FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Activity Map: Engaging Parents and the Wider Community

Overview

What's the Focus

We often see faith and science primarily in terms of individual convictions and intellectual challenges. But thinking takes place within a wider set of relationships. As students’ perspectives on faith and science develop, the process may strengthen relationships, but it may create tensions with parents, grandparents, siblings, pastors, or others in the community. There is more at stake for students than just ideas. Clarifying our convictions can affect our sense of where we belong. The way we teach about faith and science in school has consequences for our communities.

Parental anxiety about issues at the intersection of faith and science can create a difficult context when education explores challenging questions. It may even restrict what the teacher feels able to address in class. Yet relationships with parents should not be approached just as a potential source of stress. What if we see faith and science learning as a chance to strengthen relationships?

Parental support and involvement can greatly enhance learning. Shaping our practices to strengthen family relationships and foster respect and reconciliation are consistent with the beliefs and commitments of Christian educators. Teaching FASTly means honoring the web of relationships within which we teach and learn as we pursue love as well as truth.

It is not necessary to use every activity in your class. This activity map offers a range of possibilities to enrich your existing teaching resources. While some of the activities form a possible sequence, you can select the ones most suitable for your context and adapt them to connect to your own plan for learning.

This activity map explores ways of generating constructive engagement with parents and the wider school community around faith and science education. It offers strategies for strengthening relationships and promoting understanding rather than settling for distance and mistrust.

Discover activities focus on initial contacts with parents.

Delve activities offer more intensive forms of engagement.

Debrief activities provide ways of following up later in the year.

You can mix and match these activities as you wish. It is not intended that all these activities should be used with the same class.

Quick Stop Lesson Plan

This activity map offers a range of strategies for engaging parents throughout the year rather than a sequence of activities for a single session. The best way to use this activity map is to explore all of the activities and see which ones best fit together in your particular teaching context. If you need a quick way to explore the themes of the map, you can use the links below to preview and download a sampler of three activities selected from this activity map.

Discuss with parents how they could reinforce these goals as they talk to their child about science learning and homework tasks. Encourage parents not to focus only on grades and completion, but also to reinforce these broader goals.

PreviewDownload Files

Discover Activities

Discover activities focus on initial contacts with parents.

  • Activity

    Communicating Goals

  • Activity

    40 min

    Surveying Parents

  • Activity

    The Week of Wonder

Communicating Goals

In Brief

Teaching FASTly includes attending to relationships. Good communication with parents should not begin with alerting them when difficult topics are approaching, but should be part of our ongoing practice. Use these resources to invite parents to share the educational goals of your science program, and help them to see more clearly the benefits of engaging patiently and graciously with faith and science questions.

Goals

Good communication will be used to build trust with parents before teaching about science and faith.

Thinking Ahead

If communication with parents is not planned holistically, then the first thing that prompts a letter home may be a problem or a looming topic that may cause offense or raise anxiety. Consider what you would like parents and other caregivers to understand about your own motivations, the goals of your program, and the learning happening in your classroom. Consider what assumptions parents may have and how you would like to address them. Do not assume that these are self-evident to those outside the school. Consider how to create a pattern of communication that builds trust and thoughtful engagement. Be sure to consult colleagues and your school’s administration as you develop your plan and adapt the template letters provided here.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

You will need to adapt these templates to fit the particular needs of your situation. Consider whether you need copies of the letters in additional languages. You may find it helpful to first journal about why you are teaching science, how your faith connects with that work, and how you hope your students will grow. As you see more clearly your own motivations and convictions, you will be able to more effectively communicate them to others.

Teaching the Activity

In Communicating Goals and, if needed for Spanish-speaking parents, Communicating Goals Spanish you will find several sample letters that can be adapted to be sent home to the families of your students. The needs of different schools and communities will vary in terms of what you say in your letter. Rework the letters to fit your situation. Consider having parents return a signed slip so you know the letter was received and read. Be sure to prepare these slips in advance to send home with the letters.

The first letter is intended for the beginning of the school year. It informs parents about the goals of your program and builds trust by showing that your educational practices include good communication. The template suggests three areas of focus, which you can adapt:

  • First, it focuses on persons rather than abstract issues by beginning with reflections on what drew you to science and how your work in science is grounded in your faith.
  • Second, it reflects on how you hope students will grow in science class, focusing both on their increasing scientific understanding and on their broader formation.
  • Third, it articulates the ethos of mutual respect within which difficult questions at the intersection of faith and science will be addressed.

The second letter is intended as a follow-up a month or two after the first. It revisits the same three themes, this time in terms of sharing with parents what is going on in class: how you are sharing your love of science, how you see students engaging and growing, and how students are learning to handle difficult questions maturely.

The third letter can be adapted if you are approaching a topic that you anticipate may be particularly sensitive or controversial in your specific parent community. Its purpose is to promote transparency of communication and respectful dialogue and to reduce the likelihood of parents feeling excluded and anxious.

Consider how you can reinforce this pattern of communication throughout the year, for instance, through occasional emails, sharing examples of student work and student insights.

Surveying Parents

In Brief

This activity involves using a survey tool to elicit the views of both students and parents about faith and science questions. It will help you and your students understand more accurately the pattern of convictions among your students and their families. It is also intended to foster conversation on these topics between students and their families.

Goals

Students will engage in dialogue with their parents about faith and science questions.

Thinking Ahead

This activity invites you and your students to see faith and science questions as matters involving a wider community. Especially if these are sensitive topics in your community, practicing good communication will be essential to the success of this activity. See Activity 1: Communicating Goals for more on good communication with parents and its potential for engaging students and parents in dialogue. Let parents know ahead of time that the survey is coming, explaining that its purpose is to give the views of parents a role in student learning and to foster dialogue between students and parents on faith and science questions. Invite parents to approach you with any questions or concerns. Be sure to inform and obtain permission from your school administration for this activity.

Related Book Review: Science & Theology: An Introduction by John Polkinghorn.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Online resources that can be used for creating an online survey tool, such as SurveyMonkey®‎ and Google Forms

  • You may need to print paper copies of the parent survey Surveying Parents

  • If needed for Spanish-speaking parents, Surveying Parents Spanish

Directions:

Consider whether you need to provide the survey in any additional languages.

Teaching the Activity

First use the survey provided in Surveying Parents and, if needed for Spanish-speaking parents, Surveying Parents Spanish as the basis for creating an online survey tool. Adapt it for your context as needed. Explain to students that the class is going to investigate the views of students and parents on questions related to faith and science. Ask students to fill out this survey in class.

To poll parents, you may choose to use either the same online tool or a print version of the survey. Consider whether students have easy access to the online survey at home. Determine in advance which medium will work best and prepare accordingly. If you opt for print, for homework ask students to take a hard copy of the survey home and have their parents fill it out. You can then ask students to enter their parents’ answers in the online parent survey tool as a means of fostering conversation at the family level. Alternatively, you can enter the responses yourself.

Once the results of both surveys have been compiled, discuss with students any differences between the parent and student data and why they think such differences may exist. What are the key influences on our views of faith and science? Invite students to discuss the findings with their parents as well.

The Week of Wonder

In Brief

This activity engages students in sharing what they are learning with members of their family and asks them to consider how to communicate a sense of wonder. It aims to strengthen relationships by using science learning to connect with others. It points to a way of seeing science that goes beyond facts, grades, and utilitarian value.

Goals

Students will practice communicating scientific ideas to their parents, including a focus on how these ideas can relate to wonder and gratitude.

Thinking Ahead

Teaching FASTly includes valuing relationships. School learning can increase distance in family relationships as students’ learning goes beyond their parents’ and relatives’ knowledge. Parental involvement may be reduced to helping monitor homework deadlines. This activity invites students to consider how sharing their learning can strengthen relationships. Exploring the connection between faith and science pushes us to consider how the ways we practice science education can help or harm the relationships in our communities.

The activity also invites students to reflect aloud with others on how science can be a source of wonder. As you set up the activity consider how your own tone might support this. Do any of your ways of talking about learning evoke a sense of simply checking off tasks? The intent is for you to communicate through your teaching practices both your own sense of wonder in relation to science and your valuing of students’ relationships with others outside of class.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

This activity is likely to go better for students if you communicate its goals to parents from the start, Communication will be more effective if you help parents and students to see beyond the school task to its broader purpose. A sample letter is provided in Week of Wonder and, if needed for Spanish-speaking parents, Week of Wonder Spanish that you can use to do this. Send it a day or two before students begin taking their examples home to share.

Prepare and give to students a list of websites where they will find reliable science reporting so as to reduce the amount of time wasted in random searching.

Teaching the Activity

Begin by sharing something scientific that you have recently learned, perhaps from science news. Seek to model a sense of wonder as you do so. Tell students that they are going to work on sharing science learning with others. Ask students to draw upon what they have learned in science during the semester and/or to access online resources that provide science news. Ask students to find at least two examples of scientific findings that provoke in them a sense of wonder at the complexity, beauty, or surprising nature of creation.

Alternatively, or as a second variation of this activity later in the year, place the focus on scientific findings for which we should be grateful. Ask students to bring three copies of a short written explanation of their examples to class. In class, have students work in groups of three to share their examples, explaining the science, why they chose the example, and why it might appropriately evoke a sense of wonder.

Explain to students that this activity will engage them in communicating about science outside the classroom. They will be asked to share one example each day with one or more members of their family at home for one week, Monday through Saturday, drawing upon all of the examples found by the group.

Ask the groups to make a plan for the week, assigning one of their examples to each day, and making sure that each member of the group understands all of the examples well enough to share them with someone outside the group. Also ask the groups to spend a few minutes discussing how to graciously present the new information to someone else, showing interest in the listener and openness to their questions. Explain clearly to students why they are doing this. Explain that the purposes of the activity include:

  • extending our interest in science
  • practicing communicating scientific ideas
  • sharing our learning to strengthen our key relationships
  • making space for wonder and gratitude

When the week is complete, spend time debriefing with students about how the conversations went, what they learned about talking to others about science, and how their families responded to what they shared. If you wish to track completion of the task, you can have family members sign and return the simple response form provided in Week of Wonder (and, if needed for Spanish-speaking parents, Week of Wonder Spanish.

Delve Activities

Delve activities offer more intensive forms of engagement.

  • Activity

    Inviting the Community

  • Activity

    10 min

    How to Disagree

  • Activity

    15 min

    Embracing Differences

  • Activity

    120 min

    Reaching Out Through Homework

Inviting the Community

In Brief

Good communication with parents should begin before you have to alert them to potential controversy when difficult topics are approaching. This activity describes an evening event to invite parents and other community members to learn about and engage with the goals of your science program. The aim is to strengthen community connections and increase understanding of your learning goals.

Goals

Members of the wider school community will learn about the work of your science program and its approach to faith and science.

Students will be involved in communicating the emphases of the science program to the wider community.

Thinking Ahead

Sometimes parents are kept at a distance from school work, or seen as taskmasters whose role is to keep students working hard. This activity invites you to see parents and other community members as partners and participants in education. Placing learning in a context that values relationships is part of teaching FASTly. How can you constructively engage parents around the intersection of faith and science and demonstrate an interest in their participation through your practices? Think about the key things you would like the community to understand about what you are trying to achieve for students when you teach about science and faith. Think also about how your teaching can benefit the wider community. Consider how you may be able to partner with other departments, particularly with Bible/Religion teachers, in planning this event. Explore other FASTly Activity maps for ideas for activities that could be used in connection with your event.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

The goal is to engage the community by hosting an evening event that showcases the work of your science program and affirms a constructive and inquiring relationship between faith and science. The event should be advertised to your parent community and to other interested parties, such as local pastors. Broadening the audience beyond parents alone will help make the event meaningful for students who do not have parents who can attend. Three elements are suggested for this event:

Student Projects

Choose an in-class activity or learning sequence that would provide a good basis for generating thoughtful student work to share with parents. Choose a topic that will allow students to share not only their scientific understanding, but also their sense of the significance of what they have learned in terms, for instance, of wonder and beauty, care for creation, ethics and service, or any other aspect of how faith relates to science. Ask students to work in pairs or small teams to develop a poster, slide presentation, brief role-play, demonstration, or video clip designed to communicate to the community what they have learned. The more diversity you can encourage in the type of product students choose, the more engaging the resulting event will be. Require that students consider:

  • what scientific information they will communicate
  • how their project will communicate about science
  • how it presents the relationship of faith to science
  • how it takes its audience into account

A sample set of instructions and rubric for this project is provided in Inviting the Community Students. Students’ completed projects should be displayed and explained to visitors by the students during the evening event.

Teacher Presentation

Prepare a brief presentation that addresses the following three topics reprising the themes addressed in Activity 1: Communicating Goals:

  • First, reflect aloud on what drew you to science and how your work in science is grounded in your faith. Aim to communicate your love for your subject in a faith-affirming way.
  • Second, describe how you hope students will grow in science class. Focus both on their increasing scientific understanding and on their broader formation. Consider the virtues that you hope they will pursue as they study science together and interact around difficult questions.
  • Third, articulate the culture of mutual respect within which difficult questions at the intersection of faith and science will be addressed in class. Make clear that it is important for students to learn about these questions, and that doing so in a faith-informed context means not only figuring out what we believe, but considering how we treat and respond to one another in community. Both truth and love matter.

A sample outline is provided in Inviting the Community Teacher and a set of slides for you to adapt are provided in Inviting the Community. This presentation can either be given to the whole group of visitors at an advertised time or offered several times to smaller groups as the event progresses. Consider capturing it on video for possible website use or to make available to parents who could not attend.

Participant Response

Create four display spaces such as pin boards, flip charts on easels, or wall display spaces in prominent positions in the area where your event will run. Provide post-it notes or index cards and pins or sticky tape, by each one. Give each display space one of the following headings:

  • My biggest question about faith and science is…
  • The part of science that most inspires me is…
  • I hope that my child will learn…
  • The scientific discovery for which I am most grateful is…

Post instructions inviting visitors to see what others have written and to add their thoughts to these displays. Post a couple of thoughts on each display before the evening starts to encourage participation. This activity not only creates a chance for personal response, but can help you learn what your students’ families are thinking.

How to Disagree

In Brief

Learning more about how faith relates to science is not just a cognitive task; teaching and learning FASTly can affect important relationships. Students may be concerned about what may happen to their relationship to a parent, youth pastor, or friend if their views on a contentious faith and science issue change. This activity offers space for students to see disagreements in a new light and to think through how to address them graciously.

Goals

Students will understand that various modes of engagement are possible when engaging across disagreements.

Students will gain tools for engaging graciously with those with whom they disagree about faith and science.

Thinking Ahead

The goal is to prepare students to engage in gracious discussion with those who disagree with them, instead of experiencing argument as an inevitable kind of warfare. This may evoke specific areas of concern for students, including issues on which some no longer share some of their parents’ beliefs. However, the goal here is not to air these specific issues in class. Instead the activity works with a hypothetical case to establish a framework for constructively facing disagreements. Consider whether there might be other opportunities through the year to reinforce and model this framework through your teaching practices.

Related Book Review: After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • The presentation file How to Disagree (if you prefer, you can adapt it to focus on a different controversy. Choose one that fits your learning goals and is likely to echo disagreements in your community)

  • One copy of the How to Disagree handout per pair of students

Teaching the Activity

Display the global warming argument slide from How to Disagree. Point out that one possible way in which this conversation could continue is as a form of warfare in which each attacks the other’s position, hostility is expressed, tactics include insults and shouting the other down, and the only satisfactory outcome is for one person to win. Ask students to brainstorm in pairs for 2–3 minutes on other ways in which the conversation could develop. Gather their ideas, making sure the whole class has recognized other possibilities that include:

  • Avoidance, in which the participants quickly move on to other topics to avoid conflict, wishing to continue their interaction without fighting, yet secretly resenting each others’ positions. This option could also be a sign of apathy, treating the issue as of little consequence and not being concerned about the truth of the matter.
  • Dismissal, in which one party dismisses the other’s viewpoint outright and withdraws from the conversation.
  • Debate, in which each gives space for the other to develop their views, the goal is for each view to be developed as clearly and fully as possible, and there is a focus on rational argument.
  • Dialogue, in which the main focus is on coming to understand why the other thinks the way they do, and there is give-and-take as the conversation progresses.

Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. What does each achieve? Which are best able to both honor truth and value other people? How can we avoid an apathetic disengagement while still respecting others? Ask students to consider that pursuing truth might involve not only being correct, but living in right ways with those around us.

Next give students a copy of How to Disagree and have them work in pairs to complete it, allowing 5–8 minutes. Alternatively, this could be used as a homework activity. The focus here is on what resources are needed for the conversation to go well. The activity offers students a model for approaching contentious issues that can be applied to other questions in the future. Specifically, have students consider:

  • What scientific knowledge would be needed to have an informed conversation?
  • What range of sources of information should be consulted to have an informed conversation?
  • What virtues might be needed to have a healthy discussion?
  • What are possible good outcomes from the discussion aside from one person winning?

Discuss students’ findings as a class. Discuss how humility and care for others relate to pursuing truth in discussions. Discuss briefly how these considerations could apply to other conversations with potential for conflict.

If there is time, have students work with a partner and role play a constructive continuation of the conversation.

Embracing Differences

In Brief

People disagree about some of the biggest questions connecting faith and science. Teaching and learning FASTly involves seeing these disagreements not just as a chance to win arguments, but as a challenge to love our neighbor and seek peace even when we cannot agree. This activity, which could be an alternative or an extension to Activity 5: How to Disagree, offers students a memorable image for caring while disagreeing and prepares them for conversations outside class.

Goals

Students will understand a model for peaceful engagement in the face of disagreement.

Students will understand that loving engagement can be a valid goal even when disagreement is not resolved.

Thinking Ahead

Consider how you would like to use this activity. It can be used alone or in combination with Activity 5: How to Disagree. Using the two activities at different times in the semester may help reinforce their learning goals. If you use them this way, remind students of the earlier discussion when introducing the second activity. The goal of both is to prepare students for gracious discussion with those who disagree with them. Think about whether you have any personal stories that you could share involving an argument that went badly, or a time when you failed to engage someone well on an important topic. Consider whether there might be other opportunities through the year to mention and model this framework in connection with your teaching practices.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • The presentation file Embracing Differences (you can adapt it to focus on a different controversy as is appropriate to your setting)

Teaching the Activity

Display the global warming argument slide from Embracing Differences. If you used Activity 5: How to Disagree on a different occasion, ask students if they remember this scenario and say that it still needs more thought. Ask students to think for a moment of any other issues connected with science in which they might disagree with members of their community. Explain that you are going to explore a model taken from Miroslav Volf’s book Exclusion and Embrace for encountering someone different from us. This model is based on the image of an embrace, which in turn is drawn from God’s embrace of humankind on the cross of Christ. If you think the image of an embrace may be too distracting for your class, the model could be adapted using a handshake as the core image.

Ask students to imagine meeting someone and giving them an embrace of welcome. Display the second slide in Embracing Differences and ask students to discuss with a partner what the four steps of a welcoming embrace might be. Accept some suggestions from students before showing the next slide and explaining Volf’s analysis. Having students act out each step in gesture form as you proceed will help engage students fully and make the material memorable.

  • Step 1: We open our arms. This makes us vulnerable, showing that we are not coming to harm the other, but are willing to be open.
  • Step 2: We wait. For it to be an embrace the other person must also choose freely to engage. A bear hug without permission is not an embrace.
  • Step 3: We close our arms around each other. Each offers a safe and welcoming space to the other. The aim is to meet, not overpower each other. Neither has to give up being themselves, but each makes space for the other.
  • Step 4: We open our arms. We release each other, restoring each person’s freedom rather than trying to cling to or control them.

Finally, display the last slide and ask students to discuss in pairs how this image of a welcoming embrace could apply to how we approach debates about faith and science. In what way is it a Christian image? What would be the equivalent of each step in an argument over a faith and science issue, such as human origins or climate change? Ask students to be as concrete as possible, offering an example of a specific conversational move or behavior that would be an example of each step. Ask students to consider how seeking peace might involve specific interaction skills and virtues.

Conclude the activity by having students share some examples for each step with the whole class, and giving students a few minutes to reflect quietly on how this exploration of embrace could be relevant to conversations with friends, parents, and other relatives about controversial issues.

Reaching Out Through Homework

In Brief

Homework, especially at the secondary level, can isolate students from parents and family, or involve parents mainly in the role of taskmaster or source of moral support. This activity envisions a more constructive involvement of parents in homework that can enhance students’ learning as well as building up their relationships.

Goals

Students will practice communicating about faith and science in dialogue with their parents.

Thinking Ahead

Teaching FASTly includes thinking of faith and science as including the impact of science learning on the student’s wider network of relationships. Consider how you can use this activity and others like it to help students see their learning in the context of connecting with and serving others and to engage constructively with their families around science learning.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

This activity includes two homework tasks for different days. The first engages students and their parents in conversation about science learning, and the second involves them in learning together. Each stands for a task genre, with further variations possible. These tasks demonstrate through homework practices that parental involvement is valuable and valued.

First, assign students a homework task to interview their parents about their experiences of learning science when they were in school. Students will need copies of Reaching Out Through Homework 1 and, if needed for Spanish-speaking parents, Reaching Out Through Homework 1 Spanish. Specific questions include:

  • What was good and bad about your experiences of learning science?
  • What do you wish you had been able to learn more about?
  • What are you grateful that you had the opportunity to learn?
  • Did the way you learned science challenge or support your faith? Did it help you grow as a person?

After the survey is completed, allow students to discuss in small groups:

  • What differences did you find between your parents’ experiences and your own?
  • How can we get the most out of our own experience of learning science?

Second, on a different day, choose an area of current study that includes a diagram that can be used to summarize and explain what has been learned, such as leaf structure, body systems, or the structure of the atom. Review the diagram in class and then provide students with an unlabeled copy to take home. Tell them that their task is to teach the science summarized on the diagram to a parent or other relative, explaining that this will both help their own learning and engage them with their family.

Be sure to explain to students that the point is not just how much their parents know already (some students may have parents expert in science), but to give them practice explaining science to another person and a chance to talk to their parents about what they are learning.

Explain that the focus will be on how they explain, not just the information. See caring for the hearer for more information on what this is about. Parents must indicate that the student explained it clearly, patiently, graciously, and displayed concern for the parents’ understanding on a checklist/response form provided in Reaching Out Through Homework 2. For Spanish-speaking parents use Reaching Out Through Homework 2 Spanish. Discuss briefly in class, both before taking the diagram home and after the task is completed, what behaviors represent a gracious way of interacting with and teaching someone.

Debrief Activities

Debrief activities provide ways of following up later in the year.

  • Activity

    30 min

    The Parent Podcast

  • Activity

    20 min

    Re-envisioning the Parent-Teacher Conference

The Parent Podcast

In Brief

In this activity students create a short podcast to share with parents and relatives. The podcast is intended to invite the wider community into faith-affirming science learning by learning FASTly in terms of both content and the focus on building relationships.

Goals

Students will practice communicating about faith and science to a wider community audience.

Thinking Ahead

This activity extends the audience for classroom work, inviting students to see their learning as opening up possibilities for service to the community and engaging them in connecting the worlds inside and outside the classroom. You may want to set this activity up by assigning students to listen to science podcasts over the days leading up to the day you introduce the activity. The activity asks students to think about how a faith perspective can inform the practice of talking about science in ways other than adding a devotional moment. It will be important for you to have thought about this in relation to your own teaching so that you can guide students as they wrestle with this challenge. Consider how you can relate the activity to your current learning goals in terms of science content.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Partway into the year or semester, play students some examples of short science podcasts such as episodes from A Moment of Science series broadcast on NPR. Discuss briefly with students what makes these podcasts effective communication. Discuss also what vision the podcasts imply of why science is important and how we should view its role in society. Tell students that they will work together to produce a series of podcasts to share with the wider school community. Explain that the goal is to share interesting scientific information and to do so in a way that implicitly affirms the role of faith. Encourage students to think broadly about connections between faith and science. Make it clear that the goal is not just to add a devotional moment to a science talk, but to frame the podcast in a faith-affirming manner, for example:

  • fostering a sense of wonder
  • communicating a commitment to truth
  • modeling a determination to behave toward others with care and humility
  • showing a sense of wonder and gratitude for what we can learn from the created world
  • relating science to service and compassion

Ask students to work in pairs. Each pair should first complete the following exercise. See the handout The Parent Podcast.

Create at least five different sentences using the following sentence pattern:

“I would like to tell _________ about _________.” The grid below shows some examples. Students should add their own.

First Blank:

Second Blank:

the wider community how a scientific discovery led me to worship
my family how to disagree but still love each other
God my questions about this universe
my parents how amazing cells are


Once students have completed this activity, have them use it as the starting point to further narrow their focus to:

  • A single scientific idea or finding. Make sure that students choose something that is specific, interesting, and capable of being explained within two minutes.
  • A single way in which they would like their beliefs and values to be reflected in the podcast. Make clear that the goal is not necessarily to include theological discussion or a devotional moment. Students could focus on a particular virtue, such as humility, patience, or gratitude, or on how what they will share evokes wonder, enables service, calls for gratitude, or gives us insight into truth.

Students will work together in pairs to script and record a two-minute podcast. Full student instructions are in The Parent Podcast. Students may enjoy recording a signature sound to start and end their podcast. Once the podcasts are completed, assign a homework task to share them with at least three relatives or other community members and solicit feedback, which should be reported back to you using the feedback form. See The Parent Podcast Feedback and, if needed for Spanish-speaking parents, The Parent Podcast Feedback Spanish. You could also post the podcasts to a course web page.

You could use this activity at intervals throughout the year to create an ongoing connection between student learning in class and the learning of the wider school community.

Re-envisioning the Parent-Teacher Conference

In Brief

Conversations with parents at parent-teacher conferences provide an opportunity to communicate the educational vision of your program and help parents see in new ways how their son or daughter is growing. This implicitly communicates that faith and science fruitfully belong together and that science can be taught FASTly.

Goals

Communication with parents at parent-teacher conferences will include communicating goals related to faith and science.

Thinking Ahead

Consider your usual practices in terms of how you normally approach parent-teacher conferences:

  • Do you focus only on grades and academic achievement?
  • How do you engage parents with the vision that guides your program?
  • What do you communicate, both explicitly and implicitly, about the goals of the education you provide?
  • What would you like parents to know about your vision for science education?
  • What assumptions do you think parents bring about your science program?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Sample scripts below

Directions:

Read the sample scripts below and consider what concrete examples you could share for each of your students. You may find it helpful to keep brief notes for each student during the semester with this conversation in mind.

Teaching the Activity

Below are a few examples of brief conversational openers that implicitly connect science learning with Christian educational concerns. Consider whether you could adapt any of them for your own use with particular students.

  • “We have been working in science class on how to show humility and patience with one another when we discuss scientific questions about which people disagree. I have appreciated the way your son has been clear about his beliefs, but has also been able to listen well to others…”
  • “I am hoping to show students that science is not just about facts and answers, but also about asking good questions and appreciating the beauty and mystery of creation. It has been great to see your daughter expressing a sense of wonder when we learn about the intricacy of cells…”
  • “I have been talking to the class about how we are called to seek the truth and how this means taking time to exercise for care and patience, rather than running with our first assumptions. Science can help us learn how to pay close attention to what has been made. Your son has done a great job of showing care and attentiveness in his lab work…”