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Instructor takes class on global adventure

| Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, 7:21 p.m.
Terry Owens
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Terry Owens

Terry Owens is taking her Honors World History classes to Dunhuang, China, to study historical Buddhist art and culture — and the students won't need to pack a thing.

Thanks to Google Classroom, an online application, the Pine-Richland honors instructor is able to post and communicate her Far East experience to her classes at home while she's a half a world away.

Owens left Oct. 14 for a 10-day trip to study Buddhist art and sculpture in the caves of the ancient town of Dunhuang, located along the historic Silk Road of China.

The trip is being funded by a Fulbright Grant and the University of Pittsburgh Confucius Institute.

While there, she'll post video and photography of her work, giving access to the Chinese culture to her three Honors World History classes totaling 64 students.

“We study religion and politics so it's a way for them to get an understanding of how intertwined they are,” said Owens, who has been at the district for 11 years.

It's the first year at the high school for this class, she said.

The caves, constructed by Buddhist monks, exist along a cliff wall in Dunhuang, located in northwestern China, and the earliest still-existing caves date to the fourth century, according to the Dunhuang Research Academy website. The academy claims this is the “best preserved and largest Buddhist art treasure in the world.”

It's also a popular tourist destination, said Owens, who is from Beaver.

The town is located along the Silk Road, a historic “great highway crossing China,” according to the website.

After her trip, Owens said, she is additionally tasked with creating and sharing lesson plans with other instructors, including those who teach Asian study curses at the University of Pittsburgh.

There are so many facets to the sculptures and art, that Owens said the learning tools are “endless.” In addition to obvious lessons on art and history, she can use teaching elements that touch upon English, earth science and physics.

Prior to her trip, Owens, who has a master's degree in international relations, said her students were looking forward to learning about it.

Owens started preparing for this trip in the summer when she and fellow instructors met at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles to begin preparing lesson plans that incorporate the caves and excavated art and sculpture.

Nancy Bowman, principal at Pine-Richland High School, said the trip is a great learning opportunity for Owens, staff and students.

“Her firsthand experiences will benefit our students and staff, as she will be sharing lessons and artifacts that will provide real-world applications to their work in the classroom,” said Bowman.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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