Summer Institute on Teaching the World's Religions

Athenian School, outside San Francisco, CA
June 20th (6:00pm start) - June 24, 2011 (finish at 8:30pm)

Our popular annual Institute features instruction from university scholars and talented secondary school teachers, discussion and resource sharing with colleagues from around North America. Teachers of religions and history leave this institute with increased knowledge, new ideas for what to do in the classroom, and great lists of both resources and contacts.

This year's focus will be on Islam and Buddhism, plus much more.


Schedule (subject to change)

Monday, June 20
6:00   Dinner
6:45   Introductions
7:15 - 9:00   The Ramayana and Its Many Resources 

Tuesday, June 21 
8:00   Breakfast
9:00 - 10:15   Buddhism, Background
10:15 - 10:45   Break
10:45 - 12:00   The Growth of Buddhism
noon - 1:00   Lunch
1:00 - 4:00   Teaching Buddhism, Activities and Texts
6:00   Dinner

Wednesday, June 22
8:00   Breakfast
9:00 - 10:45   Sikhism: A Course for Life
10:45 - 12:00   Key Themes in Sikhism
12:00 - 1:00   Lunch
Evening Free

Thursday, June 23
8:00   Breakfast
9:00 - 10:15   Islamic Studies in the United States
10:15 - 10:45   Break
10:45 - 12:00   The Growth of Islamophobia
12:00 - 1:00   Lunch
1:00 - 3:30   How to Read the Qur'an (Part 1)
4:00 - 4:45   Teaching Religion: Frameworks and Focus
6:00 - 7:00   Dinner
7:30 - 8:30   Videos and Resources

Friday, June 24
8:00   Breakfast
9:00 - 3:30   How to Read the Qur'an (Part 2)
4:00 - 5:30   Beyond the Buddha's Birth 
6:00 - 7:00   Dinner
7:00 - 8:15   Resource Sharing, Evaluations

Saturday, June 25
8:00   Breakfast, Departures

note: what was originally planned for Saturday morning has been moved to Friday evening, to allow for early flight departures to the east coast. Accommodations are still set for Friday night, and breakfast for Saturday morning.



Islam with Carl Ernst, Ph.D.

During the first half of this two-day session, Professor Ernst will introduce his topic by focusing on the history of Islamic study in the United States, and look at the rise in interest in Islam across the disciplines. He will also address the issue of Islamophobia with participants, and offer strategies for dealing with this in the classroom.

During the remaining day and a half, the group will focus on teaching the Qur'an in the classroom. Participants will be the first to get a look at Ernst's forthcoming book, How to Read the Qur'an. A similar presentation six years ago was among the most popular topics participants have experienced in CSEE's World Religions Institute.

Buddhism with Jin Jr Shi

Morning session: This session will be a combination of activity, lecture, and video presentation. Introduction to Buddhism and life as a Buddhist monastic, with a focus on Mahayana Buddhism and the Bodhisattva path, including precepts and the Paramitas. 

Afternoon session: Buddhist sacred places and special concepts in Buddhism (including noself, interdependence, karma, and the transference of merit and virtue). Concepts will be interspersed with activities.

Beyond Buddha's Birth

Rainbow dakinis, mandala making, governments in exile, circumambulating Mt. Kailas, mudras, stupas, zen gardens, and a glimpse of what some refer to as "Virtual Tibet" are just a few ways my students ponder the development of Buddhism beyond the usual textbook coverage about Shakyamuni's life and his fundamental teachings. As world religion teachers, most people include the basics about Siddartha Guatamas's life and most of us have many creative ways to expose students to the four noble truths, but delving into the different Buddhist sects within the context of their regional specificity and exploring some of the primary texts of Buddhism is where the fun (for educators and students alike) really begins! Thus, during this session we will delve into some of the primary texts used by the Theravada, Mahayana, Chan/Zen and Bajrayana Buddhist traditions as we explore how to take our students a step beyond Sakyamuni's birth and his basic teachings.

The Ramayana and Its Many Resources

This session will take a closer look at how to work with themes and ideas found in Hinduism's Ramayana. Whether students are reading the text in its entirety or simply being introduced to some of the main themes of this famous epic poem through secondary sources, there are a myriad of ways and resources to make Rama come alive in the classroom! This session will explore basic Hindu concepts such as rta, karma, dharma, explore the role of Rama as a part of the hero cycle, examine Hindu cosmology as it is embedded in this text and suggest some popular culture resources (such as comic books and movies) that might provide insights about this text's usefulness and/or possible connections to units about Hinduism as they unfold in your own classroom.

Sikhism, A Course for Life

This presentation will delve into the mystical, contemplative practice of Sikhism, moving to the actively engaged social / service action. Key spiritual concepts will be covered, as well as major historical events that helped shape Sikhism, and key stories from the lives of the Gurus who have laid the framework for Sikh ethos and practice. We will also explore a Sikh Gurdwara (house of worship) and orient ourselves to their practices.

Key Themes in Sikhism

This section will cover themes such as Unceasing Prayer on God's Holy Name, Sikhism and the Environment, Science and the Mystical Experience, Women in Sikhism, Love and Sacrifice, Life and Death, Salvation, Interfaith Understanding, and other themes that participants wish to discuss.


Dr. Carl Ernst is Distinguished Professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is author of several texts, including Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World, which has won several international awards. 

Jin Jr Shi is a Mahayana Buddhist nun, originally from Malaysia. She has an MA from Stanford University, and is currently a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction at Teachers' College, Columbia University. Her special interest is on the intersection between Buddhism and education, specifically in the area of curriculum inquiry. She teaches at Developing Virtue Girls' School in Ukiah, California. 

Bridgette O'Brien teaches at the Annie Wright School in Tacoma, Washington and is working toward the completion of her dissertation in the Religion and Nature Program at the University of Florida. With an undergraduate degree in religious studies and a master's degree in comparative world religions, her research interests include how to incorporate environmental ethics and sustainability issues into secondary school curriculum, while exploring how these ideas relate to people's religious understanding of the world. 

Ralph Singh is Director of Publications and Public Relations at Gobind Sadan. To find out more about Ralph, visit his website.

Accommodations & Travel

Oakland International is the closest airport to Athenian School (about 35 minutes away). CSEE will try to arrange carpools to and from the airport. Registration price includes room and meals at the Athenian School Campus. Rooms are private with shared bathrooms.