Students from Gymnasium Bammental and Theodor-Heuss Gesamtschule from Sinsheim, Germany experience interreligious encounter learning in Bammental, Germany.

On June 15, 2023, the Gymnasium Bammental, a secondary school close to Heidelberg, Germany,  held an encounter day based on interreligious encounter learning with students from the Theodor-Heuss-Gesamtschule of Sinsheim, Germany. For over four hours, roughly 100 seventh and eighth graders discussed “growing up” from different perspectives. These perspectives were based on four school subjects:  Catholic, Islamic, and Protestant religion and ethics. 

After the principal of Gymnasium Bammental, Dr. Benedikt Mancini, welcomed the participants, the classes briefly introduced themselves. Then the pupils participated in a warm-up activity. They were asked to line up according to their responses to various questions. For example, they were asked whether they valued their class on religion or were curious about the encounter day. Just these questions stirred up the teenagers. Afterwards, ten students from each participating subject formed small groups or `families.´ There were 14 groups in total. By explaining their hobbies to their 'family', the pupils from different schools and classes got to know each other. With the guidance of their teachers and five students from the Heidelberg University of Education, they visited stations. Some stations had even been created by the participating students. At each station, students presented the topic from their subject´s perspective and invited their group members to discuss it. The groups rotated between stations every 30 minutes. Some stations were only focused on encouraging socializing. Other stations were focused on specific topics such as 'our role models', `my ideal world', 'sayings from philosophy and religion', 'discussion time using question prompts', or 'guessing terms through charades'. The station 'Abraham's Oasis' was especially relaxing. Here, the participants could enjoy refreshments, chat and design multilingual greeting cards. In the end, the 14  groups came together and gave feedback on the encounter day. All groups praised the encounter day. The only critique point referred to the station 'Abraham's Oasis.' According to the two groups assigned to this station at the beginning and end, this station would have been much better in the middle of the day. 

To underline to the participants that everyday people are colourful ´families´ and that all of humanity is connected, a colourful web was created with yarn in the schoolyard. We are all one big family.

All teachers were impressed by the positive atmosphere among the participants, since most didn´t know each other before the encounter day. Cordula Dörfer, the teacher of the Catholic religion and project organiser, received high praise. The effort of such an encounter day was worthwhile. According to participating teachers, activities that get students discussing fundamental issues should occur more often while they are in school. These teachers will soon reflect on their encounters with their classes. This final reflection is an essential component of the underlying concept developed by Katja Boehme, a professor of religious education in Heidelberg, Germany. This step aims to ensure that the pupils remember the encounter of different world views long term.

Project examples: (Eight graders at the Jewish Community Centre in Mannheim, Germany experiencing encounter learning during a school project in 2015) (Fifth and sixth graders at Jewish Community Centre in Mannheim, Germany class experiencing encounter learning in 2013)