Amedi is a town shaped by its physical geography, atop a flat mesa that defines its edges. Today Amedi's residents are wrestling with the tension between preserving the past and making way for an economic viable future.
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Common Core Standards met in this lesson: W9-10.1 (see details below).
—The Editors

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—Julie Weiss

Amedi: Citadel of Culture

Amedi is a place that, perhaps more than others, is shaped by its physical geography. As you can see from the photo above, Amedi sits atop a flat mesa, the edges of which define the edges of the town. There's no sprawl because there's nowhere to go. Today Amedi's residents are wrestling with the tension between preserving the past and making way for an economically viable future. This lesson contains two activities. The first focuses on the physical geography, while the second focuses on the conservation issue. You can do one or the other, or you can do both. By the time you finish the first activity, you will be able to:
  • make a 3D model of Amedi;
  • explain how physical geography has affected Amedi's development;
  • evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of Amedi's location and physical features.
By the time you finish the second activity, you will be able to:
  • describe international efforts to promote preservation in Amedi;
  • identify and evaluate different points of view about preservation and development;
  • develop a policy proposal for Amedi's future, based on your analysis of the situation.
Activity One: Geography
Making a Model of Amedi

To get to know Amedi, you're going to build a model. By doing so, you can look at photographs of Amedi and you can read writer Matthew's description of it, allowing you, in theory, to understand that the town rests atop a big, flat mesa. But knowing that in your head and actually understanding it are two different matters. Making a 3D model of Amedi will help you see and touch a version of the city and will help you think about how Amedi's geography has affected it.

Rather than give you instructions on how to make a model of the town, this Classroom Guide will tell you this: Go online and do a search for "how to make a 3D map." (You many notice that you'll get the steps to make your smartphone maps look 3D!) You'll find you can make a map from, among other things, papier mâché, salt dough or air-drying clay.  Choose your materials and your method and make your map of Amedi using an online map or atlas to get the information you need. You can make one map as a class or individual or group. In addition to the mesa, include in your model the roads you're able to see, the Mosul Gate, the place where the Zibar Gate was, the mosque and Sulav, the nearby tourist attraction.

Once you've built your model, take a few minutes to write down your observations and thoughts about Amedi. Your writing doesn't need to be polished. It's just a chance for you to gather your thoughts. Here are a few questions to use as prompts:
  • What is the most noticeable geographic feature of Amedi?
  • How might it have affected the town in the past?
  • How might it affect the town now?
  • Why does only one of Amedi's gates survive?
  • What do you think about the road that encircles the town?
  • Why do you think Sulav is located where it is?
  • Why do you think Sulav has been successful?
Benefits and Drawbacks

There are pluses and minuses to everything, including building a town on a mesa in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. As a class, make a T-Chart, labeling one column Benefits and the other Drawbacks. Note whether each item in the chart is related mostly to the past (such as "easily defended"), to the present or to both time periods. Using the article and what you've just written, fill in the chart. As a class, write a sentence or two to summarize the information in the chart. If you go on to complete the next activity, the chart will provide some helpful background.

George Azar
Mountains tower over students walking to school in Amedi. Space is at a premium in the one-square-kilometer city, making the preservation of historic sites a challenge in the face of ongoing development.
Activity Two
Preservation and Development

Preserving Amedi's heritage has become important to many of the town's residents, as well as to people and organizations around the world.  Find the part of the article that identifies the international groups that have recognized the value of Amedi's cultural heritage and contributed to its preservation. List them. Next to each, write what the organization has done regarding preservation. Add to your list the names of Amedi residents and what they say about caring for their town's history. What are the goals of the town residents and the preservationists?

A Policy Proposal

Working with a group, take the role of a committee of Amedi residents who are concerned about preservation and quality of life in their town. The goal of your meeting is to come up with a proposal for how the town should go forward regarding conservation and economic development. Here is the agenda for your meeting. Discuss each of the topics and reach agreement about what to do.
  • What dilemma are we facing?
  • What do international groups think we should be doing?
  • What are heritage markets? How well might they be able to support the people of Amedi?
  • What, if anything, will we gain by conserving our past?
  • What, if anything, will we lose by doing so?
  • Based on all of this, what is the best way forward for us?
When you've decided, write a proposal for your Amedi neighbors to consider.
This lesson meets this Common Core Standard:

W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.