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A Journey Beyond Textbooks: Students Immerse Themselves in Buddhism

Grade 11 students recently participated in an experiential education opportunity to broaden their knowledge and first-hand experience of Buddhism as part of their World Religions course.

“Ideally, for one to study religions of the world, one needs to venture out and away from a textbook and the comforts one knows,” says Cory Lance, teacher and Assistant Head of the Theology Department. “That was the philosophy of the St. Michael’s World Religions course this year.”

SMCS students inside a Buddhist temple on a World Religions trip.

Prior to the March Break, following the completion of the in-class unit, the entire cohort of Grade 11 students travelled to the Buddha Meditation Centre of Greater Toronto, located within the serene setting of the Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery.

“The goal was to expose students to Buddhism outside of the textbook and teach them Buddhist meditation techniques,” says Lance. “We also want students to know that all the religions we learn about this year are ‘living religions’ within the city we live in.”

Students spent the day augmenting their knowledge of Buddhism through hands-on experiences.

“The trip to the Buddhist temple was a great opportunity that helped me deepen my understanding of our Buddhism unit,” says Jake Brady, Grade 11. “Being able to experience new cultural practices gave me perspective on how many people around the world practice their faith, and it helped to further my knowledge in our unit of study. I always find that hands-on experiential learning helps me understand new concepts, and this trip did just that.”

The Chief Monk provided students with a lesson on the life of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, and his teachings. He then led them in a guided meditation followed by a tour of pictures and relics throughout the monastery.

SMCS students learning more about Buddhism on an experiential learning trip.

“At the Buddhist temple, we learned a lot about Buddhist culture, such as their sacred stories about the Buddha, saw some of their artwork, and worked on meditation with the monk,” says Ryan Arpin, Grade 11. “Going to the temple was really beneficial because we could see in person what we were learning about in the classroom.”

In addition to the trip to the Buddhist Temple, Grade 11 students this year also had the opportunity to learn from an Indigenous guest speaker who visited them following their Indigenous Spirituality unit. At the end of April, a Holocaust survivor is scheduled to speak with students during their Judaism unit.

SMCS students immersed in learning more about the Buddhism religion at a Buddhist temple.

“Hearing and seeing first-hand how other religions function helps students further their understanding beyond the textbook,” adds Lance. “Understanding other faiths can help students understand their own faith. These opportunities also serve to help break down walls that exist within our larger community around Toronto, Canada, and the world”.

“As an educator, it’s wonderful to see that our students are genuinely interested in learning what they don’t know about others within their community. They are not interested in living in a world where they do not understand the people around them.”

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