grade students. Drawing on new historical scholarship about the Mediterranean world, maritime technological transfers, travel narratives and multicultural entrepôts, the unit will immerse students in sites of encounter – Sicily, Majorca, Quanzhou, Mali, Cairo and Melaka – where merchants, travelers and scholars participated in shared cultural, economic and scientific networks. Beginning with the study of concrete objects – maps, ships, astrolabes, silks and spices – the History Blueprint unit will guide these young students to an understanding of Afroeurasian interconnections and shared values from 1000 through 1492, with its pedagogical support for reading and analyzing primary sources and developing historical thinking. 

To support world history teachers and to engage our scholarly network in the larger task of reframing the entire world history curriculum, the CHSSP will also convene an online colloquium entitled “Reframing World History.” The colloquium will include papers, talks and blog posts on large models for curriculum revision, as well as specific sources, sites and historical moments useful for teaching world history. 

With the “Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World” unit, and the papers posted for the “Reframing World History” online colloquium, the CHSSP will make the latest historical scholarship available to world history teachers in California, the U.S., and the world.

Our faculty advisor is Dr. Teofilo Ruiz, a history professor at UCLA and the recipient of numerous honors. He has recently been awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

We are currently recruiting 7th-grade teacher leaders to write lessons for the unit. If you’re interested, apply at

Those of you who are familiar with the current California History-Social Science Content Standards for 7th-grade World History are probably wondering how the “Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World” unit fits into the already-overcrowded content required for 7th grade. Rather than adding to the existing standards, the unit groups together sub-standards which are now distributed among the regional standards. I’ll write more about this in a later blog.