Education is like a passport to another world. It gives us maps for understanding and skills for navigating difficult terrain. For 20 years, I have been lucky to be a tour guide of sorts for high school students as they encounter the world’s religions and begin to understand them and the people who practice them. Something amazing happens in these classes as these new perspectives help students develop the skills and knowledge to engage with others in ways that build community, inclusion, and trust.

The world’s religions are a tremendous gateway into understanding human behaviour and culture, to artistic expression, and philosophical and religious beliefs. With the shift to online learning, and the growing awareness for the need to thread the concepts of inclusion and diversity throughout the curriculum, Encounter has developed a new presentation for high school students called Music, Masks, Murtis and More.

Your students will learn about Ganesh, the mouse he rides, and what this teaches Hindus about humility & compassion.

We begin this talk by examining the idea of the Western Lens and how Western biases can distort perceptions of religious traditions, especially those with less of a Western heritage. We reinforce these concepts using some of the many artefacts in Encounter’s offices. By talking about the meaning and importance of statues, instruments, clothing and ritual items used by various religions, we help students understand diverse religions and cultures while also fostering familiarity and comfort with the ways religious identities can be embodied in physical items.

Students leave with a new understanding of humanity’s religious cultures, and the contributions made by different communities to our society’s mosaic. Just as travel has a way of opening our eyes, our goal with our new program is to give students the opportunity to see religious “others” more authentically and less filtered by the Western Lens. Research shows that the ability to build personal connections between groups is one of the most effective ways to dismantle stereotypes, combat racism and intolerance and to create welcoming and inclusive communities. The feedback we have received from students and teachers for this program has been overwhelmingly positive and we love the opportunity to engage students with this material.

This Buddhist instrument makes no sound…and yet your students will remember it the rest of their lives.

This presentation is a great fit for classes in World Religions, World Cultures, Philosophy or Social Science classes (Anthropology, Sociology, and Psychology). Your students will learn about themselves and their world through interesting stories and artefacts. Reach out to us if you would like more information.

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