Professor Suzanne Jacobs teaches a class to help students become more religiously literate and aware of the variety of religions by how they affect their world and community. She says that there is more diversity in Salt Lake proper and urban areas then people would think, and that is one reason why she conducts field trips.
Salt Lake Community College’s humanities 2300 introduces students to the major world religions. Students not only learn about a variety of faiths in a classroom setting, they also experience them through field trips.
“Studying different religions helps you to understand all the cultures and the people because religion is a lot of culture,” says SLCC Student Naci DeKeyrel. “It helps you to understand [the people].”
Field trips are held at the end of each unit. In these outings, students are encouraged to attend and review a religious service of a religion they studied. This summer the students went to the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple, Urgyen Samten Ling Gonpa (Buddhism), Congregations of Koi Ami (Judaism), Cathedral of the Madeleine (Christianity) and Khadeeja Masjid (Islam).
“Field trips are great, the Buddhist one was very colorful,” said DeKeyrel. “I do have a cousin who is Jewish and was converted. Just to see her services and what she does was very interesting.”
Not only do students gain firsthand experience with what they have been learning about in the classroom, they also have a chance to speak with members of the congregation and learn from practitioners of the religion.
Jacobs says that the major purposes of the field trips are to have the students become aware that there is diversity in our community and experience another dimension that is more visible and experiential to that religion.
“I think that religion is something that evolves and develops, grows and never stays the same and it’s hard to get that idea from reading about it and talking about it,” said Jacobs. “So, actually observing and seeing it and participating, at whatever extent someone wants to participate, is a way to understand that religion is living it’s not something that is dead.”
This class is not intended to convert anyone to a particular religion. The whole purpose is to open students’ minds to the idea of how religion affects our own communities and motivates the people who live it.
“I like to do the field trips,” says Jacobs. “It broadens our minds and forces us to be more aware, to be more open to the beliefs and practices of others. It’s easy to judge or condemn or say that we appreciate another religion without having to experience it, but once you experience that, you’re kind of forced to the idea that this is real. People really do this and what do I think of it.”
As our culture becomes more global, and more people interact with other countries and ethnicities, religious awareness becomes increasingly important. Religion is often a primary motivator for the way people think and behave.
“I think that if people understood they wouldn’t be so afraid of faith. It helps you to get along and helps the world to be a better place,” said DeKeyrel. “I think that if people understood other cultures, other faiths, other religions it would help everyone get along a little better.”