Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Religious Education update

In Religious Education courses at KIS, we strive to create interesting and stimulating courses that will not only enrich students on their spiritual journey, but will also expose them to other faiths, building respect for the practices of different people. The following article, written by Kyle Mitchell, is one such example of what the students studying Buddhism did recently.

This semester I taught a Hinduism/Buddhism course for grades 11 and 12 and a World Religions course for grade 10. While brainstorming on how to make the courses more engaging and memorable, I happened to visit my wife’s grade 3 and 4 classroom. I was amazed at how they had transformed their classroom into the rainforest while studying the rainforest and I decided to give it a try in my high school courses. Since my units on Buddhism were overlapping for my grade 10 classes and my grade 11 and 12 classes, I figured that we could work together to turn our classroom into a Buddhist museum.

I began by generating ideas with my students about the museum and we came up with certain topics and artwork that we wanted to display. The students researched the topics and worked together to create informative posters and even small models of things like prayer wheels and a Zen garden. Other students actually brought in Buddhist symbols of their own to add to our museum. Two of my fellow teachers, who are followers of the Buddhist faith, brought in objects from their home and set up an authentic Buddhist shrine that included butter lamps, incense, rice, thangkas, holy scriptures, a stupa and a statue of Buddha. It took a community effort, but it the end, we did turn our classroom into a Buddhist museum.

Not only did our classes benefit from this transformed classroom environment, but the grade 3-5 students incorporated this into a field trip experience and were directed through our museum by the grade 11-12 students who acted as tour guides for the day. We even had our Dzongkha (language of Bhutan, a Buddhist country) teacher bring his classes down to teach his classes inside the museum, taking advantage of the wide variety of symbols and Buddhists objects. Overall, the project was fun, informative and engaging for all who participated. The students were able to gain a deeper knowledge and respect for the Buddhist faith and I was able to use their work as a helpful environment for teaching.

Kyle Mitchell
RE teacher
Kyle came to Kodai from the USA and has been working at KIS in the RE department for the last 18 months. His wife Lynea is the grade 3-4 teacher in the Elementary School.