The 'Story Tent' uses a form of inter-faith dialogue called Scriptural Reasoning as its basis. Scriptural Reasoning works by engaging participants with the texts at the heart of each faith tradition, allowing them to share and explore thoughts and ideas together. Discover more about Scriptural Reasoning here.
At the start of Tuesday 12th April, a Church of England village school in Warwickshire was full of excited pupils, teachers and faith representatives, ready to put up the Story Tent and start sharing stories.
The aim of the day was to discover and explore stories from different sacred texts; to ask questions and develop a deeper understanding of people from different faith traditions and to build friendships that break down misconceptions and prejudice. Tracey, the religious education teacher at the school was particularly keen to inspire and encourage the children to realise that faith is not just a theoretical idea. It is a reality for people across the world - a reality with which they can all connect. On this occasion the whole of Key Stage Two entered the Story Tent, involving more than one hundred pupils and four class teachers, working together with nine faith representatives from the Christian, Muslim and Sikh traditions.
The “Story Tent” RE themed day
The day started off with an assembly in the hall. The children found out about important attitudes needed to explore different faiths and beliefs; the attitudes of respect, openness and curiosity – “attitudes that ROC.” The team of faith representatives were then able to introduce themselves and their sacred texts, giving a brief introduction to the Bible, the Qur’an and the Guru Granth Sahib.
Each class then returned to their classrooms and, with the help of the team, were able to ask questions and discover as much as they could about the story allocated to each class. Years Six and Four looked at the story of how the world began, Year Five studied the story of Noah and Year Three considered parables. At the end of the morning the children used drama to present what they had discovered to the rest of their class in the safe space of the Story Tent – the place of meeting. This part of the experience was really helpful in embedding the learning. One pupil put it well when she said:
“I enjoyed doing the play because using the text was quite hard, especially the Sikh one. So I read it, I asked lots of questions and then doing it made it a hundred times easier to understand.” (Pupil)
Through drama, games, quizzes and art work the children explored similarities and differences between stories of different faith traditions and came to a deeper understanding of the reality of what it means to be a person of faith.
At the end of the day there was a whole school gathering in the hall. Each class was able to share what they had learnt and ask the faith representatives any remaining unanswered questions. The day ended on a high note with everyone keen to find out more and take the work further.
Thoughts and Reflections
The pupils and adults were given the opportunity to reflect on what they wanted to take away from the event. What things had they learnt? What things could be improved upon? Had the day changed them in any way? Interestingly, and to my surprise, I found that the adults and pupils were saying similar things.
The first aim of Scriptural Reasoning is not consensus: the emphasis is rather on understanding another perspective. I felt encouraged by the following responses:
“Because I’m a Christian, I felt quite excited because I was going to find out about someone else’s perspectives and what people believed in a different religion.” (Pupil)
“Through learning more about Muslims and getting in contact with a real person it has made me reflect on how I look at them. Trying to understand them requires going into a deeper dialogue and challenging our preconceptions, and that’s what’s happened to me.” (Faith Representative)
The second principle behind Scriptural Reasoning is that in understanding another you understand yourself more fully. I felt encouraged by the following responses:
“The last time you came I looked at Christianity and looked deeper into my own faith. This time I worked on the Sikh story and I could understand what they were thinking and how strong it is in them and it helps me to understand how strong I can be in my faith.” (Pupil)
“In terms of my personal growth, I have re-discovered unique and complex aspects of my faith, and I have been inspired to grapple with these issues once again.” (Faith Representative)
Thirdly, quality time spent talking with people from other faith backgrounds breaks down misunderstanding and prejudice and deepens friendships.
“I am very excited at the prospect of welcoming into school more representatives of different faiths, but personally would like to continue to keep in contact with the different people of faith that I met.” (Adult)
“The way she spoke engaged you. You couldn’t stop looking and learning more. I want to remember everything because it has all been a new learning experience.” (Pupil)
At the end of the day there was a real desire to develop and to build on the success of the project. I believe that children in primary schools are able to use Scriptural Reasoning principles to discover and understand faith from different perspectives and to cope with the concepts presented. What is more, I believe it is not only the children who are growing and developing through the experience but the adults as well. I will end with a quote which I believe summarises the success of the day:
“The opportunity to talk in a relaxed way and share this storytelling experience with someone of another faith was liberating. This exercise offered a safe and constructive way of exploring different faith positions that does not often arise in the course of everyday life.” (Faith Representative)
The Story Tent is part of an ongoing research project based at Warwick University in the Warwick Religious Education Research Unit. For more information contact Anne Moseley at A.Moseley@warwick.ac.uk.