Lesson Plans

Having surveyed a medley of topics that bear strongly on this site's theme
(e.g., accepting differences, recognizing bias, supporting civic values,
teaching about religion and nonreligion, promoting public civility and
tolerance, and understanding multiculturalism), we list here several lesson
plans of likely academic value, awaiting evaluative comments on lesson
usefulness. We invite feedback from teachers on any lesson used with
students and will consider this feedback as we pursue our effort to locate a
bank of quality lessons for linking to this website.

Altruism: Meeting Society's Needs

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. In the U.S. today, many people's
fundamental needs are not being met. Food, shelter, medical care, and
safety from violence are elusive for increasing numbers of people. In a spirit
of altruism, individuals, faith-based organizations and secular groups
undertake humanitarian efforts to meet these people's basic needs and -- in
the process -- discover that other, more profound needs are being met for
the server as well as the served.

In this lesson, students explore the meaning of altruism and the bonds that
are created when people take care of each other. Resources include
segments from RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY, Web sites, and
guest speakers. As a culminating activity, students explore and synthesize
the themes of the lesson through a service learning project.

Grades 5-8, make sure you look at: Background, Procedures for Teachers,
and Organizers for Students

Traditions and Transformations

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Jewish culture provides a lens through which
students can observe how traditions endure and are transformed over time.
In this lesson plan, middle school students learn about Jewish culture as a
living, changing tradition and relate Judaism to traditions in their own life.

Students learn about Jewish culture from a variety of perspectives: They look
at Jewish religious and secular traditions including Jewish holidays, sacred
and secular music, dance, and visual arts. They also consider the
relationship of religious traditions to cultural and secular traditions.
Resources include segments from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Web
sites, and interviews with guest speakers. As a culminating activity, students
explore and synthesize the themes of the lesson through arts activities.

Grades 6-8, make sure you look at: Background, Procedures for Teachers,
and Organizers for Students

Religion in Public Schools

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. One of the most emotional and controversial
issues raised by the First Amendment is the question of the role religion
should play in public institutions. The First Amendment prohibits government
from establishing a religion and protects each individual's right to practice
(or not practice) any faith without government interference. In this lesson,
students will focus on one aspect of the presence of religion in public
institutions: the controversy surrounding religion in the public schools.
Through research and interviews with community members, students
examine different perspectives on this issue. They then act as a fact-finding
commission whose job is to offer a recommendation to a school
administration about its policy on religion in the school. This lesson would
work well in the context of a unit on the United States Constitution and the
events that led to the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Grades 6-8, make sure you look at: Background, Procedures for Teachers,
and Organizers for Students

In My Other Life: Learning of Other Cultures
Common Vision, Common Voices

EDSITEment lesson (National Endowment for the Humanities). This lesson’s
goal is to challenge stereotypes about cultures unfamiliar to us; to expand
awareness of the range of factors that help constitute a cultural identity; to
research, organize, and present information about everyday life in an
unfamiliar culture; to create an imaginative firsthand account of life in an
unfamiliar culture.

Experiencing Prejudice and Discrimination

ERIC lesson to help students come to understand the prejudices and
discrimination that have existed throughout history and continue as negative
aspects of our society today.

Supreme Court Decisions on Freedom of Religion

ERIC lesson plan. Seventeen Supreme Court decisions are the basis for
discussion on First Amendment Right, Freedom of Religion. Any and all can
be discussed in depth or simply touched upon. The wide range of cases
help students to understand that this "freedom" has limits and bounds and is
constantly under attack.

Cultural Acceptance

ERIC lesson plan: The student will experience racial indifference first hand.

Galileo and the Inevitability of Ideas

EDSITEment lesson. Lesson goal: to understand the historical significance
of Galileo's scientific achievements; to explore the element of "inevitability"
in our perception of historical developments; to examine the values
underlying historic choices.

Cultural Change

EDSITEment lesson. Political developments leave a clear trace in the life of
a nation, usually marked by legislative mileposts like the Fourteenth
Amendment, which dictates equal protection for all, and the Nineteenth
Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. But such developments
have a cultural dimension as well, often evident in the attitudes and
assumptions implicit in political arguments.

Socrates and the Law

EDSITEment lesson. Eight lessons on the themes (1) To learn about
Socrates and his significance within Western civilization; (2) To analyze the
arguments on the rule of law that Socrates presents in the
Crito; (3) To
explore the claims of law on personal conscience; (4) To consider the
relationship between individual rights and the rule of law in contemporary

Evaluating Eyewitness Reports

EDSITEment lesson. Eight lessons on the goals of (1) To gain experience in
working with eyewitness accounts of historical events; (2) To explore issues
related to the evaluation of historical evidence; (3) To consider the uses of
historical evidence within different kinds of history; (4) To recognize that
historical evidence may raise questions rather than provide answers about a
past event

The Multicultural Community—My Home

ERIC lesson. In this lesson students are engaged in a study of the
multicultural character of the local community. Community resources, e.g.,
people, places, things, and events, are incorporated into the
classroom/field-based investigation.

An Approach to Teaching Religious Tolerance

ERIC lesson plan. Students will be encouraged to think about
What is truth?
and how different people can have different interpretations, traditions,
cultures, languages, and, ultimately, belief systems or religions to explain
truth. Students will examine various cultures and history to see how beliefs
can be learned. Hopefully, an awareness of the importance of
will be developed.

Looking Into The Mirror: A Survey of Racial, Cultural and/or Socio-Economic

ERIC lesson plan. The intent of this lesson is to provide various activities to
give students a deeper understanding of human relationships and of
intolerance that has existed in our society, both past and present.

The Bill of Rights Is For Us Today

ERIC lesson plan. A bill of rights is needed in a free society in order to
protect the rights of the individual from abuses by the government.
Government rarely acts against the interests of the majority, and often the
beneficiary of a specific decision is one of the minority. Yet, the entire
society benefits from the protection of minority rights. Oftentimes protecting
the minority causes great controversy, but each person benefits ultimately.
We are all a part of some minority, whether it be race, religion, economics,
political beliefs, or social beliefs. We all need our individual rights protected.

Science and Sacred Life — Kennewick Man

EDSITEment lesson. Goals: (1) To learn about the discovery of Kennewick
Man and what this ancient skeleton suggests about the earliest inhabitants
of North America; (2) To examine the controversy surrounding Native
American efforts to rebury Kennewick Man in accordance with their
traditions and federal law; (3) To explore the relationship between science
and religion as reflected in their shared concern about human origins; (4) To
gain experience in the close analysis of argument.

Freedom of Hate Speech? Investigating Hate Group Propaganda and Free
Speech on the Internet

New York Times Learning Network: This lesson encourages students to
defend or refute whether hate groups should enjoy the same right of free
speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment as individuals and groups
that promote less controversial beliefs, as well as whether or not the Internet
should censor Web sites that promote such groups.

When Students Don’t Clique: Breaking Down Group Barriers in the

New York Times Learning Network: Students examine the roles of cliques in
schools and ways in which schools can foster tolerance among diverse
groups of students. The class creates a survey addressing these issues to
be distributed among a large portion of the student body, and students
individually share their thoughts and experiences in personal reflective

Whose “Truth'' Is Out There? Examining the Historical Significance of the
“Evolution Versus Creationism'' Debate

New York Times Learning Network: In this lesson, students examine different
ways people arrive at and understand what "the truth" is, focusing particularly
on the evolution versus creationism debate that has been a "hot topic" in
education throughout the 20th century.

Interviewing of Historical Figures

Columbia Curriculum Exchange: The students will gain knowledge of
historical figures using an interviewing technique. (Might we suggest

Class Culture

Columbia Curriculum Exchange: To begin to understand people of different
cultures, students must first know how all cultures are alike and different.
There are certain things that all cultures have, whether or not they are exactly
the same. These things are called cultural universals and include such things
as religion, values, what is considered right and wrong, games, music, rites
of passage, etc.

Locke on Natural Freedom: How Man Negotiates Away His Natural

Columbia Curriculum Exchange: The relevance of this lesson is that students
are asked to recognize that our legal-political system has developed through
a process of moving from philosophical ideals to compromised working

A Question of Ethics

Columbia Curriculum Exchange: a unit of instruction that helps students to
understand the term ethics, learn what ethical questions are, and develop a
self-checking ethics guide.

Forming a Government

Columbia Curriculum Exchange: The formation of a government, and the
development of laws, is a concept taught from the beginning to the end of
school. The lesson helps students understanding of governmental systems,
the laws they create and the punishments assigned for the violation of those
laws. Through the use of a cooperative learning activity the students will
develop their own government, author laws, and designate the consequence
for the violation of those laws. Will atheists be allowed?

Creating a Bill of Rights

Columbia Education Center. Students are asked to write a Bill of Rights for
a new democratic country. This activity is designed to show students the
problems faced by the Founding Fathers. This activity should be conducted
as an introduction to the study of the creation of the Bill of Rights.

Teaching About Religion
in support of civic pluralism