Our summer two-week institute (July 9-20, 2018) seeks to provide the tools K-12 educators need to teach about religious diversity in a manner that draws attention not only to differences that distinguish religious traditions from one another, but also commonalities that give us a deeper appreciation for shared ethical norms and values. In order to foster a diverse and inclusive environment, it is important to understand the ways in which humans express themselves religiously. By learning about the teachings and history of religions as living traditions, we come to appreciate what religions teach and how those teachings are reflected in the lives of those who affiliate with any given religion, and we come to recognize the complicated relationship between culture and religion. Exploring varieties of religious traditions with an eye toward the lived experience will be a catalyst for encouraging civic engagement and bridge building within local and global communities.

In a world in which religion plays such a central role in social, political and economic events, as well as in the lives of communities and individuals, the study of religion addresses a critical need for informed understanding of diverse religious traditions, issues, questions and values. Studies within the past several years demonstrate the importance of religious literacy across all sectors of American society. Indeed, there is an inverse correlation between the proliferation of information about religion on the internet and the lack of understanding of various aspects of religion, faith and practice.

We will invite 30 teachers from across America to Los Angeles, where they will work closely with scholars of religion, meet with local religious leaders, visit houses of worship, explore the life of the city, and engage in service learning with the purpose of developing their own curriculum projects. These projects will afford an opportunity for teachers to enhance classroom-learning about religion as lived tradition. Participants will spend time in the community, not only meeting religious leaders, but also engaging in forms of service learning.   In order to provide the pedagogic tools necessary for introducing students to the varieties of religious beliefs and practices, participants will be exposed to several religious traditions from academic and devotional perspectives.