I teach RE in a two-form entry Church of England primary school in a small town situated between Liverpool and Manchester in the borough of St Helens in Merseyside. Approximately 97% of the 420 children in our school are white British.
I noticed that the year 2 children I taught, whilst interested in learning about faiths other than Christianity, had few, if any, experience of mixing with other faith or cultural groups and had many misconceptions, seeming to perceive Muslim children as ‘foreign’ and very different from them. My aim for the project was for our children to understand that there are many British Muslims born and educated in the UK just like them, and to provide them with a deeper understanding of Islam.
The use of a persona doll seemed the way to address the children’s misconceptions in an engaging manner while exploring key aspects of Islam. I chose a female doll called Jamila, gave her a character and a back-story and over a period of six weeks, saw a vast change in the children’s beliefs, attitudes and knowledge. The children now feel as if they know and can relate to Jamila as though she were ‘an actual person’ and through her, they have changed their perceptions and learnt about the Muslim faith in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
The project has also allowed me to form close links with the local Muslim community, which I hope to build on in future with the children.