When I was growing up and ran across a book about world religions, I had an easy test to see how comprehensive and accurate they were: search the index for the Baha’i Faith. More often than not, it would not appear in the index, and if it did, it would be accorded a very brief and often inaccurate listing.
As the youngest of the world’s independent religions, the Bahá’í Faith is often not on people’s radar, though this is changing. When I was a kid, hardly any of my friends or teachers had heard about it before they met my family. Now most people have at least an idea – however vague – of what the religion is about, and many have a much deeper understanding because of a friend, colleague, or family member.
Yet still, when it comes to teaching kids about the Bahá’í Faith – as in a classroom or homeschool setting – most people are still at a loss about where to find good, accurate resources. So as part of the upcoming Faith Celebration on Multicultural Kid Blogs (a resource list on world religions compiled by Crafty Moms Share), I would like to share some of my favorite sources for teaching kids about this new but fascinating religion.
If you yourself don’t know much about the Bahá’í Faith, a great place to get started is the official website of the Bahá’í international community. This will give you a general overview about the history and teachings, as well as links to related websites. Older students may enjoy exploring this for themselves, or could use it to look for answers to questions you provide, such as Where did the Bahá’í Faith begin? What does it teach about the role of women? Or the importance of science?
If you have the Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions, it contains a brief but accurate entry on the Bahá’í Faith.
A really beautiful website on the life of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith is The Life of Bahá’u’lláh: A photographic narrative. It is a great visual resource to share with students that gives historical context to the early years of the Bahá’í Faith.
Another beautiful visual resource is this website on the popular Bahá’í gardens in Israel. Because Bahá’u’lláh passed away in what is now Israel during the last of his many exiles, it is now the location of many sites sacred for Bahá’ís. Wonderful gardens have been planted in the area, including one spectacular one on a formerly rocky mountainside. The gardens in Haifa are now a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular destination for tourists. Be sure to view the gorgeous photo gallery.
Often you can find Bahá’í storybooks, music, and prayer books on Amazon or even your local bookstore, though the selection varies quite a bit. I am linking here to more comprehensive sources based in the US. (There are many more based in other countries, but being here, these are the ones I am most familiar with).
The biggest source is the bookstore for the main Bahá’í publishing trust in the US. They have a wide range of materials, from curricula to storybooks, prayer books, and more. For stories of the heroes of the early years of the Bahá’í Faith I recommend Amazing Stories from the Dawn Breakers or the classic Release the Sun. I am looking forward to using this activity book with my kids. You can also find a selection of Bahá’í prayer books for children of all ages.
Another great resource is Special Ideas. They have a wide range of materials, including many low-cost items for children’s classes. I recommend the book My Name Is Nabil, which is an engaging story about a young boy that gives a great overview of the life of a Bahá’í child, including community activities and general beliefs.
If you wish to do an in-depth study, this 6 book set covers general teachings as well as history (books can also be purchased individually).
I also highly recommend this CD set from Soulrise Music. The music itself is just beautiful, and words are all from the sacred texts of the Bahá’í Faith.
Where to Find Other Class Ideas
A truly wonderful resource is the award-winning Brilliant Star magazine, which now has a really fun website with resources for parents and teachers as well as games and activities for kids. Topics include general principles as well as ideas for celebrating Bahá’í holidays.
As a blogger, of course, I can’t help but give a plug for my fellow Bahá’í mom bloggers, many of which you can find listed here. While we vary as to how much of our content focuses directly on the Bahá’í Faith, most include character-building activities and ideas to celebrate Bahá’í holidays. One of my favorites is Creative World of Varya, created by a dear friend who has many wonderful activities and crafts that are simple to recreate in your own home or classroom.
A major focus of Bahá’í communities is teaching character-building classes for children (sometimes referred to as virtues classes). In fact, if you contact your local Bahá’í community, they should be able to put you in touch with a class in your area that you could visit with your students.
One of the most popular sources for character-building classes for children 1st grade and up is the Ruhi courses. The link here is to teacher’s guides for children’s classes. (Ruhi courses are available also for tweens through adults).
Another very popular resource is the Virtues Project, which includes materials for children’s classes as well as families.
A really beautiful website created by two Bahá’í mothers is Enable Me to Grow. This has materials for teaching virtues to very young children (5 and under). I have reviewed their Radiant Hearts program previously and continue to draw on it for our current character-building classes.
Visit Your Local Bahá’í Community
A wonderful way to teach your students about the Bahá’í Faith is to visit your local Bahá’ís. Bahá’í devotional gatherings, worship services, informational meetings, children’s classes, and celebrations are all open to the public. Depending on the size of the community in your area, meetings may be held in a community center or perhaps in a home. If there is a community center, often tours are available. Those in large cities may have dedicated visitors’ centers.
You can find Bahá’ís near you by looking online or in your phone book. Often you can find a local community via the national website for your country. In the US you can visit this page or call 1-800-22-UNITE.
If you are lucky enough to live near one of the Bahá’í temples, be sure to make a field trip with your class! These are stunning buildings with public tours and ongoing events. Currently they are located in the USA (Chicago), Panama (Panama City), Chile (Santiago – under construction), Germany (Frankfurt), Uganda (Kampala), India (New Delhi), Australia (Sydney), and Samoa (Apia).
Do you have other favorite resources? Share them in the comments!
Star image courtesy of Nine-Pointed Stars.