Editor’s note: Like many hundreds of members of the Ottawa jamat, I enjoyed the recent Encounters Showcase held at the Ottawa Jamatkhana, and I am grateful to the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) for preparing this special write-up for readers of this website. We invite Bait ul-Ilm (BUI) Centres around the world to submit their exciting and innovative projects and stories for publication on this website.
Ottawa BUI Encounters Showcase
BY NAWAAZ MAKHANI AND RABIA KARA
Please click on photos for enlargement
The 2014-2015 Bait ul-Ilm (BUI) Encounters program in Ottawa offered grade 7-12 students high-quality Religious Education experiences both in the classroom and outside. The work of BUI Encounters teachers is guided by the vision of the Institute of Ismaili Studies’ (IIS) Secondary Curriculum:
“The Curriculum adopts an approach to the study of Islam based on humanistic, civilisational and normative perspectives. It seeks to acquaint secondary students with the diverse and dynamic interplay of Islamic expressions – religious, social, cultural and material – that manifest themselves in Muslim societies of the past and present day.”
Some of the highlights during the year included an overnight sleepover with a focus on expression through painting, a ‘Model Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)’ simulation activity with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada Headquarters, housed in the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive in Ottawa, and Luminate 2015, a weekend camping experience in collaboration with the Duke of Edinburgh Award. The experiences and learning were shared with the Jamat in a Showcase, where students identified themes from the Institute’s Ethical Pathways to Human Development (EPHD) curriculum and shared their reflections and learning in a unique and collaborative form.
Students were asked to create an interactive Showcase for the Jamat to learn about their journey this past year. They collaboratively identified themes believed to express their experience and learning over the year, and chose pieces that would clearly help others understand their newly gained perspectives. The pieces chosen for the display included student reflections from the year, art work, pictures of field trips and/or camp, student classroom work, as well as excerpts from the EPHD curriculum.
“Religion is not viewed as a detached and compartmentalized phenomenon in history and society, but rather in terms of its multifaceted connections with various dimensions of human experience.” 
Sharing of knowledge is an important ethic in Islam, and for students, this allowed them to share in a creative and unique platform. By allowing student voice and agency to showcase their learning from the 2014/2015 BUI Encounters year, the students were able to reflect on their experiences as an end of the year activity and the community was in turn exposed to the program and appreciated the value of Religious Education as part of the development of the student.
The result was a BUI Encounters Showcase created and designed by students who approached the initiative with an enthusiasm and energy that reflected their positive experiences this past year. The Showcase was beautifully set up and displayed in the Ottawa Jamatkhana for one week in June. During that week it was on display, an overwhelming amount of supportive feedback was received from the community both in person and in the guestbook. Some highlights from the comments are below:
“So very impressed with the way this is presented but mostly with the content and diversity and depth of the messages!”
“Our brain is like a universe the more we put in it the more it will expand…The brain never gets full. So keep up the good work BUI and the teachers to educate our future leaders! We are very proud of you!”
“Congratulations to every single member of the BUI team. It is wonderful to conceptualize the brand of AKDN and other Imamat Institutions right at the youngest stage of Ismaili kids. Well done!”
“Way to go to get kids educated in our history, values and ethics. Great job”
“Congratulations! Great display and wonderful to see students express their thoughts on din and duniya (faith and world) intertwined, this is something that Mawlana Hazar Imam has mentioned many times. A lot of their reflections included ethics and values in Islam, another notion that Mawlana Hazar Imam talks about many times!”
As the inspiration of the IIS Secondary Curriculum encourages “students to analyze their own contemporary situations and to reflect on the social and ethical challenges of an increasingly plural world”, they must also be given opportunities to actively share their voice as our future generation. Experiences like the recent BUI Encounters Showcase are valuable in building and strengthening relationships between students, parents and the community, as well as to provide a stepping stone for continued collaboration and sharing of knowledge.
Date posted: July 22, 2015.
Last updated: July 27, 2015 (typo).
About the authors: Nawaaz Makhani and Rabia Kara are BUI Encounters Teachers in Ottawa. Both have graduated from the IIS Secondary Teacher Education Program, in 2010 and 2014 respectively.
 Please click http://www.iis.ac.uk/graduate-studies/iis-secondary-curriculum
We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters. Please visit the Simerg Home page for links to articles posted most recently. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click Table of Contents.