World Religions Week 2018 at The Emery/Weiner School
One aspect of Emery’s core values and curriculum that sets the school apart from others around Houston is the idea of experiential learning. Emery takes a period of time throughout the school year to put students in an educational platform that is different than the desk, pen and paper environment. Every year, students from freshmen, sophomore, and junior year embark on winter trips where they engage in team building activities and outdoor projects. Senior year takes a slightly divergent path. The traditional winter time adventure for the senior class is known as World Religions Week. For five days, the students are immersed in the culture, rituals, and spiritual beliefs of many different religions.
The week commenced with learning about Hinduism where students visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston. Students were engaged in the history of the religion in addition to sitting in a live service. Jillian Greenberg commented, “I thought the Hindu temple was beautiful, and I loved learning about their culture through sitting in on a service.”
Next, Emery students learned about Christianity, the world’s largest religion. During the visits to the Christ Church Cathedral and Episcopal Church, each student learned about the various branches of Christianity and had an interactive discussion with the priest, furthering their knowledge on the religion. Michael Kaplan recalled, “It was interesting going to the Episcopalian Church because the priest had such an interesting story, and you can tell he has a deep connection to Christianity.”
When studying Buddhism, students meditated on a grassy field by the Rothko Chapel as well as engaged with a speaker, Justin Kelley, who told the story of how his life led to him becoming a Buddhist Monk. Netanya Ronn stated, “I loved meditating as a class, and it was truly relaxing.” That afternoon was then spent at a mosque listening to a Muslim speaker on the rituals and beliefs of Islam.
After visiting the Live Oak Friends Meeting, students gained more knowledge on the Quaker traditions. Jacob Dmitrovsky exclaimed, “I relished my experience within the Quaker house because it allowed me to gain insight into a form of religion that was very different from mine.” The students had a meaningful Q&A and then appreciated their time in the facilities and beautiful outside area.
The day ended at The Sikh Center Gurdwara where students delighted in refreshments and learned about the Sikh culture, seeing their holy building being remodeled. Brooke Markowitz emphasized, “I learned so much about Sikhism and was able to relate their religion to my personal morals. It was an amazing experience that I will remember forever.” In addition to the delicious food, students were able to bring Emery’s core value of community service into play and packaged hygiene kits for the less fortunate.
This week represented worlds colliding in addition to a truly unique educational opportunity. Learning about the diversity of religions is extremely important and helpful for high school seniors. Next year when students go to college, they will be able to actively participate in religious conversations. Many Emery students were raised to practice Jewish customs; this week was dissimilar because we learned about various religious rituals without being told to follow them.
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