One of the highlights of Schechter Boston’s Grade 6 social studies curriculum is a unit on comparative religions that focuses on, “How are Judaism, Christianity and Islam similar and different?” Students first learned about the common origin story of those three religions and also explored shared characteristics of all religions (e.g. sacred text, holy days, belief in a higher power, instructions for humans about how to act), a lesson derived from Facing History & Ourselves. 

“This is an important unit because it is just the beginning of our discussion about how, in order to understand people in the past and present, it is important to learn from a variety of sources and perspectives, rather than relying on any ‘single story,’ as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses in her TedTalk,” says Jenn Curren, the sixth grade social studies teacher and the social studies co-curriculum coordinator. “I think it helps students to empathize with people who are very different from themselves because they first get to consider the limited story that others may have about Jews and how that can lead to stereotypes and discrimination.”

Toward the end of the unit, the students ventured to three local places of worship in Wayland: Congregation Or Atid, St. Ann’s Church and the Islamic Center of Boston. At each location, students observed the physical spaces, spoke with clergy or volunteers and recorded notes.

“It was a pleasure meeting you on Monday morning. Your class was fantastic and well-prepared,” Deacon Geoff Higgins wrote to Curren. “If your stop at Good Shepherd Parish was an indicator, your field trip must have been a great success.”

The final phase of the unit was to write an analytical paragraph reflecting on their research question, which cited the sources they gathered both in class and on the field trip. 

“Although there are three Abrahamic religions, all differing in their own ways, they actually are super similar,” Noam wrote. “People should learn from differences, not reject them. That is how we will get together, communicate with others, live together, create community together, make friends together, and how we will make the world a better place with each other.”

“Even if we don’t share religion, we can still connect with the similarities and therefore connect our lives,” Zev wrote. “These connections would stop fights between these religions by making people realize that all the religions are really quite similar.”

Overall, students noticed that sharing some sacred texts can lead Jews and Christians to learn some similar moral lessons; they noted that Judaism and Islam both have dietary laws, and they recognized that there were holidays across the religions that involved fasting or personal sacrifice. Students concluded that different religions reflected a similar set of values around making sacrifices to improve oneself and show devotion to God.

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