New Curriculum at Chicago Public Schools

August 8, 2006

Teachers are getting training this week in a new curriculum that brings the arts, music and science to Chicago Public Schools.

The project is based on a historic trade route that's hundreds of years old.

The Silk Road Project is part of a year-long festival that includes concerts and exhibits across the city.

They're inspired by the trade routes that connected China to the Mediterranean until the 14th century.

Students will learn about the cultural and historical importance of the region, and how it relates to the present day.

Laura Freid is executive director of the Silk Road Project.

"We think that everyone asks this essential question: 'Who am I, and where do I come from? And why is this information about another culture thousands of years ago and miles and miles away, of interest to me?'"

Freid hopes the project answers these questions by inspiring students to look deeper, and make connections with others.

One of the ways they'll be doing that is through the Genographic Project, sponsored by National Geographic and IBM.

Alex Moen, the program director, says about 1,000 students will get kits to take a sample of their DNA.

Those kits will show students the migratory path of their ancestors.

"What these kids will learn is that we're not that different," he says. "We actually share this common origin. Our genetic makeup on a molecular basis is really so similar that any kind of differences we see truly are superficial, and skin-deep."

Silk Road was founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Teachers and students will get to see live musical performances and visit museums as part of the program.