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Religious Freedom and Diversity with Maps101

Posted on September 19 2021

Religious Freedom and Diversity with Maps101

Dear Educators,

One of the founding principles of the United States is the freedom to practice religion. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our nation’s third president, said, “[A]ll men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” In other words, Jefferson did not believe that differences in religion should affect a citizen’s right to engage in civic duties, including voting and serving the country politically or in the military. It is fitting, then, at the founding of a new school year, that Maps101 take a look at a diversity of religions this week. With the school year beginning, students especially benefit from the support that a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) provides, as they meet new students who may come from all over the globe and as new students may meet Americans for the first time. 

Field Trip Library

Students may not realize that the word holiday is a mix of Old English terms that meant holy and day. Thus, holidays were originally days of religious celebration or reverence. Not all of the holidays in the Field Trip are of a religious nature, but it is a fun introduction for the start of the year and something to refer to as the year progresses. Field Trips include images, and a corresponding map with text, that take students on a virtual tour of the topic. They are ideal when presented on the whiteboard or used on tablets.

Geography News Network

Our next stop on our DEI tour of religions in the world should be Jerusalem—a city with special value and meaning to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This article explains the role Jerusalem has played in all of these faiths. It is an important, sacred place for many. Use the questions at the end of the article to prompt further discussion.


While Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are three of the largest religions in the world, there are many others. This map shows where different religions are practiced, worldwide.

Lesson Map

Now let’s look toward Asia and focus on Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddha was a Hindu. Thus, Hinduism is the older of these two religions that have helped shaped parts of the world, especially in Asia. This Lesson Map fully explores both religions to help expand students’ understanding of these major world religions.


We also have a Teacher Wraparound Edition of this Lesson Map with numerous activities and suggestions for teaching the topic, including leveling for different learners.


These are only a few of the examples of content related to the world’s religions that you have access to with your Maps101 subscription. There are National Geographic videos on Angkor Wat, Japan, and Buddhist Monks. There are GNN articles to read on topics like Ramadan, Diwali, sacred spaces, and more. And of course, we have maps! Maps101 is committed to ensuring that your students understand their world and the world of others. With globalization and instant access on the internet, supporting DEI is more important than ever for unity and growth, together.


DEI Activities

Identifying Details List on the board the religions discussed in this GeoJournal (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism), and any additional religions on the World Religions map, depending on the grade range. Then, go through the list, and have students raise their hand each time you name a religion they have heard of. Provide a count for each of the religions listed, to have a record of how many students have heard of each one. Explain that each religion on the list should have at least 5 accompanying details about it. You may want to increase or decrease this amount, based on the grade level. Ask students to brainstorm suggestions or research to fill out details for the list. Verify or correct their details if they are incorrect, biased, or stereotypes. Model inclusivity for students through this exercise by including all major world religions on your classroom list of world religions and treating each with equal respect. 

Theorizing Project the World Religions map on the board. Have volunteers identify where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are predominant. Have other volunteers point out where Hinduism and Buddhism are practiced. Have students notice that the locations are all over the world, indicating that religious practice is nearly universal. Ask students to theorize the reasons people are religious, if appropriate in your classroom to do so. You may want to explain that people all over the world have sought religion to address deep, spiritual, and moral questions humans have about the meaning of life, death, and one’s purpose, among many other questions. Encourage inclusive, open-minded, active classroom discussion about the value and purpose of religion to many people. Some students may not be religious. Allow them to explain their points of view too, as much as they are willing. Treat all points of view with fairness, or equity.

Comparing and Contrasting Have students compare and contrast two different religions. Allow students to be creative in how they choose to communicate what they have learned. They may want to make a comic, for example, or a play with two characters, one from each religion of their choice, discussing the similarities and differences. Others may want to create a slideshow with illustrations. Because religious differences can be a challenging topic, it is especially fitting to allow students to be more playful and lighter with their results, to encourage full participation and balance the heaviness of the topic. Students can use any of the Maps101 resources as reference material. Or they may want to conduct further research. 

High-quality geography products for the classroom. From globes to wall maps, atlases to games, offers a wealth of products to help put your classroom on the map.
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