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Resources for Teachers

Lesson Plans, Curriculum Units, and Community-Based Programs

During the 2012, 2014, and 2016 Religious Worlds institutes, our summer scholars developed 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, for Students and Faculty

  • Religion in American Politics

  • Religion in Literature, Theater, Film, and the Arts

  • Ancient Traditions and Contemporary Lives

Feel free to use these projects in your own teaching, adapt them to the needs of your students and curriculum, or -- perhaps best of all -- let them inspire you to find new ways to teach about the everyday life of American religious diversity.

 

Site Visits and Student Field Research

Engaging the Senses at a Hindu Temple in Michigan This project provides guidelines for a site visit to a Hindu Temple and sensory grids for students to fill out during and immediately after the visit.  Created by Becky Kraft, Plymouth High School, Canton, MI. Initially developed for use in a ninth grade world history course at a public high school.

Engaging the Senses at a Hindu Temple in California This site visit to a Hindu Temple asks students to observe and reflect on the sensory terrain of the temple and the behavior of worshippers.  Created by Ellen Donlin, Notre Dame High School, San Jose, CA.  Initially developed for use in a junior and senior World Religions elective at a Roman Catholic high school for girls with a religiously diverse student body.

Engaging Islam as a Modern, Lived Religion The unit will address key background information about Islam in order to understand Islam as a lived, diverse religion and to prepare students to complete fieldwork (both independent and class site visits) and to discuss the factors that shape contemporary understandings of Islam.  Created by Andrea SkafishBrooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn, NY. Initially designed for a public high school senior course in their second year of a 2-year IB World Religions sequence.

A Tale of Two Temples: Living Buddhisms in Miami This project emphasizes the diversity within all religious traditions with two 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.  Initially developed for use in a junior and senior World Religions elective at an independent school with a student-centered, discussion-based approach to learning.

Exploring Lived Religion through Multiple Lenses This 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.  Initially developed for use in a semester-long junior and senior World Religions elective at a public charter school.

A Trio of Lenses on Religion: Individual, Neighborhood, and Community This projects serves to that act as “windows-and-mirrors” into religious traditions and lived practices. In doing so, students will learn more about religion through individual, neighborhood, and community lenses, encouraging embodied knowledge about and empathy for their fellow global citizens. Created by Kim LeddyMosaic Program, Columbus, Ohio. Initially designed for juniors and seniors with an interest in the humanities.

The Grand Tour: Student Guides to Local Religious Sites This project is incorporated into a larger unit focusing on culture, language, and religion particularly as it pertains to Sandy Springs, GA. Students will create a tour of the many different faiths represented in the community through an inquiry-based approach. Created by Liz CarioRiverwood International Charter School, Sandy Springs, GA. Initially developed for a public school for a ninth grade World Geography class. 

Exploring Lived Religion in Central Virginia  This year-long research project introduces students to the diversity of local religious life through a series of ethnographic site visits, leading to a web-based guidebook on World Religions in Central Virginia.  Created by Robert Clark,  St. Anne's-Belfield School, Charlottesville, VA.  Initially developed for use in a year-long Comparative Religion seminar at an independent school with a focus on project-based learning.

Hindu House of Worship Fieldwork Project Through observation and interviews, this fieldwork project gives students a first-hand experience of the diversity within Hinduism and Hindu communities in the Los Angeles area.  Created by Roger De Silva, Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks, CA.  Initially designed for students a World Religions elective for seniors at a coeducational private Catholic high school.  

 

Virtual "Site Visits" and Online Experiential Learning

Virtual Lived Religions This project uses digital technologies to bring the experience of sacred space into the classroom, giving students tangible encounters with some of the world’s major religions without the challenges and potential pitfalls of an actual site visit.  Created by Sherry McIntyre, Johansen High School, Modesto, CA.  Initially developed for use in a required semester-long World Religions course for 9th graders in a public school.

Observing Puja through the Global Intimacy of YouTube The goal of this one-day lesson is to harness the odd global intimacy of YouTube to familiarize students with the lived experience of Hindu laypersons, introduce them to the concept of puja, and reflect the diversity of practice within the tradition without leaving the classroom. Created by Jacqueline Richard, School of the Holy Child, Rye, New York. Initially created for use in a required 11th grade World Religions course at a Catholic all-girl’s college preparatory school.

Where in the World?!? Student World Culture Project This program is designed for students to research religious and cultural traditions of their communities and beyond. Teams of students will define world culture and then develop authentic, “kid-friendly,” multimedia presentations illustrating the “culture” of a selected country of the world. Created by Mary Beth Poole, Intermediate School, Camp Lejeune, NC. Initially designed for students in grades 4-8.

 

Conversations with Community Leaders and Peers

Oral Histories of Religious Lives This project is intended to enable the students to better understand the concept of lived religion and the diversity of religious practice by interviewing persons from a religious tradition other than their own, if they have one.  Created by Ken Emery, Maria Carrillo High School, Santa Rosa, CA. Initially designed for a ninth grade social science class.

Misunderstood! Addressing Religious Diversity in the Classroom In this project students will analyze several hypothetical case studies of religious conflicts or misunderstandings that may develop in a diverse classroom in order to evaluate the root cause of each conflict, and develop an action plan to help resolve the problem. Created by Jake Sproull, San Francisco Day School, San Francisco, CA. Initially designed for students in grades 7-8.

Learning Together – Locally and Globally The goal of this curriculum is to reframe and expand Generation Global. It will not only perfectly complement this work, but given its excellent resources and activities guide, replace much of what has been done to prepare students with the skills necessary for successful dialogue. Created by Patrick ConnellyAquinas Institute of Rochester, Rochester, NY. Initially designed for sophomores and juniors in high school. 

Persepolis in Context and Conversation Situated in a larger unit around Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, this lesson sequence sets up students to engage critically and respectfully with lay women from various Islamic traditions. Created by Joseph Hayden, Liberation Diploma Plus High School, Brooklyn, NY. Initially designed for high school students in an urban, low-income nontraditional (sometimes labeled “alternative”) high school setting.

Exploring African Diaspora Religious Traditions: A Panel Discussion This project is built around a panel discussion with local Haitian Vodou and Yoruba/Lukumi practitioners and community leaders, demonstrating embodied ritual elements of the represented traditions in order to give students a visceral understanding of how the traditions are lived.  Created by Brandon Roth, Brooklyn Friends School, Brooklyn, NY. Initially designed for a year-long 10th grade World Religions class at a diverse independent Quaker school in Brooklyn.

Diverse Muslim Voices in the Classroom This project explores the challenges and opportunities involved in creating a panel discussion with local Muslim community leaders, and raises issues relevant to any panel discussion with religious leaders.  Created by Peter Masteller, Palmer Trinity School, Palmetto Bay, FL.  Initially developed for use in a junior and senior level seminar on “Islam and 9/11” at an Episcopal school.

The Binding of Isaac: From the Biblical Text to Your Neighbors’ Lives Using the biblical narrative of the binding of Isaac (in Genesis 22:1-19) as a starting point, students will examine how translation affects meaning, and how these meanings help shape religious practice.  Created by Jennifer Selvin, Lick-Wilmerding High School, San Francisco, CA.  Initially developed for use in a 12th grade elective course on reading the Bible as literature, at a racially and economically diverse Independent school.

Exploring Lived Religion with Guest Speakers This project will help teachers integrate faith-based guest speakers into a secular public school classroom, in a way that honors the spirit of the 1st Amendment and fosters respect for religious diversity.  Created by Tracey Kassin, Wilmington High School, Wilmington, MA.  Initially developed for use in an 11th and 12th grade “World Religions and Cultures” elective course in a public high school.

How Do You Learn About Your Faith Tradition? A Jewish-Muslim Dialogue This project envisions a peer-to-peer interfaith dialogue among Jewish and Muslim high school students, exploring the similarities and differences in their experiences of religious edu­cation.  Created by Judith May, Schechter School of Long Island, Williston Park, NY.  Initially designed for use with students at a Conservative Jewish day school, who are active in Generation Global dialogues with their peers at Muslim schools.

 

Introductions to the Study of Religion, for Students and Faculty

World Religions and Religious Worlds This project challenges students to pursue the questions: What is religion?  What are its fundamentals? What are the basic tenets of major world religions and how are they enacted in our communities? Created by Corey Davison, Newton South High School, Newton, MA. Initially designed as a world religions unit situated at the beginning of a year-long 9th grade world history course.   

Defining “Religion” in Global Popular Culture and Current Events This project will investigate the cultures of Spanish-speaking, Chinese-speaking, and Arabic-speaking populations in order to gain perspective on global religious diversity as a Multicultural-Studies elective. Created by Amber Allensworth, Cox Mill High School, Concord, NC. Initially developed for junior and seniors having taken World History and Civics and Economics prerequisites. 

Introducing Religious Worldviews Through a combination of media (reading and discussing poetry and non-fiction; watching and producing brief videos), 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.  Initially developed as the introductory unit of an 11th and 12th grade elective comparative religions course.

Religious Diversity in Springfield: A Professional Development Plan This project is designed to initiate 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.  Initially develop­ed by the Head of School at an indepen­dent day school with a deep commitment to diversity education.

Visualizing Lived Religion: Placing Doctrine in Context This project introduces students to the concept of “lived religion,” and includes a conceptual graphic to help teachers teach the core doctrines of a religious tradition while emphasizing that there is no single version of any tradition.  Created by Thomas SharpHolland Hall School, Tulsa, OK.  Initially developed for use in a sixth grade course on the history of the Atlantic world at an independent Episcopal school.

 

Religion in American Politics

Common Ground in a Troubled and Troubling World: Lived Religion and Social Justice Struggles Using provocative primary source documents, students explore and analyze the connection between lived religion and the social justice movement in the United States. Created by Nancy Welch, Spruce Street School, New York, NY. Initially designed for middle-high schools students as either a stand-alone course or to be embedded in an existing social justice or religious studies program.

Dear Mr. / Ms. President . . . This project asks students to write a letter to a public official from the perspective of a faith community concerned about a social issue. Created by Stephen ArbogastThe National Cathedral School, Washington, DC.  Initially developed for use as the final writing exercise for an honors seminar on religion and politics at an independent school in New York City.

"Liberty of Conscience" in George Washington's Time and Today This project introduces to students to the fundamental American principle of “liberty of conscience” through a close reading and discussion of George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.  Created by Dr. Amber Bechard, JFK Middle School, Plainfield, IL.  Initially developed for 8th grade honors students in English Language Arts at a public middle school, and appropriate for a range of students from 8th through 10th grade.

“So Help Me God”: The Religious Language of the Inaugural Address This two part lesson introduces students to the religious demographics of the United States and the role of religion in contemporary American politics through the use of charts and maps compiled by the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life, and by identifying religious themes in various inaugural addresses.  Initially developed for use in a seventh grade American history course at an independent school in New York City.

 

Religion in Literature, Theater, Film, and the Arts

Siddhartha in Memphis This project focuses on the literary analysis of Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, and includes an engagement with the text through engaging the lived religion through a guest speaker. Created by Sammy AnzerKingsbury High School, Memphis, TN. Initially designed specifically for 9-10th grade high school students in Title I schools.

“This Blessed House” - Reading through a Religious Lens This project is a class activity in which students read, discuss, and respond through writing to the short story, “This Blessed House,” by Jhumpa Lahiri. Students will use a set of questions to focus on the explicit and implicit religious practices in the story and discuss related questions about what it means to be “good.” Created by Luana Uluave, Waterford School, Sandy, Utah. Initially designed as an English elective for Spring Term seniors.

Religion and the Arts through Sacred Space and Devotional Image This art history curriculum is designed to connect traditional historical surveys with contemporary religious practices as an expansionof smaller art history units focusing on Islamic and Christian Art. Topics can freely weave in and out of visual art or social studies curriculum. Created by Deb Rosenbaum, Denver School of the Arts, Denver, CO. Initially created for 8th grade Visual Arts students.

Performing Dialogue on Stage – Building Understanding in Class The goal of this curriculum project is to have students research several world religions and share that research by creating a one-act play that puts young people of different faith traditions in dialogue around a current events issue. Created by Michelle Fields, Woodstock Union High School, Woodstock, VT. Initially created as a unit of a 9th grade English I curriculum at a public high school in Vermont. 

“First We Sit In a Circle” - Exploring Immigrant Religion through Musical Theatre In this project, students will be writing an original musical about what it means to be living in the United States today, focusing on the immigrant perspective of children in New York City, incorporating the lived religious experience of these individuals. Created by Lyndsey Jones-McAdams, NYC Public School, NY. Initially designed for students in a New York public school.

An Experience of Ramadan at Michigan’s Fordson High This project provides students with a better understanding of the Ramadan fast, by exploring the experiences of Muslim high school football players in Dearborn, Michigan, as documented in the film Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football, and the American Dream.  Created by Abram Brosseit, Jenison High School, Jenison, MI.  Initially developed for use in a semester-long elective world religions class taught at the high school level in a public school.

What is Religion?  Exploring Diverse Answers in Literature This project asks students to reflect on the fundamental nature or meaning of religion through discussions of “religious moments” found in novels set in five different faith comm­unities.  Created by Brittany Pratt, Station Camp High School, Gallatin, TN.  Initially designed for use in a 10th grade honors English class in a public high school in a predominantly white, Christian, suburban community.

Art and Society, in the Ottoman Empire and Today The project leads students to explore the social role of visual arts and 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.  Initially developed for use in a global studies course at a New York City public middle school.

Real to Reel: Hinduism and “Gandhi” This project incorporates the study of lived religion into a study of the classic film “Gandhi.”  Students will write questions about Gandhi and imagine how a contemporary Hindu might respond, then particpate in a dialogue with local Hindu leaders. Created by Daniel Isaac, Great Neck South Middle School, Great Neck, NY.  Initially developed for use in a semester-long “History of Film” elective for eighth graders at a public middle school.

What’s Your Scarlett Letter? This project encourages students to 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 Little, Terra Linda High school, San Rafael, CA.  Initially developed for use in a college preparatory 11th grade American literature course, at a public high school with a diverse student body, including recent immigrants from Latin America.

Debating Religion and Imperialism in Things Fall Apart These lessons and assignments ask students to explore the role of West African religion in Chinua Achebe’s classic novel Things Fall Apart, in order to gain insight into both pre-colonial African life and 19th century European imperialism. Initially developed for use in a ninth grade world history class at an independent school in New York City.

Religious Life and the Life of Pi This project responds to Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi and uses the major themes of the novel as an entry into broader discussions about lived religion and spirituality. Created by Manny Morelli, History and Humanities Teacher.  Initially developed for use in a ninth grade humanities course at an independent coed day school in New Jersey.

Religious Diversity through Sacred Arts This is a curriculum introducing students to Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam through units that include site visits, discussions of each tradition’s literature and arts, and creative projects for students. Created by Geoff Cobb, NYC Museum School, New York, NY.  Initially developed for use in a ninth grade social studies course at a public high school with a school-wide focus on museum education.

 

Ancient Traditions and Contemporary Lives

Creation Myths and the “Big Questions This project is intended primarily to expose students to a selection of oral narratives in order to establish a literary context for the study of ancient civilizations in social studies 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. Initially created for high school juniors and seniors.

I’m From Faith: Religion, Identity, and Cultural Literacy The goal of this project is to integrate a richer discussion of religious identity and belonging into an existing full year course focusing on human rights issues. The course aims to develop students’ cultural literacy and cultivate an appreciation for diversity in American society.  Created by Tiffany Bain, Roselle Park High School, Roselle Park, NJ. Initially designed for high school students.

Hinduism in Practice – And in Colonial Fantasy This project introduces students to Hinduism as lived religion through the study of puja and challenges students to analyze how cultural differences contributed to conflict between Europeans and Hindus in India during the age of imperialism. Created by Jane Hannon,Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, Washington, D.C. Initially designed for students in a tenth-grade global history course at a  independent Catholic school for girls.

Encountering Native American Spirituality through Bibliodrama This project is an effort to expose students to a range of representative Native American stories by using a technique borrowed from the study of the Bible, known as Bibliodrama, as a means of integrating Native American Spiritualities into the World Religions curriculum. Created by Gary SchmidtGrace Church School, New York, NY. Initially designed as part of a Philosophy and Religion course for 9th and 10th graders.

Many Forms, One God: Introducing Hinduism to Elementary Students This project will introduce fourth graders the basics of Hinduism through videos, books, a site visit, and guest speakers as part of an existing unit that originally focused on Judaism, Christianity, Islam.  Created by Randy SchmidtMilton Academy, Milton, MA. Initially designed for students in grades 4-7 in an independent school just south of Boston.

Comparative Origin Myths This project outlines the essential questions, learning goals, and learning plan for a course unit on Buddhist and Jewish origin myths. The unit encourages students to develop a comparative perspective on religious life, and to explore the links between origin myths and ritual/social prac­tice.  Created by Christina Grasso, Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn, NY.  Initially developed for use in a two-year IB World Religions course at an innovative New York public high school.

The Forces that Draw Us Home In this project, students are asked to consider the social, psychological, and potentially spiritual dimensions of the concept of “home."  After studying Neolithic settlements, students will collaborate on presentations de­scribing the concepts of “home” and “sacred space” in their own lives and communities. Created by Taylor Snow, George H. Moody Middle School, Henrico, VA.  Initially designed for use with a class of advanced 8th grade students at a public middle school.

Buddhism and the American Teen This lesson is designed for students to learn about Buddhism through scripture, literature, poetry, film, and conversations with practicing Buddhists, then use Buddhist teachings to confront some of the common struggles faced by American teenagers. Created by Sharon Humphrey, Sharon High School, Sharon, MA.  Initially developed for use in a tenth grade English literature course at a public high school.

Everyday Religious Life: Teaching from the Headlines, and our Grandmothers’ Lives This lesson encourages students to understand how religion shapes both current events and everyday lives consisting of personal history and heritage. Created by Maureen Foley-Bensen, Omak High school, Omak, WA.  Initially developed for use as the introductory session of a semester-long tenth grade world history course at a rural public high school with a large number of Native American students.

Sacred Feasts: Studying Lived Religion through Food This project explores the religious and secular aspects of two annual feasts, the Passover seder and Eid al-Fitr feast.  Created by Lee Quinn, NB Broughton High school, Raleigh, NC.  Initially developed as an enrichment activity for a junior and senior elective course called “Religions in World Cultures” at a public high school.

OMG(s)!: Exploring Contemporary Polytheistic Religions This project introduces students to contemporary polytheistic religions through both textual research and interviews with community members. Created by Cory SchneiderRodeph Shalom School, New York, NY.  Initially developed for use in a seventh grade world history course at a Reform Jewish school with a relatively homogenous Jewish student body.

Students Teaching Syncretic Religions This project focuses on guiding students to research a faith tradition that exhibits syncretism and then make connections between religions and ideologies to further understand syncretic religious traditions. Created by Sarah Warren, Northfield Mount Hermon School, Mount Hermon, MA.  Initially developed for use as a midterm assignment in a junior and senior course on religion and globalization at an independent boarding school.

Auto-Ethnography and Youth Development This project helps 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.  Initially developed for use with 11th and 12th grade students at a faith-based Islamic school.

Imagining Freedom This project leads 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.  Initially developed for use in a seventh grade literature class with a large number of special education students at a public middle school.

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement This curriculum unit 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.  Initially developed for use in an advanced placement American History course at an independent school.