When Rachel Marcus received the Epson DC-06 Document Camera through DonorsChoose.org, she planned on using it to expand her students’ horizons. Even though her classes at Prairie Middle School in Aurora, Colorado contain a heavily diverse population of students from across the globe, including Thailand, Eastern Europe, Libya and Mexico, many of them haven’t lived in their home countries for any length of time.
“One of my main goals is to open the kids’ minds to all these other cultures, countries, traditions and ways of life out there, and to teach tolerance,” she explains. “One of the ways I do this is by teaching a World Religion unit.”
Mrs. Marcus uses the World Religion unit in combination with coursework exploring the geography, history and culture of other countries. By bringing a religious leader from five major world religions into the classroom, Mrs. Marcus gives her students a hands-on learning experience that they can’t get from a textbook. Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam are all represented throughout the unit, via an imam, a rabbi, a monk, a priest and a guru.
“From a Koran to a prayer rug to the rabbi’s mezuzah, some of these objects are familiar to the students, depending on their background,” says Mrs. Marcus. “But to most of them, these things are totally new—they’ve never seen them before nor pronounce the name.” With each artifact comes an assignment. The students are to draw the artifact, write a caption and explain what it is and how it relates to the religion.
“The document camera allowed 30 kids to easily see each artifact that each of the leaders brought with them, without crowding around them.” Religious objects can be fragile, antique or sacred, and the document camera provides a way for every child to see it close up—without passing a treasured object around the class.
“I find that having a religious leader talk about their belief systems enables the students to break down some misconceptions they may have about people in other countries and their religions,” explains Mrs. Marcus. “The students learn more quickly with the document camera because it keeps them engaged and interested. And that makes my job so much easier.”