Teaching Students About the Quakers
Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, are a unique group of Christians with a rich history and values that emphasize peace, social justice, and simplicity. Teaching students about Quakers not only offers insights into less well-known Christian traditions but also fosters understanding of broader principles such as tolerance and ethical living. In this article, we will discuss ways to introduce students to Quaker beliefs and practices and incorporate these lessons into your educational curriculum.
Start by offering a brief history of the Quakers. The movement began in England in the mid-17th century as a reaction against the established Church. George Fox, its founding figure, felt that the divine could be experienced directly by individuals without mediation by clergy or church ritual. His followers came to be known as “Quakers” due to members’ quaking during spiritual experiences.
Stressing the Importance of Peace
Central to Quakerism is the concept of peace, derived from their belief in the inherent worth of every person. They advocate nonviolence in personal relationships and committed political activism for peace and social justice.
Teach students about notable Quakers throughout history like Elizabeth Fry, a pioneering prison reformer, or John Woolman, an early advocate for abolitionism. Discuss how their Quaker beliefs drove their commitment to social justice and encourage students to examine current social issues through a similar lens.
Introduce ‘Meeting for Worship’
Another key aspect of Quaker life is the ‘Meeting for Worship,’ in which Friends gather in silent reflection waiting for divine guidance. Everyone present can contribute if they feel moved to do so. Invite a local Quaker leader or member to discuss their experience during Meeting for Worship with your students or consider visiting a local meetinghouse as a class field trip.
Quakers value simplicity – emphasizing actions rather than material possessions. Teach students about living simply, focusing on how less consumerism can lead to a more fulfilling life. Assign a project where students can practice living simply for a week by reducing possessions and focusing on activities that foster self-awareness or kindness to others.
Incorporating Quaker Values into Everyday Life
While understanding unique aspects of Quakerism is essential, it’s equally important to demonstrate how these principles apply to daily life. Peaceful conflict resolution and activism for social and environmental issues are areas where Quaker values shine, even for those who do not identify with the faith. Encourage students to apply these concepts in their everyday lives to promote empathy and understanding.