News and Speeches

Chancellor and Yo-Yo Ma Launch Partnership to Enrich Middle School Instruction


Curriculum Developed by Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project Offers Sixth-Grade Students the Chance to Explore the History and Culture of the Ancient Silk Road

    Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced a two-year partnership between the New York City Department of Education and the Silk Road Project, the not-for-profit artistic, cultural, and educational organization founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Through this partnership, middle school educators will be invited to use a series of lessons designed by the Silk Road Project in partnership with educators at Stanford University. These lessons, called Along the Silk Road, integrate history, geography, science, music, and visual arts to teach students about the Silk Road, the ancient trading route that connected Europe and Asia.

    The partnership launched today with an introductory workshop at Teachers College for 150 middle school principals and sixth-grade teachers. Afterwards, participants and guests were treated to a special performance and conversation with Yo-Yo Ma. The collaboration is just one feature of the Department’s Campaign for Middle School Success, a multi-year plan to improve academic performance among middle school students across the City.

    “Over the past year we’ve redoubled our efforts to ensure that all students leave the eighth grade ready for the challenges of high school,” Chancellor Klein said. “The lessons developed by the Silk Road Project will provide our sixth-grade teachers with a valuable new tool for enriching the academic experience of our students. I can think of no one better equipped to lead students in this kind of discourse than Yo-Yo Ma.”

    “In my experience, students who are passionate are a pleasure to teach and teachers who are passionate share their knowledge generously,” Yo-Yo Ma said. “Learning and teaching have always been at the very heart of the Silk Road Project. I think there is no better way for us to begin our second decade than by inviting teachers and students from New York City’s public schools to join us in this ongoing exchange.”

    “We know that a strong middle school education is the best preparation for success in high school and beyond,” Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Marcia V. Lyles said. “The lessons created by the Silk Road Project and Stanford University promise to develop in students an intellectual curiosity and commitment to learning that will last a lifetime.”

    “During the past few years, we have been able to train hundreds of teachers to use the Along the Silk Road curriculum, and we are thrilled to provide this educational tool to teachers and students in New York City,” Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Silk Road Project Laura Freid said. “We are particularly pleased that we will be working with middle-school students, who are at a pivotal point in their lives when making connections with a broader world can be of enormous benefit.”

    The Silk Road Project takes inspiration from the Silk Road trading route as a modern metaphor for multicultural and interdisciplinary exchange. The lessons developed by the Silk Road Project draw from a variety of disciplines, and offer students different ways to explore the many aspects of the historic Silk Road—its geography, culture, belief systems, arts, languages, and commerce.

    This June, participating sixth-grade students and their families will be invited to a performance by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. The Silk Road Project, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, is sponsored in part by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation. The Along the Silk Road curriculum was developed by the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) in partnership with the Silk Road Project. Curriculum experts from Stanford University will facilitate the workshops for New York City educators.