This last week has been very busy for our undergraduate students, who have benefitted from meeting and engaging with local faith communities.
Year 2 Ethnography students are currently engaged in their own fieldwork projects, exploring a range of topics including witchcraft, perspectives on the after life in a care home, life in a convent, challenges and controversies in contemporary religion, digital ethnography, as well as engaging with Paganism, Christianity, Sikhism and Islam. The principle of the module is to allow students to go out and find out more about how living religion is experienced as part of every day life.
Year 2 Judaism students and their module tutor, Dr Chris Greenough, visited Southport and District Reform Synagogue on Wednesday 7th November. They received a very warm welcome from the team there, especially Selwyn and Anne who gave an informative talk about the Jewish way of life and particularly the differences between the Orthodox and Reform movements. On Tuesday 13th November, the same group of students visited Southport Orthodox synagogue, where they were able to consolidate their subject knowledge about Jewish worship practices and the design of a synagogue.
Year 3 students, with Maggie Webster, were welcomed by Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Preston to mark the celebration of Diwali and new year.
Our Year 1 Undergraduates visited a Primary school recently to deliver a day on Diwali as part of their Hindu Dharma Unit. Here is what one of them, Amy, wrote about the experience:
The day started with meeting in the staff room to make sure that we had everything ready and organized for the day and from there led into the school hall with a stage.
We then rehearsed the play of Diwali that we had been practicing in class for about half an hour. Soon after the pupils came in we preformed our play which taught the pupils about where the festival Diwali came from and why Hindu’s celebrate it. The play went smoothly and the pupils had engaged in the play by saying things such as ‘boo’ and ‘aww’, they laughed along as well, showing that they were happy and engaged in the play and clearly took things away with them. This was a great experience that I and the pupils really enjoyed.
Later on after wet play, which is when the weather is to bad to go out for play time, I helped them to clean up the classroom before we started the lesson. The lesson which had been planned by me and Hailey was about Brahman the one Hindu God and the festivals in which Hindu people celebrate their God. The lesson started by giving the students a piece of A5 paper and told them to write the most important thing in the world to them, then they screwed it up like a snowball and threw it to the front to us.
We then read it out loud and discussed what they had written, and said our most important thing to us. We then went through the Trimurti of Brahman; Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. We then gave the pupils a body template on which they had to create their own Hindu God, what they would be like as a Hindu God. Most of the things that the pupils drew, included things such as a clown as they wanted to make many people laugh and happy all over the world, some of them were the peace keepers which they told me they had based on Vishnu and other people were God’s that made it so that there was a disco everyday. The pupils had a good laugh and we were able to properly interact with the pupils, find out more about them. They then presented their own to the class if they wanted to, which most of them did. We then went through the festivals which celebrate the God’s and then related them to their own Gods that they have previously created. we then did a fill the gaps plenary where the children answered the questions that related to the whole lesson that helped us to understand what they struggled with and what they were good at. When we showed the children a video that was a nursery rhyme for Diwali that had been translated into English. The pupils really enjoyed the short video as a treat at the end of their lesson.
The lesson seemed to go much smoothly than expected with Primary school children, the only hard bit was getting the video to work after a bit. I really enjoyed the experience, however I definitely realized that secondary school is for me and not primary, however I enjoyed teaching Hinduism so much and can’t wait to teach it more in the future.
It has now become a tradition for Year 1 Edge Hill University undergraduate students who are studying teaching and RE to visit Blackbrook St Mary’s Primary School.
Again this year we were asked to visit and perform the story of Diwali. We had prepared the week before learning our lines and setting up the props that we needed, however I was still very nervous as this was the first time I have ever been involved in any sort of play production. I was playing the brother called Lakshmi and even though I didn’t have any lines I was still an important role within the play. In my opinion I thought the production went very well the children enjoyed themselves and were really interacting with ourselves by booing and cheering the other characters on the stage. The week before this play when we first began rehearsing I knew very little about the story and celebrations of Diwali, however now I am very confident when telling the story and moreover I enjoy talking and telling the story.
The second stage of the morning, we spilt off into our own small groups of two or three and headed into the classroom for the first time. I have to admit that I was looking forward more to this part than the play. I entered a year three classroom where the pupils were brilliantly behaved and really reacted well to the starter and plenary we had previously planned. For the starter we handed around a hat with various questions in it and when they pulled the question out of the hat they would have to try and answer it. The children were then involved in a carousel of art and craft activities linked to the Diwali story. For the plenary which I created, there were various images that I uploaded, the children had the opportunity to guess if they didn’t know or if they did know to put their hands up and provide me with their answer.
Finally after playtime (for the pupils – not us!) we were given a tour of the school by the Headteacher. She was able to explain some of the philosophy behind the school’s approach to educating their children – including the outside classrooms, lots of play-based learning and phonics.
I felt that the whole visit: the assembly, classroom exercise and tour went extremely well and gave me confidence that I will be able to carry with me through to my placement next year.
At Edge Hill University we believe that to really begin to understand a Religion it is vital that we visit religious communities and meet with devotees. In this academic year for the Hindu Dharma module this began on Monday 4th of November when the Year One Undergraduate RE group attended Diwali celebrations at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Preston.
The Mandir was beautifully decorated and the offerings pictured below were truly remarkable. Once seated no one could tell that the Mandir was in fact an old factory !
The hospitality and welcome we were given was also tremendous and very humbling, especially for me as I was treated like a VIP and included in the Garlanding ceremony . For all of us it was great to join in the Festival of Lights and to feel part of a living, vibrant Hindu Community.
In December we visited the Gujarati Hindu Mandir in Preston which is the second largest purpose built Mandir in the UK. Once again we were made very welcome and we were able to ask the ever patient Mr Patel questions about the practicalities of following Hindu Dharma in Britain.
To round off the module, we invited my neighbours Karmesh and Saguntha Pulya to share their beliefs and understanding of Sanata Dharma. Karmesh and Saguntha have become regulars at Edge Hill over the last four years and once again help in our understanding of Hindu Dharma as a living faith. Saguntha sets up a shrine and sings to Ganesh as she performs Puja, I for one always find this very moving is very moving.
Another regular feature of their visit is that Saguntha draws Rangoli patterns using rice flour. Previous attempts by yours truly have always proved disastrous but this year one of the trainees, Sarah managed to impress Saguntha with her artistic abilities!