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Resources for Teachers

Lesson Plans, Curriculum Units, and Community-Based Programs

During each Religious Worlds institute, our summer scholars develop curriculum projects to integrate the study of lived religion into their teaching on religious diversity.  The products of their hard work and creativity are available here, as downloadable resources for their peers.  These projects include lesson plans, course units, and outlines of entire curricula.  Some revolve around community-based education programs, like site visits to local houses of worship and panel discussions with religious leaders.  Many include guidelines for student assignments, ranging from brief essays and presentations to semester-long research projects.  Many include links to relevant videos, texts, and other resources.  The projects are grouped by the following broad themes:

  • Site Visits and Student Field Research

  • Virtual "Site Visits" and Online Experiential Learning

  • Conversations with Community Leaders and Peers

  • Introductions to the Study of Religion

  • Professional Development Workshops for Colleagues

  • Religion in American Politics

  • Religion in Literature

  • Religion in Theater, Film, and Sacred Arts

  • Ancient Traditions and Contemporary Lives

Feel free to use these projects in your own teaching, adapt them to the needs of your students, or just take a look and let them inspire you to find new ways to teach about religious diversity.

 

Site Visits and Student Field Research

Exploring Local Religious Diversity Through a Site Visit Jigsaw  Splits students into mixed-grade groups for site visits to six different religious institutions, with preparation, debrief, and other learning activities.  Created by Lacey Vargas, East Harlem School, New York, NY.

Hindu and Buddhist Worlds of New York  Students look beyond their “world religions” textbook and engage with the city as classroom, through site visits, interviews, and presentations to share their research findings.  Created by Kate André, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York, NY.

Engaging the Senses at a Hindu Temple in Michigan Provides guidelines for a visit to a Hindu Temple, with sensory grids for students to fill out during and immediately after.  Created by Becky Kraft, Plymouth High School, Canton, MI.

Engaging the Senses at a Hindu Temple in California Asks students to observe and reflect on the sensory terrain of a Hindu temple and the behavior of worshippers.  Created by Ellen Donlin, Notre Dame High School, San Jose, CA.

Engaging Islam as a Modern, Lived Religion Helps students understand Islam as a lived, diverse religion, preparing them to do field research and discuss the factors that shape contemporary understandings of Islam.  Created by Andrea SkafishBrooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn, NY.

A Tale of Two Temples: Living Buddhisms in Miami Emphasizes the diversity within all religious traditions through back-to-back site visits to a Thai Theravada Buddhist temple and a Zen Buddhist lifestyle center.  Created by Kate Bloomfield, Ransom Everglades School, Coconut Grove, FL.

Exploring Lived Religion through Multiple Lenses Semester-long research project introduces students to the realities of everyday lived religion through novels, site visits, and a series of interviews. Created by Kris Hale, Riverwood International Charter School, Sandy Springs, GA.

A Trio of Lenses on Religion: Individual, Neighborhood, and Community Students will learn about religion through individual, neighborhood, and community lenses, encouraging empathy for their fellow global citizens. Created by Kim LeddyMosaic Program, Columbus, Ohio.

The Grand Tour: Student Guides to Local Religious Sites As part of an inquiry-based unit on the diversity of Sandy Springs, GA, students will create a tour of the many different faiths represented in the community. Created by Liz CarioRiverwood International Charter School, Sandy Springs, GA. 

Exploring Lived Religion in Central Virginia  Year-long research project introducing students to the diversity of local religious life through a series of site visits, leading to creation of a web-based guidebook. Created by Robert Clark,  St. Anne's-Belfield School, Charlottesville, VA..

Hindu House of Worship Fieldwork Project Through observation and interviews, this project introduces students to the diversity within Hinduism and Hindu communities in the Los Angeles area. Created by Roger De Silva, Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks, CA.  

 

Virtual "Site Visits" and Online Experiential Learning

Mapping Religious Diversity and Community Involvement in Lexington  Using online resources, students explore the geography of local religious life, including the community outreach programs of diverse congregations.  Created by Ryan Popplewell, Bryan Station High School, Lexington, KY.

Virtual Lived Religions Uses digital technologies to bring the experience of sacred space into the classroom, without the challenges and potential pitfalls of actual site visits.  Created by Sherry McIntyre, Johansen High School, Modesto, CA.

Observing Puja through the Global Intimacy of YouTube Harnesses the odd global intimacy of YouTube to familiarize students with the lived diversity of Hinduism, and introduce the concept of puja. Created by Jacqueline Richard, School of the Holy Child, Rye, New York.

Where in the World?!? Student World Culture Project Teams of students (in grades 4-8) develop authentic, “kid-friendly,” multimedia presentations illustrating the cultural life of a selected country. Created by Mary Beth Poole, Intermediate School, Camp Lejeune, NC.

 

Conversations with Community Leaders and Peers

Encountering Our Muslim Neighbors Through Service, Scholarship, and a Shared Meal  A week-long collaborative project to build relationships and understanding among students at an Episcopal and Islamic school.  Created by John Mark Elliot, Christ Church Episcopal School, Greenville, SC.

Dissonant Devotion: The Legacy of Contradiction American Religion and Politics  Explores the role of religion in American history and national identity, culminating in a panel discussion with local religious and civic leaders.  Created by Manny Martínez, REALM High School, Berkeley, CA.

Oral Histories of Religious Lives Helps students understand the concept of lived religion and thediversity of religious practice by interviewing persons from a religious tradition other than their own.  Created by Ken Emery, Maria Carrillo High School, Santa Rosa, CA.

Misunderstood! Addressing Religious Diversity in the Classroom Students analyze hypothetical case studies of religious conflict or misunderstanding in a diverse classroom, and develop action plans to help resolve the problem. Created by Jake Sproull, San Francisco Day School, San Francisco, CA.

Learning Together – Locally and Globally Reframes and expands the resources offered by Generation Global, preparing students with the skills required for successful interfaith dialogue. Created by Patrick ConnellyAquinas Institute of Rochester, Rochester, NY.

Persepolis in Context and Conversation In a larger unit on Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, this lesson sequence helps students to engage critically and respectfully with women from various Islamic traditions. Created by Joseph Hayden, Liberation Diploma Plus High School, Brooklyn, NY.

Exploring African Diaspora Religious Traditions: A Panel Discussion Panel discussion with Vodou and Yoruba-Lukumi community leaders, demonstrating embodied ritual elements to help students understand how traditions are lived.  Created by Brandon Roth, Brooklyn Friends School, Brooklyn, NY.

Diverse Muslim Voices in the Classroom Explores the challenges and opportunities involved in creating a panel discussion with Muslim community leaders, raising issues relevant to any panel discussion with religious leaders.  Created by Peter Masteller, Palmer Trinity School, Palmetto Bay, FL.

The Binding of Isaac: From the Biblical Text to Your Neighbors’ Lives Using the biblical narrative of the binding of Isaac as a starting point, students examine how translation affects meaning, and meaning shapes religious practice.  Created by Jennifer Selvin, Lick-Wilmerding High School, San Francisco, CA.

Exploring Lived Religion with Guest Speakers Helps teachers integrate faith-based speakers into a secular public school classroom, in a way that honors the First Amendment and fosters respect for religious diversity.  Created by Tracey Kassin, Wilmington High School, Wilmington, MA.

How Do You Learn About Your Faith Tradition? A Jewish-Muslim Dialogue Envisions a peer-to-peer dialogue among Jewish and Muslim high school students, exploring their experiences of religious edu­cation.  Created by Judith May, Schechter School of Long Island, Williston Park, NY.

 

Introductions to the Study of Religion

The Academic and Devotional Lens For Studying Religion  Introduces middle school students to the essential distinction between academic and devotional approaches to the study of religion.  Created by Aaron Bible, Greenville Middle School, Greenville, TN.

Introducing Religious Worlds  Introduces the study of religious diversity by helping students reflect on the unconscious forces that shape their perceptions of reality, as well as their understandings of religion.  Created by Leah Oppenzato, Elysian Charter School, Hoboken, NJ.

World Religions and Religious Worlds Challenges students to pursue the fundamental questions: What is religion?  How are religious doctrines enacted in community life?  Created by Corey Davison, Newton South High School, Newton, MA.   

Defining “Religion” in Global Popular Culture and Current Events Investigates the cultures of Spanish-speaking, Chinese-speaking, and Arabic-speaking populations to gain perspective on global religious diversity.  Created by Amber Allensworth, Cox Mill High School, Concord, NC. 

Introducing Religious Worldviews Through poetry, non-fiction, and video, students will explore relig­ious and secular influences on socialization and the development of worldviews.  Created by Tara Rigby, Fossil Ridge High School, Fort Collins, CO.

Visualizing Lived Religion: Placing Doctrine in Context Introduces students to the concept of “lived religion,” with a conceptual graphic that helps teachers teach both the core doctrines and internal diversity of a religious tradition.  Created by Thomas SharpHolland Hall School, Tulsa, OK.

 

Professional Development Workshops for Colleagues

Where do Conversations about Lived Religion Belong in the Classroom?  Encourages teachers to consider where conversations about religion fit into the existing academic and social-emotional curriculum.  Created by Elizabeth Markham, Stevens Cooperative School, Jersey City, NJ.

Making Room for Religion in the IB English Language & Literature Curriculum  Helps teachers include an explicit focus on religious diversity in the study of texts that are rich with religious references.  Created by Janet Conner, Newbury Park High School, Newbury Park, CA.

Religious Diversity in Springfield: A Professional Development Plan Initiates an open discussion of the academic study of religion among teachers at a K-8 non-sectarian, indepen­dent day school.  Created by Dr. Anne-Evan K. Williams, Ridgewood School, Springfield, OH.

 

Religion in American Politics

Common Ground in a Troubled and Troubling World: Lived Religion and Social Justice Struggles Using primary source documents, students explore the connection between lived religion and US social justice movements. Created by Nancy Welch, Spruce Street School, New York, NY.

Dear Mr. / Ms. President . . . Students to write a letter to an elected official from the perspective of a faith community concerned about a social issue. Created by Stephen ArbogastThe National Cathedral School, Washington, DC.

"Liberty of Conscience" in George Washington's Time and Today Introduces to students to the principle of “liberty of conscience” through discussion of George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport.  Created by Dr. Amber Bechard, JFK Middle School, Plainfield, IL.

“So Help Me God”: The Religious Language of the Inaugural Address Introduces students to American religious demographics and the role of religion in contemporary politics, using data from the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life, and religious themes in various inaugural addresses.

 

Religion in Literature

Amina’s Voice: Countering Islamophobia by Centering Young Muslim Voices  Students will recognize similarities and differences between themselves and the protaganist of a novel about a Pakistani-American Muslim girl in Milwaukee.  Created by Anna Schlosser, Greene Hill School, Brooklyn, NY.

Religious Experience in the Short Story  Students explore the varieties of religious experience in the short story: a powerful literary vehicle for distilling critical moments of revelation, love, and faith, as well as confusion, hate, and doubt.  Created by Erika Munson, The Waterford School, Sandy, UT.

Felony and Faith: Crime and Religion in Southern Literary Nonfiction  Students engage with religious voices through dicussion of literary nonfiction linking crime to religious beliefs and practices they may find alien or extreme.  Created by Chris Watkins, Baylor School, Chattanooga, TN.

Siddhartha in Memphis Supplements literary analysis of Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha through conversation about present-day issues with a Buddhist guest speaker. Created by Sammy AnzerKingsbury High School, Memphis, TN.

“This Blessed House” - Reading through a Religious Lens Students discuss and respond to Jhumpa Lahiri's short story “This Blessed House,” focusing on religious practices in the story, as well as questions about what it means to be “good.” Created by Luana Uluave, Waterford School, Sandy, Utah.

What is Religion?  Exploring Diverse Answers in Literature Asks students to reflect on the fundamental nature of religion through discussions of “religious moments” in novels set in five different faith communities.  Created by Brittany Pratt, Station Camp High School, Gallatin, TN.

What’s Your Scarlett Letter? Students become critically aware of their own perspectives by reading Nathaniel Hawthorn’s classic novel The Scarlett Letter and discussing the nature of “American values.” Created by Jennifer LittleTerra Linda High school, San Rafael, CA.

Debating Religion and Imperialism in Things Fall Apart Students explore the role of West African religion in Chinua Achebe’s classic novel Things Fall Apart, to gain insight into both pre-colonial African life and 19th century European imperialism.

Religious Life and the Life of Pi Uses the major themes of Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi as an entry into broader discussions about lived religion and human spirituality. Created by Manny MorelliHistory and Humanities Teacher.

 

Religion in Theater, Film, and Sacred Arts

The Hip-Hop Marae  Students use hip-hop arts and poetry to illustrate Maori concepts, culminating in creation of a hip-hop Marae, the spiritual center of Maori communities in Aotearo, New Zealand.  Created by Lavie Raven, North Lawndale College Prep High School, Chicago, IL.

Veneration of the Virgin: The Art of Icons in Greek Orthodox Theology  Demonstrates the importance of sacred art in Orthodox Christianity, using works from the AP Art History curriculum and a visit to a Greek Orthodox church.  Created by Jessica Furiosi, Lake Mary High School, Lake Mary, FL.

Religion and the Arts through Sacred Space and Devotional Image An art history curriculum connecting historical surveys of Islamic and Christian Art with contemporary religious practices. Created by Deb Rosenbaum, Denver School of the Arts, Denver, CO.

Performing Dialogue on Stage – Building Understanding in Class Students research several world religions, then create a one-act play that puts young people of different faiths in dialogue around a social issue. Created by Michelle Fields, Woodstock Union High School, Woodstock, VT. 

“First We Sit In a Circle” - Exploring Immigrant Religion through Musical Theatre Students write an original musical about what it means to live in the US today, focusing on the perspectives of immigrant children in New York City. Created by Lyndsey Jones-McAdams, NYC Public School, NY.

An Experience of Ramadan at Michigan’s Fordson High Students understand the Ramadan fast through the experiences of Muslim high school football players, in the film Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football, and the American Dream.  Created by Abram Brosseit, Jenison High School, Jenison, MI.

Art and Society, in the Ottoman Empire and Today Students explore the social role of visual imagery in the Ottoman Empire and contemporary American society -- from calligraphic seals to corporate branding icons. Created by Michael Freydin (with Jeff Moss), Halsey J.H.S. 157, Rego Park, NY.

Real to Reel: Hinduism and “Gandhi” To contextualize the classic film “Gandhi,” students write questions about Gandhi and imagine how a contemporary Hindu might respond, then speak with local Hindu leaders. Created by Daniel Isaac, Great Neck South Middle School, Great Neck, NY.

Religious Diversity through Sacred Arts Full curriculum introducing students to Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam through units that include site visits, discussions of sacred arts, and creative projects for students. Created by Geoff Cobb, NYC Museum School, New York, NY.

 

Ancient Traditions and Contemporary Lives

Hijab: Negotiating Religion, Culture, and Personal Identity  Helps students demystify the role of hijab, or veiling, in Islamic tradition, political debates, and the lives of American Muslim women. Created by Karen McMurdo, Marble Hill School for International Studies, Bronx, NY.

Sacred Water, Sacred Land in Ashiwi:Awan, Dinétah, Nuevo México, and New Mexico Communities  Explores the spiritual and political dimensions of water and land through a series of 16 thematically integrated seminars.  Created by Martin Olea, Middle College High School, Gallup, NM.

Threads in the Tapestries of Religious Life  In this semester-long assignment, students become class experts on a specific aspect, or thread, of religious life (eg, coming of age, food regulations, etc) that is common across a wide range of faith traditions.  Created by Mary Gentile, Milwaukee, WI.

Religion in West Africa and the African Diaspora  Traces the roots of Haitian Vodou in African traditional religions, with links to a wide range of primary and secondary sources.  Created by Amanda McClure, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT.

"If You Can't Take the Heat": Jewish and Islamic Dietary Restrictions in America  Comparative study of kashrut and halal dietary codes, in Jewish and Islamic law and theology, as well as contemporary American religious life.  Created by Sara Labaton, Bronx, NY.

Imagining Early American Interfaith Dialogue  Sudents discuss the creation of a “Colonial American Faiths Panel,” by researching relevant faith traditions and choosing historical “panelists” to represent significant faith communities.  Created by Danielle Ramirez, Arts High School, Newark, NJ.

The Great Convergence: Religious Encounters of Colonial America  Students explore Native American, African, and European religious experiences in early American history, through both primary and secondary sources.  Created by Kelly O’Riley, Western Middle School for the Arts, Louisville, KY.

Creation Myths and the “Big Questions Establishes a context for the study of ancient civilizations by reading Mesopotamian, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Yoruba, Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman, Japanese, Mayan and Lenape creation myths. Created by Gabriella Newton, Bronx Academy of Letters, New York, NY.

I’m From Faith: Religion, Identity, and Cultural Literacy Integrates discussion of religious identity and belonging into a full year course on human rights and American cultural diversity.  Created by Tiffany Bain, Roselle Park High School, Roselle Park, NJ.

Hinduism in Practice – And in Colonial Fantasy Introduces students to Hinduism as lived religion, and helps them to analyze how cultural differences led to conflict in the age of imperialism. Created by Jane HannonGeorgetown Visitation Preparatory School, Washington, D.C.

Encountering Native American Spirituality through Bibliodrama Exposes students to Native American stories and spiritualities, using a technique borrowed from the study of the Bible known as Bibliodrama. Created by Gary SchmidtGrace Church School, New York, NY.

Many Forms, One God: Introducing Hinduism to Elementary Students Introduces 4th graders the basics of Hinduism through videos, books, a site visit, and guest speakers.  Created by Randy SchmidtMilton Academy, Milton, MA.

Comparative Origin Myths Outlines the essential questions, learning goals, and learning plan for a course unit on Buddhist and Jewish origin myths, exploring the links between origin myths and ritual/social prac­tice.  Created by Christina Grasso, Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn, NY.

The Forces that Draw Us Home Students consider the social, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of the concept of “home," by studying Neolithic settlements as well as concepts of home and sacred space in their communities. Created by Taylor Snow, George H. Moody Middle School, Henrico, VA.

Buddhism and the American Teen Students learn about Buddhism through scripture, literature, film, and conversations with Buddhists, then use Buddhist teachings to confront common struggles faced by American teenagers. Created by Sharon Humphrey, Sharon High School, Sharon, MA.

Everyday Religious Life: Teaching from the Headlines, and our Grandmothers’ Lives Helps students understand how religion shapes both current events and everyday lives, through discussions of personal history and heritage. Created by Maureen Foley-Bensen, Omak High school, Omak, WA.

Sacred Feasts: Studying Lived Religion through Food Explores and compares the religious and secular aspects of the Passover seder and Eid al-Fitr feast.  Created by Lee Quinn, NB Broughton High school, Raleigh, NC.

OMG(s)!: Exploring Contemporary Polytheistic Religions Introduces students to contemporary polytheistic religions through textual research and interviews with community members. Created by Cory SchneiderRodeph Shalom School, New York, NY.

Students Teaching Syncretic Religions Students research a faith tradition that exhibits syncretism and then make connections between religions and ideologies. Created by Sarah Warren, Northfield Mount Hermon School, Mount Hermon, MA.

Auto-Ethnography and Youth Development Students develop brief auto-ethnographic films, which they then share and discuss with their peers, in a process of individual and communal self-reflection. Created by Susan Smith, Stony Point Center, Stony Point, NY.

Imagining Freedom Students to explore the relationships among religion, science, and free inquiry in Western societies, from the Scientific Revolution to a popular music video.  Created by Shpresa Ahmeti, Napier Academy of Technology, Paterson, NJ.

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement Explores the legacy of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, as an introduction to the lived experiences of progressive Catholicism and American capitalism. Created by George Ovitt, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM.