Teachers' Guides and Links to Organizations
There are a wide range of resources available online to support K-12 teaching on religious diversity. You're just a click or two away from informative teachers' guides, helpful lesson plans, provocative scholarship, primary sources, demographic data, and more.
The two first links on this page are to downloadable teachers' guides prepared by the American Academy of Religion and the First Amendment Center. They are intended, above all, for teachers in U.S. public schools, but they offer invaluable guidance for all K-12 teachers -- at public, private, or parochial schools. One may disagree with specific points in these guides (we disagree, for example, when they discourage site visits to local religious communities) but they are essential starting-points for any teacher working to enrich their teaching on religious diversity.
Following these teachers' guides you will find links to a number of organizations, each of which offers their own online or downloadable resources for K-12 teachers. There is a vibrant community of educators and activists working to promote interfaith understanding through more effective K-12 teaching about religious diversity. We hope you'll find their work helpful in your classroom -- and perhaps find a sense of common cause in their vision of a pluralistic American society.
Downloadable Teachers Guides:
This practical guide for K-12 teachers was prepared by the American Academy of Religion, the leading scholarly association for the academic study of religion. It introduces a range of approaches to teaching about religion, including historical, literary, traditions-based, and cultural studies. Above all, however, it encourages all teachers to convey three central premises of academic religious studies: religions are internally diverse, historically dynamic, and embedded in sociocultural systems. These core principles will help teachers develop academically and constitutionally sound approaches for teaching about religion in K-12 public and private schools.
Millions of parents from diverse religious backgrounds entrust the education of their children to our nation’s public schools. For this reason, teachers need to be fully informed about the constitutional and educational principles governing the role of religion in public schools. This concise guide offers teachers a vision of religious liberty in public education based on First Amendment principles as currently interpreted by the courts and agreed to by a wide range of religious and educational organizations.
Organizations Offering Online Resources for Teachers:
A wide-ranging set of resources, on a website sponsored by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The site features an extensive searchable database of curricula, syllabi, and other classroom resources; links to other organizations in the field; recent news articles on religion and education; and a journal of scholarly research on K-12 religious studies pedagogy.
The Religion and Public Education Resource Center at California State University, Chico, provides information for teachers about the ethical, legal, and educational issues surrounding the study of religion in public schools. Their work rests on the conviction that the academic study of religion not only makes an indispensable contribution to historical and cultural literacy, but is also an integral part of education for citizenship in a pluralistic democracy.
The First Amendment Center is a leading voice in national debates about religion and public education, as well as other First Amendment issues. Their website's religious liberty page feature articles, publications, and other resources on religion in public schools and public life more broadly, as well as accessible introductions to a number of related Free Exercise and Establishment clause issues. The site also includes detailed lesson plans for teaching on the First Amendment.
For over twenty years, Harvard University's Pluralism Project has been exploring the religious diversity of the United States, in order to discern the emerging meanings of our religious pluralism. The project helps students and other Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity through research, outreach, and the active dissemination of resources. Its extensive website offers many resources for teachers, including interactive maps, syllabi, slideshows, statistics, teaching guidelines, and the On Common Ground CD-ROM.
The mission of the IRCV (formerly the Council on Islamic Education) is to strengthen civil society by exploring the intersection of faith, citizenship, and pluralism, and to help align public policymaking with our nation’s core values of religious liberty and tolerance. Their website provides a wide range of lesson plans, publications, and other resources for educators, primarily—though not exclusively—designed to support effective, unbiased teaching about Islam and contemporary Muslim communities.
The Religious Literacy Project is an ambitious new initiative that builds on the work of Harvard Divinity School's influential Program in Religion and Secondary Education. When the project is complete, it will offer teachers and students a virtual resource and research center, including scholarly sources on the study of religion and specific religious traditions. The RLP is also complemented by a new Religious Studies and Education certificate program, offering online graduate coursework in religious studies for K-12 teachers with a serious interest in the field.
This website is supported by the non-profit organization Objectivity, Accuracy, and Balance in Teaching about Religion. It provides background information and instructional materials to support teaching about both religious and nonreligious worldviews in public schools. Its resources for teachers include very brief summaries of diverse worldviews, as well as curricula and pedagogic guidelines designed to ensure that America's public schools are welcoming places for students of all worldviews, religious or nonreligious
An innovative program for middle and high-school students, developed by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Face to Faith connects students worldwide (in 19 countries and growing) via a secure website where they interact. The program features facilitated video conferences where students discuss global issues from a variety of faith and belief perspectives. Through Face to Faith, students gain the dialogue skills needed to prevent conflict by breaking down religious and cultural stereotypes.
The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture sponsors research and public education programs to explore the relationships between religion and other aspects of American culture. Most of the Center's activities are oriented toward college and university faculty, but the website also includes a selection of lessons plans and other instructional materials developed by NEH summer scholars in the 2010 summer institute "The Many and the One: Religion, Pluralism, and American History."
Religion and Ethics Newsweekly’s lesson plans use stories, online video, and other resources to address a broad range of current events from bioethics and the role of faith in politics, to Islam and terrorism. Lesson plans for all grade levels are broken down into background information for teachers; lesson procedures, including activities and resources; “organizers” for students which provide handouts and other study aids; and supplemental material to help students conduct research and to stimulate classroom discussion.
The Association of Religion Data Archives strives to democratize access to reliable data on contemporary religious life. The ARDA Learning Center provides educators high-quality religion resources and learning modules at various academic levels, ranging from junior high school to college and seminary. The site also provides a forum where teachers can share syllabi and resources with one another.
The Tanenbaum Center is committed to the vision that people of all beliefs, from the most religiously devout to the most ardent atheist, can live, learn, and work peacefully together in a spirit of true respect. Their site features a number of resources for educators, including the book Religions in my Neighborhood (a resource for K-4 teachers), curricula on the conflict around the Park51 Muslim community center and other topics, etiquette guides, lesson plans, and reading lists.
For more than 30 years, Facing History and Ourselves has believed that education is the key to combating bigotry and nurturing democracy. Facing History works with educators to improve their effectiveness in the classroom, as well as their students' academic performance and civic learning. Their website features resource collections, lesson plans, and other instructional materials on antisemitism and the Holocaust, the African-American Civil Right movement, and other social justice issues.
Teaching Tolerance is working to foster school environments that are inclusive and nurturing – classrooms where equality and justice are not just taught, but lived. The program points to the future, helping teachers prepare a new generation to live in a diverse world. The website is not focused on religious diversity, per se, but it features a wealth of classroom activities and teaching kits on a wide variety of subjects relevant to pluralistic education, including some on religious pluralism and tolerance.