9th Grade – Art & Religion

Ninth Grade Art, Religion and Philosophy examines world cultures, specifically that of Australia, Mexico, South Africa, and China. Our goal throughout the year is to gain an understanding of the cultures we are studying through exploring their arts, religions and their philosophies. The class spends the year looking at how cultures developed from animism to an urban environment by exploring the beliefs of that particular culture, and how colonialism & globalism impact each region. In addition, students will use critical thinking skills to translate their thinking into writing across a wide variety of disciplines, by examining what a particular culture’s arts are, how art is developed and understood within that culture, and how those cultures developed their beliefs. In Australia we look at Aboriginal Dreamtime after which students will do a project based on Song-lines and creating their own version of Aboriginal Art. In Mexico students learn about the intricate Sun Stone and the cosmology behind it. Students will be taught about what happens when two cultures synthesize and how both cultures try to preserve their own culture while changing and adapting at the same time. With Africa, students learn about the diverse religions of the region, while doing a case study on the end of Apartheid and how music aided in its abolishment. Lastly we end with China, where we study its most important philosophies of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. We end with students learning to brush paint and do Tai Chi.

Unit 1: An Interdependent and Globalized World

Our first unit is on Critical Thinking, Beliefs, Religion and Worldview. We explore what the discipline of Art, Religion and Philosophy is all about, by contemplating, “What is Art?” Students learn how art transfigures the commonplace by taking a mere real thing and transforming it into something that makes them think about their thinking. Art makes us human. But how? This is explored in a deep and complex manner. Then, students study epistemologies and look at how they know what they know. We end with a project where students personalize the curriculum by exploring their own worldviews and beliefs. This is declared and promoted to their classmates through a manifesto and a piece of propaganda. community.

Key Concepts:

What is art?

Unit 2: Australian Aboriginal Culture and Geography

In the Australia unit, students explore the complexity of Aboriginal arts and beliefs. They learn the Aboriginal creation story, which explains how the land and spirit was sung into existence through Dreaming and Songlines. In addition, we study three different types of Aboriginal styled paintings (mimi spirits, x-ray, papunya dot) that have been passed down by their creation ancestors. These art forms are vital to Aboriginal identity, which connected them to the land and helped organize their society. Having lasted over 60,000 years, the entirety of Aboriginal culture was challenged at the arrival of the colonists. We see this conflict played out when the Aboriginals began to reclaim their land through the art forms that were given to them by their ancestors. This was eventually rejected by the colonizer as primitive. In a culminating project, students tell their own stories by utilizing their knowledge of Aboriginal styled art to represent the depth of Aboriginal beliefs.

Key Concepts:

Aboriginal Art
Preservation of Culture

Unit 3: Mexican Culture, History, and Geography

In the Mexico unit, students examine the events that allowed the Mexicas to evolve from an animistic to a more complex theocratic society. The class emphasizes the significance of their polytheistic religion, by surveying the Mexica Calendrics, Astronomy/Astrology and Arts that highlight their religious way of life, which met a sad fate with Spanish arrival. Students will study the blending of these two cultures by examining the changes within art that was impacted by the conquest.

Key Concepts:

The Priesthood
Mexica Artistic Achievements

Unit 4: African Culture, History, and Geography

The theme for the Africa unit focuses on a person’s worth and how one maintains dignity in the face of oppression. We begin the unit by looking at Islam as one of the most influential religions of Africa. Then, students will explore African Art from various regions and how it was appropriated by Europeans during the Second Wave of Imperialism. In the second part of the unit, we study South Africa as an example of how Black South Africans used music as a tool of non-violent resistance against Apartheid.

Key Concepts:

Cultural Appropriation
African Art and Colonialism
Art as a form of resistance



Unit 5: Chinese Culture, History, and Geography

In the China unit we study its major philosophies of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, along with their arts. Students get the opportunity to, not only learn these ideas, but practice them, by learning how to do T’ai Chi and brush painting, along with receiving a basic understanding of Chinese medicine. We also read the teachings of Lao Tzu and The Tao of Pooh to aid us in our understanding of the ancient philosophy of the Tao.

Key Concepts:

Major Philosophies of China
Chinese Medicine
Tai Chi
Chinese Arts
The Six Canons of Chinese Brush Painting
Chinese Propaganda


The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff