Mapping Buddhist Sites

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Mapping Buddhist Sites was run in a year-long Introduction to Buddhism course. Course development was sponsored by the U of T Arts & Science Student Experience Fund. Throughout this course, undergraduate Field Teams developed partnerships with diverse Toronto communities as they conducted research on Buddhist institutions and practices in the area. Students created a web portal for the study of these religious centres, integrating research papers, ethnographic studies, images and other media.

Students were divided into 22 Field Teams. Each Team visited a religious site in Toronto to gather the data to write a descriptive analysis of the site and its religious community. The field research project was placed online on the Mapping Buddhist Sites website. Each student in the class was a member of one Field Team and one Administrative Team (see below) related to the Project. The field research project involved:

  • Library research regarding the tradition’s history, beliefs, ethics, and practices
  • Observation of a religious practice or ritual in that tradition while visiting the tradition’s location in Toronto
  • At least one interview with a leader of this religious community regarding the physical site and the tradition’s beliefs, community, and practices and how they are related to one another.
  • Creation of an online presentation of the site and a presentation to the class at the year’s end.

Field Teams completed a Field Research Report and Presentation with six components. Some components were done as a group; others were done individually. This project overall was worth 60% of their final grade for the course, with the breakdown noted below. The six components are:

  • A 3-4 page (single-spaced) research paper outlining the tradition’s history, beliefs, ethics, and/or practices – to be done individually (10%)
  • A 2-3 page (single-spaced) descriptive analysis of the religious practice or ritual the group observed – to be done individually (10%)
  • An anonymous ethnographic research study of the site integrating all student research – to be prepared by the group (10%)
  • Annotated images, audio, and/or video from the site visit as possible, integrated with your profile in an online presentation – to be prepared by the group (10%)
  • Preparation of a Site Profile of the site for presentation on website – to be prepared by the group (5%)

At the end of the year, each Field Team gave a short presentation to the class on their experience with the assignment, prepared by the group (5%). At this time, one brief written summary report was also be due from each student describing his or her particular contributions to his or her Field Team and Admin Team (to be done individually); these reports had to be signed by at least four other Team members (10%).

In addition to being divided into Field Teams, students were also differently divided into Administrative Teams. Each of these teams had various responsibilities throughout the year, providing advice or assistance, evaluating others’ work, or writing short reports.

Ethics Board : Responsible for evaluating each Field Team’s research plan, submitting ethics approval request to Department for the Study of Religion, instructing class on ethics issues, creating a sample of an introductory letter for Field Teams to take to site visits.

Technical Team : Responsible for assisting classmates with techniques of HTML, image processing, video processing, and sound processing.

Design Team : Responsible for creating the design of the web presentations. May need to do some research into the principles of good web design and/or learn appropriate software.

Editorial Team : Responsible for editorial accuracy and standards on all webpages.

Taxonomy Team : Responsible for creating categories for classifying and displaying Buddhist sites of different types on the website.