World religions might seem like too advanced a topic to teach kids, but research shows that the effects are positive. Studies have found that introducing children to the study of religions nurtures empathy and tolerance. It has been shown to even reduce bullying in schools. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to effectively implement a curriculum about world religions for kids.
Benefits of World Religions for Kids
Oftentimes, students already have a well-developed sense of their family’s faith system before going to school. They can continue to cultivate this with their families at home. In school, the study of world religions is not about developing a belief system. Teaching world religions in your classroom means teaching students to approach religion as social scientists.
Everyone has biases that skew their understanding of the world. Our biases are formed from our experiences, morals, cultures, and belief systems. In academic settings, it is important to learn how to set these biases aside in order to explore a topic objectively. You cannot learn with a closed mind any more than you can walk through a closed door. Teaching a world religions unit has many benefits, including exercising this important skill of studying like a scientist and setting biases aside to explore something objectively.
Not only does world religions for kids help develop these academic skills, but there is also positive research that learning about religions reduces rates of bullying and increases respect and tolerance for religious differences. In today’s world, that should be every teacher’s priority. Teaching a world religions unit can build bridges between students in your classroom and expands their worldview beyond their immediate community.
Students will benefit from learning about world religions. You can introduce this broad topic early in elementary school to see profound benefits. Use the following six tips to help you develop a learning plan for beginning a study of world religions for kids.
6 Tips for Teaching World Religions for Kids
1. Share information with parents. Send a letter home to parents informing them of the upcoming unit. Be sure to explain that students will learn about world religions without promoting any specific religion. When presenting this idea to parents, you can let me know how teaching world religions has been shown to reduce instances of bullying and religious discrimination in schools. Encourage families to continue conversations at home about their own faiths, but these conversations will not be had in school.
2. Set boundaries before beginning the unit. Preface the beginning of the unit by sharing that you will be studying world religions. Explain that this is not the time to share personal beliefs about each religion. Instead, explain to students that you will be studying world religions like social scientists by looking at religion as a part of history and culture. Before beginning each lesson, start a routine where you put on your ‘social science goggles’ or ‘objectivity glasses’ to be able to study the world religions impartially.
3. Stick to the facts. Be sure to discuss how world religions are a part of history and culture. Approach the unit as a study of religion the way you would study another country – with curiosity and an open mind. By planning ahead, you can put together a well-researched and equitable unit to study the six major world religions. Save yourself some time with our World Religions Unit, which includes an in-depth study of six major world religions.
4. Create connections rather than disconnection. Focus on the similarities between religions rather than the differences. By focusing on what is similar, students will begin to see religion as something that connects us. People practice religions in different ways, but ultimately the connection to community and to a belief in something is something that many humans share.
5. Model how to ask thoughtful questions about religion. Show students that it is okay to be curious and ask questions but with an awareness of being kind and respectful. You can show how to ask good questions through modeling good questions with a KWL chart or sentence starters. Students should be aware of how they frame their thoughts, questions, and opinions so that everyone feels welcome and understood.
6. Divide time equally between each of the world religions. Whether you are dedicating one day or one week to each religion, make sure it’s the same for each. Cover similar content as well and refrain from digging into any personal experiences or beliefs.
Implement these tips to successfully teach about world religions for kids. World religions is a beneficial topic to explore at any age. Students can engage in fascinating explorations about the origins of the world, learn about unique holidays and festivals, and study important historical events through the lenses of the major world religions. Explore our World Religions Unit, or buy resources individually on Teachers Pay Teachers.