Analyzing the School Holiday Calendar

These activities ask students to engage with the question of what an equitable school calendar looks like and how to make their own school calendar more inclusive.
Grade Level


At the end of the lesson, students will/should be able to

  • gather, organize and evaluate the relevance of data;
  • analyze a complex social problem
  • identify and evaluate solutions to such a problem
Essential Questions
  • What factors should school and government leaders consider when deciding whether or not to honor religious holidays?
  • How do we balance the needs of students to participate in their religious traditions with laws that require students to attend school a sufficient number of days a year to get a quality education?
  • Enduring Understandings
    • School and government leaders should consider a community’s demographics and diversity in determining whether or not to close public schools for religious holidays.
    • Communities must be open-minded and flexible in determining how to balance educational, logistical, and cultural objectives in determining whether or not to close for religious holidays.

Handouts: Religious and School Holidays and Demographics and School Holidays.

Copy of your own school calendar 


accommodation [ ə-kä-mə dā-shən ] noun, An agreement that allows people, groups, etc., to work together

logistical  [ loh-jis-tik-al ] adj., Related to the process of planning or organizing

pilgrimage [ pil-grə-mij ] noun, A journey to a holy or special place

secular [ se-kyə-lər ] adj., Not religious or spiritual; controlled by the government rather than by the church

Suggested Procedure

1. Point out to students that every religion has important holidays. Some examples include: Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter; Jews celebrate Yom Kippur and Passover; Muslims celebrate Eid Ul-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha. The handout, Religious and School Holidays, provides a description of each of these holidays. Share the definitions with the class, then discuss the reasons for and details of each of these holidays. (Although these activities primarily focus on Christianity, Islam and Judaism, we encourage you to adapt this lesson purposefully and thoughtfully to include beliefs of all religions and faith traditions represented in your school and the students’ communities.)

2. Ask students to review their school calendar. Ask: “Which of the discussed holidays are on the school holiday calendar? Which are not?”

3. Divide students into small groups to read the Christian Science Monitor story “Should public schools close for Muslim holidays?” Have the students respond to the questions on the handout, and discuss their answers in class.

4. According to the article, 2 percent of the population of New Jersey is Muslim. Instruct your students to find out the religious composition of your community, town, or state by following the directions on the handout, Demographics and School Holidays. Complete the table on the handout.

5. As a class, discuss if and how those demographics are reflected in your school holiday calendar. What changes, if any, should your school district make to its holiday calendar? Other than closing school, how might a community mark religious holidays? In addition to community demographic, what other reasons might a community honor the holidays of different faiths?

Alignment to Common Core State Standards/ College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards CCSS RI.1, RI.3, RI.4, RI.8, W.1, W.2, W.4, W.7, W.9, SL.1, SL.2, L.5, L.6, RH.1, RH.4, RH.6, RH.7, RH.8, RH.9


Extension Activity

Write a 500-word letter to education officials in your community explaining the demographics of your school district and how the it might consider them in drafting next year’s school calendar. If your community isn’t religiously diverse, how might your district promote religious tolerance and education?