Program packages primer on Beijing in time for Games

The Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education has taken on world religions, Russian leaders and Aztec history. Now it's boiling down the glory and controversy of China's history, culture and politics in time for the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Helping to make the scholarship and research at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies accessible to younger learners, the program, known by its acronym "SPICE," has developed a multimedia curriculum for middle and high school students that introduces them to the sights and sounds of China through the prism of the upcoming Olympics.

"The Road to Beijing" includes a documentary featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma and musicians from the Silk Road Ensemble discussing how they blend traditional Chinese and classical music, and a documentary developed by NBC that showcases Olympians planning to compete in the August games. The package also offers an interactive website and professional development material for teachers.

The curriculum can be tailored for use in a single day or during several classes.

"We want to make Stanford faculty's scholarship accessible to a younger and broader audience," said Gary Mukai, director of SPICE. "We have a number of China specialists on campus, and we want to spread the knowledge of Stanford to other schools."

SPICE has been offering curriculum packages to middle and high school students for the past three decades, covering topics such as Islam, the span of Soviet and Russian leaders from Lenin to Putin and the political geography of Europe.

While "The Road to Beijing" uses the Olympics to hook student interest, it also offers lessons on the political, social and environmental criticism facing China.

"That's one of the richest parts of the curriculum," Mukai said. "It engages students and gets them to think about critical issues."

The teacher guides and documentaries are free on the SPICE website, More written materials, CD-ROM PowerPoints and DVDs of the documentaries cost $34.95.