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  • Lesson Plan

    What is Religion? Teaching Theories about Religion

    “Religion.” As familiar as the word seems, it is a challenge to define. This module introduces prominent scholars from the past century whose definitions of “religion” continue to shape religious studies scholarship to this today.

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    The Establishment Clause & Public Schools

    The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prevents the government from creating any law “respecting an establishment of religion” or that privileges one religion over another. This module examines the purpose and scope of the clause, what constitutes a violation of the provision, and common issues in public schools where the Establishment Clause might apply.

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    Teaching About the Bible & Other Sacred Texts

    This module examines how academics across disciplines study the Bible as a text that affects politics, history, literature, etc. It also differentiates this scholarly approach to studying the Bible (referred to as textual studies) from a devotional approach. Many of the methods and tools described here can also be used to analyze other sacred texts.

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    Religious Holidays in the Classroom

    Holiday celebrations can be incredibly important periods of celebration and reflection in the lives of religious individuals and communities, but many educators don’t know whether it is constitutionally appropriate to mention holidays in the classroom. This module offers approaches to teaching religious holidays in the public school classroom while maintaining an environment that is respectful of students from all religious backgrounds, including non-religious backgrounds. The module provides guidelines for helping to determine if holiday-related activities are constitutionally sound. This module may be of particular interest for elementary teachers. For issues related to policies about religious holidays, school calendars, and excused absences, see the related module Religious Holidays and School Policies.

  • Lesson Plan

    Religious Holidays and School Policies

    School calendars must balance many competing demands for students’ and teachers’ time. Religious holidays can present a particularly challenging conundrum for schools. The traditional academic year is designed to be favorable to Christian holidays with a long break around Christmas (aka “winter break”) and a break often falling on or near Easter (aka “spring break”). Students from other religious traditions often do not benefit from official days off of school, and they are often forced to make a choice between attending school or attending holiday celebrations with their families and communities. This module introduces some of the policy issues related to the recognition of religious holidays on public school calendars. Participants will consider factors that may determine whether a school should provide days off for the whole school, and they will examine policies that accommodate absences for individual students. For guidance regarding the recognition of holidays in the classroom, see the related module Religious Holidays in the Classroom.

  • Lesson Plan

    Religious Expression & Practice in Public Schools

    Students do not leave their religious identity behind when they come to school, and the Free Exercise clause protects their rights to religious expression and practice. This module examines the protections, and limitations, of the Free Exercise clause for students in public schools.

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    Religion in the Curriculum

    This essential module sets-out guidelines for teaching about religion in public schools. It explores how religion can be naturally incorporated into a curriculum; examines why it is important to address religion in academics; and considers the negative impact of ignoring or not teaching about religious traditions.

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    Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching and Learning about Religion

    Religious Studies, or the academic study of religion, draws its methods from a variety of disciplines including psychology, sociology, history, and anthropology, just to name a few. This module examines a selection of these approaches and how they’ve been applied to the study of religion.

  • Lesson Plan

    Integrating Religious Studies into Your Curriculum

    This module synthesizes the frameworks for teaching about religion explored in the Pedagogies of Religious Literacy and Teaching about Religious Identity modules. Religious literacy specialist Benjamin P. Marcus introduces an approach for integrating the study of religion into the curriculum and applying a 6-point framework to help students develop a complex understanding of religion.

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    History of Religion & Public Schools

    This module serves as a brief historical overview of the relationship between religion and public schools. Participants will also examine how that relationship has changed over time and the impact of these events on public schools today.

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    Harassment, Bullying, & Free Expression

    This module discusses issues of bullying and harassment that can arise specifically around religion. Participants will learn how to identify religiously-motivated bullying and be introduced to frameworks to respond to and prevent this form of bullying.

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    Civil Dialogue

    Educators take on the critical task of finding creative and engaging ways to help students learn with, from, and about each other. When done using the proper skills and adult support, student-to-student dialogue about religion can change hearts and minds. This module introduces participants to both theory and practical activities to help students explore, develop, and practice civil dialogue.

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    Character Education

    This module looks at the intersections between character education and First Amendment approaches to religion in public schools. Participants will examine models of character education and identify ways in which character education, when done within First Amendment guidelines, can be a valuable support to developing civic competencies.

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    3Rs & First Amendment Framework

    This foundational module examines the three models of religious liberty in public schools: the “sacred public school, “naked public school,” and “civic public school.” It also introduces the 3Rs of religious freedom.

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    Critiquing World Religions

    Many religious scholars dislike the term “world religions” when utilized to describe survey religion courses. They argue these classes primarily rely on a classification system rooted in Protestant Christianity and often characterize non-Protestant Christian faith traditions as not only “other,” but also homogenous, and unchanging over time. This module analyzes the shortcomings of the world religions model. What’s more, it suggests how these deficiencies can be addressed in classrooms constrained by time and resources.

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    Pedagogies of Religious Literacy

    What does it mean to be “religiously literate”? What do you need to know and be able to do? This module examines two different definitions of religious literacy, compares the strengths and weaknesses of each, and considers the application in the classroom.

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    Teaching about Religious Identity

    Religion is thought by many to consist only of beliefs and scripture. However, religion encompasses many other aspects of life including behaviors and a sense of belonging. This module explores a more sophisticated framework for understanding religion. This new structure pushes beyond the common assumptions about religions that define them as primarily “belief systems.”

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    Buddhist Traditions

    This three-module course demonstrates how the Introduce-Investigate-Intersect-Introspect model can be utilized to explore religious identity formation within Buddhist traditions.

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    Christian Traditions

    This 3-module course demonstrates how the Introduce-Investigate-Intersect-Introspect model can be utilized to explore religious identity formation within Christian traditions.

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    Hindu Traditions

    This three-module course demonstrates how the Introduce-Investigate-Intersect-Introspect model can be utilized to explore religious identity formation within Hindu traditions.

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    Islamic Traditions

    This three-module course demonstrates how the Introduce-Investigate-Intersect-Introspect model can be utilized to explore religious identity formation within Islamic traditions.

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    Jewish Traditions

    This 3-module course demonstrates how the Introduce-Investigate-Intersect-Introspect model can be utilized to explore religious identity formation within Jewish traditions.

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    Sikh Traditions

    This 3 module bundle demonstrates how the Introduce-Investigate-Intersect-Introspect model can be utilized to explore religious identity formation within Sikh traditions.

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