Religious Diversity Journeys Continues completely virtually, reaching hundreds of Detroit-Area Seventh Graders for 2020-2021 school year

For nearly 20 years, RDJ has served as a unique experience for thousands of students and adults in Metropolitan Detroit. There is no other program that brings students from multiple communities together to educate young teenagers during a school day and within the context of Michigan’s statewide 7th grade Social Studies curriculum

In prepandemic times, RDJ was comprised of six field trips over six months. RDJ participants visited different faith communities and were introduced to a particular faith’s common terms, art, famous figures, holiday descriptions, origin history, prayer and ritual. Students also learned about the historical and contemporary sociology of SouthEast Michigan’s faith and cultural landscapes, practiced civil discourse and civic bridge building skills through peer to peer engagement with diverse student communities.

Pandemic Shift

Due to the pandemic, RDJ’s diversity literacy curriculum is online this year. Remote Journeys are designed to offer engaging enrichment and meaningful activities representing the most important big concepts and essential elements of the RDJ experience. RDJ’s 2020-2021 curriculum is content rich, engaging and solidly rooted in SouthEast Michigan’s diverse faith communities. This year, these “roots” have found a home on the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit website on password-protected pages designed to support this year’s unique needs.

Educational resources for each of RDJ’s five faiths will be presented as “clickable” modules. Enrolled teachers and students are issued a username/password that will allow for unlimited 24/7 access to all appropriate RDJ pages. Remote Journey resources are designed to work well as asynchronous enrichment. Also, a teacher can assign different modules as homework or classwork. This flexibility will allow teachers to direct students to RDJ remote Journey material in a way that supports every classroom community’s unique nature.

RDJ’s Sikhism Journey curriculum began in November. The Hinduism Journey will be available December 1st, Judaism in January 2021, Christianity in February and Islam in March. Remote Journeys will conclude in April with Journey resources from RDJ partners at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Holocaust Memorial Center.

Students will be encouraged to begin their Journey with each faith by clicking a module called “Test Your Knowledge”. This simple pre-assessment is a great way for students to begin thinking about what they might learn about each faith. Then, by following each clickable tile in the order presented, students will “journey” through a series of educational resources that will provide a foundation of basic information on each faith. Tiles further down from the top row offer additional experiences to extend a student’s learning, and then students are encouraged to conclude their Journey with a post-test that offers the prize of a randomly drawn amazon gift card!

What Will Students Experience and Learn on Remote Journeys? Students will learn about similarities in values and ethics that unite individuals of different faiths and will explore diverse cultural traditions that enrich our broader community. Through recorded visits to the local RDJ host communities, barriers of seeing those we do not know so well as “other” will begin to fall.

Each month RDJ will also host Zoom Q & A sessions with local clergy. Zoom Q & A experiences are an aspect of RDJ remote programming where we have already seen success.

Spring 2020’s online RDJ programing called “RDJ Anywhere” used Zoom sessions with local clergy to offer an immediate resource in crisis conditions. Zoom RDJ sessions were held in April and May 2020 and attracted hundreds of students, teachers and parents. Program feedback included participant comments including “I liked that it filled me with a lot of information, even without actually being on a physical field trip.”, “Even though we can’t be together, we can still learn new things.” and “As a parent, I am glad this opportunity was offered for the kids. We loved the real field trips, and I’m appreciative that the kids can at least do them virtually now.” We are excited to continue these engaging sessions through the 2020-2021 year.

What About In-person Journeys? We are committed to returning to in-person Journey field trips when conditions allow.

I Have Another Question – Who Do I Ask? RDJ Director Wendy Miller Gamer is at your service for all-things RDJ!