FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Activity Map: Homework

Overview

What's the Focus

Assigning homework is such a basic, everyday practice for most schools, that it often goes unexamined. This Activity Map invites reflection on the purposes of assigning homework to students, and offers resources for expanding the possibilities of what homework could contribute to their learning experience.

Teachers assign homework for many reasons. A common feature of most homework tasks is that students are expected to complete them alone. What if the design of homework activities could contribute to normal subject learning, but not be done in isolation? What if homework could strengthen relationships and connections inside and outside the family, engage students in making creative connections in their thinking, promote the practice of virtues, and deepen learning about faith and science?

These are the questions explored by the activities in this Activity Map. The activities are intended to be seeded into your curriculum occasionally, throughout the year. They can act as a supplement to more content-focused teaching and offer an opportunity to bring other classwork into the context of relationships.

Discover activities offer brief ways into the topic, which are designed to set the stage and get students thinking.

Delve activities promote more extended learning. This is where the main substance of the lesson unfolds.

Debrief activities bring the sequence of the study to a thoughtful close by helping students reflect on how they have been invited to see science and faith anew.

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

Quick Stop Lesson Plan

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 just need a quick lesson outline, you can use the links below to preview and download a lesson plan based on activities selected from this Activity Map.

PreviewDownload Files

Discover Activities

Discover activities offer brief ways into the topic, which are designed to set the stage and get students thinking.

  • Activity

    Discussing Science and Change

  • Activity

    Unlearning

Discussing Science and Change

In Brief

This homework activity can be used to support work in class on the nature of science. It engages students in discussion with an adult about changes in scientific understanding.

Goals

Students will discuss with an adult the nature of science, and the experience of changes in understanding brought about by new knowledge.

Students will practice representing fairly the ideas of an adult conversation partner.

Thinking Ahead

Use this short assignment to get students talking with a parent or another adult about the first few days of school and what they’ve been learning in science class. If you plan to regularly involve parents and other adults in homework activities, it is advisable to communicate with them early in the school year about why this is happening, so that expectations are clear. (See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents.)

This assignment should be given following an in-class discussion of the nature of science (see the Activity Map on Faith and the Nature of Science). This activity makes connections in two ways between learning about the nature of science and learning about virtues:

  • It includes reflection on how humility might be related to the nature of science.
  • It asks students to practice listening well and representing another person’s ideas fairly, skills that are relevant to both science and virtue.

Consider how to reinforce these connections in your regular classroom practices. Do students get opportunities to check whether they are listening well and representing others’ ideas fairly? Do they see a practical connection between virtue and learning science?

Once students recognize that science is a body of knowledge that is continually changing, rather than a collection of immutable facts, as it is often perceived, they are ready for this assignment.

Related Book Review: Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society by Bruno Latour

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

In connection with work in class on the nature of science (see the Activity Map on Faith and the Nature of Science), give students copies of the handout Discussing Science and Change. For homework, ask them to complete this with an adult conversation partner.

Take time in class to prepare students for this task, emphasizing the following points:

  1. Students can complete the assignment with any adult. Encourage students to find someone who is willing to have a thoughtful and respectful conversation with them. It may be best if students can work with an adult who knew them as a young child (such as a parent), so that the adult can help them think of misconceptions they had when they were younger.
  2. Explain that one purpose of the assignment is to discuss the nature of science as an ongoing process of inquiry, rather than a fixed set of findings. Another purpose is to practice respectful discussion, good listening, and fair representation of others’ ideas. Let students know that they will need to have their adult conversation partner look over and sign their notes. Students should also be aware that the handout asks the adult whether his or her ideas have been represented well.
  3. Conduct a brief discussion in class of some things adults might mention as having changed during their lifetime. Some adults may need prompts from their student to arrive at examples, so you need to prepare students well. Examples might include what they were taught about the number of planets, or about whether dinosaurs had feathers, or about more general matters, such as use of household chemicals, health risks, or our effects on the environment. Having a few ideas might enable students to offer a prompt if their adult partner is stuck for ideas; however, students should listen first, and only offer help if needed.
  4. Make sure students notice that the first question should be completed ahead of their conversation with an adult. Optionally, you could have students complete this part in class.

Once students have had their conversations with an adult, split the class into small groups and have them discuss their findings together. Ask each group to pick one or two students who can share with the class what they wrote for #5 (on the Discussing Science and Change handout). Some examples may be humorous, but watch out for ridicule—emphasize that we have all left ideas behind. Ask students to reflect on any reluctance they had sharing their childhood misconceptions with their peers. Was it a bit humbling for them to share? Ask how this relates to the nature of science—how might humility be needed in the practice of science (e.g., when new results undermine current convictions)?

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Unlearning

In Brief

This is a short homework activity that engages students in reflecting on their own learning processes, some common obstacles to understanding, and the relationship of virtues to the process of learning.

Goals

Students will understand and reflect on some basic obstacles to learning new concepts.

Students will see that virtues such as patience and humility are related to the learning process.

Thinking Ahead

As a science teacher, you will probably have experienced the struggle to help students unlearn incorrect ideas and relearn correct ones, as they move from isolated pieces of knowledge to full understanding. This activity allows students to acknowledge these difficulties, and think them through with an adult conversation partner. Think about how you could model the virtue referenced in this activity. Is there a good example that you can share in a class discussion from a time you struggled to learn a new pattern of thinking or get past superficial knowledge, or found it challenging to stay with the learning process? Sharing these examples can help students feel that they can face the challenge of learning in an environment of care and solidarity.

Related Book Review: Galileo Goes to Jail: And Other Myths about Science and Religion by Ronald L. Numbers

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • A copy of the handout Unlearning for each student

Teaching the Activity

This homework activity is suited for a time near the beginning of the school year, and could pair with work on the nature of science (see the Activity Map on Faith and the Nature of Science). If you plan to regularly involve parents and other adults in homework activities, it is advisable to communicate with them early in the school year about why this is happening, so that expectations are clear. (See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents.)

Give students copies of the handout Unlearning, and ask them to complete it with an adult conversation partner for homework. Students and their conversation partners are asked to watch the video Smarter Every Day: The Backwards Brain Bicycle. In the video, Destin Sandlin shares his attempts to learn to ride a bicycle that is engineered to turn left when the handlebars are turned to the right, and vice versa. Students are asked to discuss with their conversation partner some experiences of having knowledge without understanding, and of struggling to unlearn a pattern of thought or behavior.

The following day in class, ask students to share ideas that came up in their homework conversations. Explore with them how those ideas might be relevant to learning about science:

  • Why might knowledge (e.g., memorizing facts) without understanding not be enough? How can we work towards real understanding?
  • Science is sometimes thought of as belonging to the material world of what we can see and touch. Yet science often requires us to disbelieve our everyday perceptions of the world (e.g., that matter is solid and inert, the sun moves across the sky, there is nothing in an empty room, etc.). How might the challenge of unlearning familiar ways of thinking apply to science learning? Will this happen just once or keep happening through the year? How might our biases—the patterns of thinking that we are used to—affect our learning?
  • How could cultivating humility, patience, and attentive listening to others help with these challenges? How might we remind ourselves to focus on that?

You can later point back to this discussion and the bicycle example as reference points when students are struggling to absorb new ideas. Realizing that this struggle is part of a learning process that requires patience may help it seem less discouraging to students.

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Delve Activities

Delve activities promote more extended learning. This is where the main substance of the lesson unfolds.

  • Activity

    Photo Scrapbook

  • Activity

    Science in the News

  • Activity

    Science Across the Grade Levels

  • Activity

    Interview (Religion)

  • Activity

    Interview (Science)

  • Activity

    Build a Cell

  • Activity

    Biological Phenomenon

Photo Scrapbook

In Brief

This semester-long assignment prompts students to see how the concepts of a science course connect to their everyday life, to reflect on their own learning, and to see how their learning relates to the people around them. It helps reinforce the idea that community relationships are relevant to science learning by engaging students with various people and places in connection with their learning.

Goals

Students will interact with fellow students and family members to collect differing perspectives on a series of pictures.

Students will reflect on the relationship between scientific and non-scientific ways of seeing.

Students will reflect on the virtues exercised in listening well to others.

Thinking Ahead

This semester-long assignment will prompt students to make connections between the concepts of their science course and their everyday life. It encourages relationships by having students consult with fellow students as well as with a parent or another adult. By having an adult share what he or she sees when he or she looks at a photo, students will have an opportunity to recognize how scientific knowledge gives them a new lens through which to view the world around them.

Think about the relationship between saying that community and the way we treat others are important, and developing classroom practices that focus on relationships. A science classroom is not a church, yet the Christian calling to live together with others in ways that demonstrate Christlike character applies in science classrooms too. You will need to articulate to students that part of the purpose of this activity is to help them see these connections.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Each student will need access to a device that can take photos (with which each student will be required to take six original photographs)

  • For the final reflection, students should have access to the Virtues List

  • Copies of Photo Scrapbook Handout

Teaching the Activity

Introduce this activity early in the year or semester. Tell students that they will be required to take six original photographs throughout the year or semester. These will form part of a reflective journal to be completed by a due date late in the year or semester. The journal may take the form of a paper document, a digital document, a blog, or a PowerPoint presentation. It is recommended that you take time at the end of each topic for students to brainstorm how science concepts from that unit relate to their everyday life and what pictures they might take.

Explain to students that each photograph must be given a title and be accompanied by four different written descriptions.

  • First, they are to look at each photograph of an everyday activity as soon as they have taken it and write a thirty- to fifty-word description of what they see and what is going on in the photo.
  • Second, they are to show each picture to a family member or another adult, asking this person to share what they see in the picture. Instruct students to listen carefully and respectfully, record the person’s description, and then show the person what they’ve recorded to see if they have captured well what the person has said.
  • Third, they are to return to each picture and look at it through natural science eyes, looking for connections to science concepts studied during the year. They are to write a thirty- to fifty-word description of what they see and of what is going on in the photo as they look at it through the lens of natural science. This should be specifically related to course content.
  • Fourth, near the end of the semester, they are to ask a fellow student from the class to look at their pictures, but without sharing any of the descriptions already written. The fellow student is also to share a scientific description of the picture. Instruct students to listen carefully and respectfully and record their fellow student’s account. Class time could be given for this either at checkpoints throughout the semester/year, or during a single day close to the final due date, allowing the sharing of photos and descriptions between students to serve as an opportunity to review key concepts from the entire semester/year.

To complete the journal, ask students to write a reflection on the differences between the various descriptions of the same photo, on how the descriptions show what they have learned during the year, and on what they learned from listening to other people’s descriptions. Ask students to reflect, referring to the Virtues List, on what virtues they exercised as they listened to others.

Bring this activity to completion with a class discussion of the differences between nonscientific and scientific ways of looking at the world:

  • What does each see and what does each miss?
  • What is valuable about each?
  • What are the limitations and particular purposes of each?

Also connect the discussion to questions of community:

  • Do we all see the same way when we look at the world?
  • What do we gain from paying attention to others’ perceptions?
  • How did the activity itself build relationships, and what can we learn from that?

A summary of the project as well as grading criteria to be shared with students is included in Photo Scrapbook.

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

 

NOTE: This activity also appears in the Activity Map on Labs and Community, and is included here for convenience so that it can be easily found with other homework activities.

Science in the News

In Brief

This activity engages individual students in investigating articles from online science news reporting, conducting a basic audit for initial signs of validity, and discussing with an adult whether the findings reported have any relationship to faith. This leads to a short in-class presentation by students.

Goals

Students will learn how to ask basic critical questions about online science reporting.

Students will engage in conversation with adults outside of class and with fellow students in class about current science findings and their relationship to faith.

Thinking Ahead

This assignment requires students to reflect on current scientific news reporting and to practice basic evaluation of what they read. The activity does not assume that students are in a position to fully evaluate science articles; doing so properly would require mastery of relevant theories and methods, access to the data, and perhaps the ability to replicate the research. Rather, the activity is designed on the premise that it is a modest, but important, gain if students can learn to read science articles with some attention to preliminary critical questions, such as whether the reported results have been validated or accepted by other scientists, and whether the science behind the claims is adequately explained.

The activity also promotes the practices of discussing scientific news with adults and peers, and reflecting on how new findings relate to faith. As you approach this activity, consider ahead of time your strategies for handling students’ expression in their reports of divergent views about faith and science.

If you plan to regularly involve parents and other adults in homework activities, it is advisable to communicate with them early in the school year about why this is happening, so that expectations are clear. (See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents.)

Related Book Review: Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

You will need to set aside a few minutes in class for a brief student presentation each time a student completes this activity.

Teaching the Activity

Tell students that they will be taking turns throughout the semester to investigate science reporting together with a parent or another adult, and report back to the class. Assign one or two students each week across a semester or year. When it is a student’s turn, give him or her a copy of Science in the News. This handout asks him or her to select an article from a reputable news site that reports on a current scientific finding (a list of suggested sites is included on the handout). It specifies that the article should be more than a paragraph or two in length, and that it should offer some information on the scientific research conducted.

In order to bolster the chances of success for the activity, and save students from spending a lot of time searching fruitlessly online, it is helpful to provide each student with a few suggestions of current articles that are suitable for the activity. Give students the option of choosing one of your suggested articles or another on a topic that interests them.

Students are asked to investigate a number of basic indicators of likely scientific validity in the article (see the handout for details), and then meet with a parent or another adult. They should explain the article, and the results of their examination, to their adult conversation partner. Together, they should discuss the final two questions, which focus on whether the findings affirm or change their view of the world, and whether these findings are related to faith in any way.

Let the students know that is it fine to conclude that an article has no implications for faith—that, too, is a finding. Students should realize that much of the time, faith and science pursue questions that are not at odds. In other words, the goal is not to find controversies, but simply to honestly ask whether there seems to be a challenge to faith or not.

Finally, the student is asked to briefly present the results of their inquiry in class. Make a few minutes for this in a subsequent class session. The student’s presentation should focus on:

  • What is the finding that the article is reporting?
  • What indicates that the science is valid?
  • Does faith relate to these findings in any way?

Some points to focus on in discussion as students present include:

  • It is okay if there is no apparent connection to faith—faith and science need not be in any tension or addressing the same questions.
  • The questions assigned in the homework are only basic indicators that the findings may be valid—to fully validate the findings would require a comprehensive understanding of the theories, methods, and data involved in the original research, and perhaps the ability to replicate it.
  • Be sure to invite the class to thank the student presenter for contributing to their learning.

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Science Across the Grade Levels

In Brief

This is a short introductory activity designed to focus students on how they can encourage and serve those younger than themselves in the context of science learning. It engages them in teaching younger children in a collaborative setting.

Goals

Students will practice teaching a science concept to a younger audience in a collaborative setting.

Students will practice encouragement and evaluate their success at doing so.

Thinking Ahead

This activity maintains a dual focus: there is a focus on the accurate and age-appropriate communication of scientific content, and alongside this, there is a focus on enacting care for others by intentionally practicing encouragement during the learning process. It is important to maintain both emphases, and not to inadvertently imply that the way we treat others is a kind of secondary backdrop to “real” school work, or that the scientific content does not matter as long as we are nice to each other. The activity offers an opportunity to help students see that both matter. You might consider how well this is communicated through your regular teaching practices; this activity will have more impact if it is part of a consistent pattern in your class.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Specific resource needs will vary depending on the type of project you choose.

Directions:

The first step in this activity requires that you find another science class at a higher or lower grade level than your own classes, with whom your students can work collaboratively. Together with the teacher of that class, brainstorm activities in which students at one level would benefit from working with students at another level. Partner students in a ratio that works based on class size and type of activity.

Teaching the Activity

First, choose a project that will allow older students to collaborate with and help teach younger students. The project should involve science concepts that are accessible at both levels and allow opportunity for collaboration. Possible examples include:

  • Older students can help younger students with a science fair project. During a brief initial meeting, they can give input related to experimental design (number of trials, number of variables, etc.). After younger students have collected data, they should meet with the same partner(s) once again, in order for the older students to assist with data analysis or presentation (graph, chart, etc.). Finally, have the older students visit the science fair to view the finished project and show support and encouragement to the younger students at the conclusion of the collaborative experience.
  • Have older students prepare a simple presentation related to a topic that is currently being explored in their class. They should give consideration to how to best adapt and present the material to the knowledge level of the students they will address. Have them consider options such as how they might visually present information in the form of a poster, or how a demonstration might aid their explanation. Once they have prepared their presentation, they can be partnered with a younger student (or students) to present the material.
  • Older students can write and illustrate a storybook about a science concept—putting the key ideas into language appropriate for younger students. Older students can consult with younger students to get feedback as they work on their books. Once writing is complete, older students can read their stories to younger students and lead discussions on the science concepts discussed in their books.

As you introduce the project, emphasize that there are multiple goals. Some goals relate to the science content: older students aid younger students to learn science and, while doing so, gain an opportunity to clarify and shore up their own understanding. Simultaneously, older students model communicating well about science and practicing service and encouragement toward others—how the project is conducted is as important as its scientific content.

Before the older students begin to interact with the younger ones, have a class discussion about ways of encouraging a younger learner (and behaviors that might discourage or fail to communicate respect). Also address how the older students can engage the younger learners as active collaborators, and not just as passive recipients.

Let the students know that, at the end of the project, they will be asked to reflect on and give examples of how the interaction went, including which ways of encouraging their younger collaborators seemed most and least effective. To do this, ask students to write and submit a reflective journal that considers, with examples, how successful they were at teaching science content and how successful they were at creating an encouraging and supportive relationship with their collaborator.

There should also be a debrief with the younger students. These younger students can reflect on (by sharing in person or by writing notes) their experiences with the older students and express appreciation for the time and attention that the older students devoted to them.

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Interview (Religion)

In Brief

This activity aims to help students think about how to ask thoughtful and open-ended questions when discussing faith and science issues, and also to engage them with the wider community around these topics. This activity requires students to interview someone in a religion-related occupation, such as their pastor, in order to hear his or her perspective on ideas related to science.

Goals

Students will learn how to ask thoughtful, open-ended questions of others about faith and science.

Students will learn of the views about faith and science held by community members in religion-related occupations.

Thinking Ahead

The learning involved in this activity comes as much from the process of thinking about and crafting the questions as from the interview itself—both have importance. Identifying successful interview questions is a useful academic skill. It can help in evaluating available information about faith and science, since surveys of the views of the general public reported in the news can exhibit skewed results, based on the type and wording of the questions included. How does this relate to your general teaching practices? Do students in your class learn only how to answer assigned questions, or do they also learn how to ask good questions and spot bad ones?

Related Book Review: Science & Theology: An Introduction by J. C. Polkinghorne

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Inform students that they are going to interview someone who works in a religion-related occupation, such as a church leader, or someone who works in a faith-based ministry. Tell them that the goal is to learn how that person thinks about the relationship between faith and science. Tell them that their first task will be to design appropriate and engaging questions. Explain that they want to ask questions that:

  • Will prompt the interviewee to share more extended ideas, rather than leading to a simple yes or no answer
  • Will communicate openness, and not be worded in such a way that the question tells the interviewee what the correct or expected answer is
  • Will not imply hidden premises (such as that science and faith must be in conflict)
  • Will prompt concrete ideas, rather than being so broad the interviewee does not know where to begin
  • Will explore something interesting in relation to faith and science

Use the first slide of Interview 1 to prompt a class discussion concerning helpful and unhelpful questions. Move through the questions on the slide, and ask students to discuss briefly with a partner whether the question is helpful or unhelpful, and why they believe this is so. Then draw the class back together to discuss their conclusions, either after each question, or after allowing time for partners to work through all the questions.

  1. What do you think about faith and science? (Although this is open-ended, it is probably too vague and general to elicit very good answers.)
  2. How do you think the Bible and science are related? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers.)
  3. Why don’t scientists believe the Bible? (Unhelpful—assumes that scientists don’t believe the Bible, when according to surveys many of them do.)
  4. Does science ever challenge your faith? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers.)
  5. Why can’t pastors take science seriously? (Unhelpful—assumes that pastors don’t believe in science, and implies an accusation that may make the interviewee defensive.)
  6. Where has your own knowledge of science come from? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers.)
  7. Do you think the Bible is true? (Unhelpful—invites a yes or no answer, rather than opening conversation.)
  8. Do you know any scientists? What have you learned from them? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers.)
  9. Do you believe the Bible is true, or do you think science has all the answers? (Unhelpful—offers only two choices, implies a necessary conflict, and forces the interviewee toward one answer.)
  10. Is God more involved in a rainstorm or in Jesus walking on water? Why? (Helpful with the “why” question—open interest in finding out something about an important faith/science issue.)
  11. Do you think science can give evidence for or against God? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers.)
  12. How do the “heavens declare the glory of God”? Now that we know more about the stars and the heavens, does that change how they declare God’s glory? (Helpful with the follow-up question—open interest in finding out something about an important faith/science issue.)
  13. What advice would you give to a Christian studying or working in the natural sciences? (Helpful—open-ended question that allows the interviewee to share what is important to him or her.)
  14. Do you believe God created the world in six days a few thousand years ago, or do you believe that it all happened through evolution, without God? (Unhelpful—these are not the only two possibilities, and the question tries to force a person of faith toward a detailed position he or she may not hold.)

Once you are confident that students understand some of the main differences between helpful and unhelpful questions, show Slide 2. In pairs, have students design their own set of eight to ten questions to use in their interviews. Remind them that they need to find some concrete ways of asking about these broad topics. Let students know that they may include a question or two about a specific issue that interests them. Have each student turn in his or her completed list of questions for you to evaluate. Checking students’ questions at this point maximizes their learning from the eventual interview, while also ensuring interviewees’ time is well-used. Once you have approved the students’ questions, they can move on to the interview phase.

Ask students to identify a person in a religion-related occupation whom they can interview. When they have chosen an appropriate subject, they should schedule a time to interview him or her. Tell students to communicate the purpose of the interview clearly when they contact their subject.

Spend some time in class reviewing successful interviewing behaviors that communicate respect and open listening, as well as some that do not. Let students know that the interview can be semi-structured; rather than asking their questions one by one in a rigid sequence, the students can have flexibility. They can listen for interesting ideas, and pursue those with follow-up questions, allowing their interviewee’s knowledge and interests to influence the direction of the conversation.

Students should interview in pairs, splitting the question-asking time between them. Working in pairs will require fewer interviewees, lead to better note-taking, and allow students to compare notes after the interview. Instruct students that both should take notes during all parts of the interview. After the interview, each student should write up an account of the interviewee’s views and share it with the interviewee in order to confirm whether the student has represented the interviewee’s thoughts accurately and fairly. Have students obtain a note to this effect from their interviewee.

In class, join the pairs of students into larger groups of four or six, and allow time for them to share what they heard during their interviews, and discuss similarities and differences. Conclude with a whole class discussion in which students share what they found interesting or surprising. Have each student turn in his or her written account of the interview.

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Interview (Science)

In Brief

This activity is a variation on or follow-up to the activity Interview (Religion). It aims to help students think about how to ask thoughtful and open-ended questions when discussing faith and science issues, and also to engage students with the wider community around these topics. It adds a focus on how those who work in the sciences feel supported by faith communities. This activity requires students to interview someone in a scientific career, in order to hear his or her perspective on ideas related to science.

Goals

Students will learn how to ask thoughtful, open-ended questions of others about faith and science.

Students will learn the views on faith and science held by community members in scientific careers.

Thinking Ahead

As with Interview (Religion), the learning involved in this activity comes as much from the process of thinking about and crafting the questions as from the interview itself—both have importance. In this activity, an additional theme is present: students are asked to find out whether people working in scientific careers feel welcomed and supported by believers and faith communities. This aspect opens opportunities for students to learn and practice respectful interviewing and dialogue about faith and science in the wider community.

Related Book Review: Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Elaine Howard Ecklund

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Inform students that they are going to interview someone who works in a scientific career. Tell them that the goal is to learn how that person thinks about the relationship between faith and science. Tell them that their first task will be to design appropriate and engaging questions. Explain that they want to ask questions that:

  • Will prompt the interviewee to share more extended ideas, rather than leading to a simple yes or no answer
  • Will communicate openness, and not be worded in such a way that the question tells the interviewee what the correct or expected answer is
  • Will not imply hidden premises (such as that science and faith must be in conflict)
  • Will prompt concrete ideas, rather than being so broad that the interviewee does not know where to begin
  • Will explore something interesting in relation to faith and science

Use the first slide of Interview 2 to prompt a class discussion concerning helpful and unhelpful questions. (If you already did the activity Interview (Religion), you may be able to skip this stage or use it for brief review.) Move through the questions on the slide, and ask students to discuss briefly with a partner whether the question is helpful or unhelpful, and why they believe this is so. Then draw the class back together to discuss their conclusions, either after each question, or after allowing time for partners to work through all the questions.

  1. What do you think about faith and science? (Although this is open-ended, it is probably too vague and general to elicit very good answers.)
  2. How do you think the Bible and science are related? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers.)
  3. Why don’t scientists believe the Bible? (Unhelpful—assumes that scientists don’t believe the Bible, when according to surveys many of them do.)
  4. Does science ever challenge your faith? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers.)
  5. Where has your own knowledge of science come from? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers)
  6. Do you think the Bible is true? (Unhelpful—invites a yes or no answer, rather than opening conversation.)
  7. Do you believe the Bible is true, or do you think science has all the answers? (Unhelpful—offers only two choices, implies a necessary conflict, and forces the interviewee toward one answer.)
  8. Do you think science can give evidence for or against God? (Helpful—open interest in finding out something that might be relevant to evaluating other answers.)
  9. How do the “heavens declare the glory of God”? Now that we know more about the stars and the heavens, does that change how they declare God’s glory? (Helpful with the follow-up question—open interest in finding out something about an important faith/science question.)
  10. What advice would you give to a Christian studying or working in the natural sciences? (Helpful—open-ended question that allows the interviewee to share what is important to him or her.)
  11. Do you believe God created the world in six days a few thousand years ago, or do you believe that it all happened through evolution, without God? (Unhelpful—these are not the only two possibilities, and the question tries to force a person toward a detailed position they may not hold.)

Once you are confident that students understand some of the main differences between helpful and unhelpful questions, show Slide 2. In pairs, have students design their own set of eight to ten questions to use in their interviews. Remind them that they need to find some concrete ways of asking about these broad topics. Let students know that they may include a question or two about a specific issue that interests them. Have each student turn in his or her completed list of questions for you to evaluate. Checking students’ questions at this point maximizes their learning from the eventual interview, while also ensuring interviewees’ time is well-used. Once you have approved the students’ questions, they can move onto the interview phase.

Ask students to identify a person in a scientific career whom they can interview. When they have chosen an appropriate subject, they should schedule a time to interview him or her. Tell students to communicate the purpose of the interview clearly when they contact their subject.

Spend some time in class reviewing successful interviewing behaviors that communicate respect and open listening, as well as some that do not. Let students know that the interview can be semi-structured; rather than asking their questions one by one in a rigid sequence, the students can have flexibility. They can listen for interesting ideas, and pursue those with follow-up questions, allowing their interviewee’s knowledge and interests to influence the direction of the conversation.

Students should interview in pairs, splitting the question-asking time between them. Working in pairs will require fewer interviewees, lead to better note-taking, and allow students to compare notes after the interview. Instruct students that both should take notes during all parts of the interview. After the interview, each student should write up an account of the interviewee’s views and share it with the interviewee in order to confirm whether the student has represented the interviewee’s thoughts accurately and fairly. Have students obtain a note to this effect from their interviewee.

In class, join the pairs of students into larger groups of four or six, and allow time for them to share what they heard during their interviews, and discuss similarities and differences. Conclude with a whole class discussion in which students share what they found interesting or surprising. Have each student turn in his or her written account of the interview.

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Build a Cell

In Brief

This activity focuses on the virtues needed for collaborative scientific work and offers practice in cooperation and team-building. As students interact within collaborative processes, they also learn about cell structure by building a model of a cell.

Goals

Students will understand cell structure and collaboratively build a model of a cell.

Students will identify and reflect on the interpersonal virtues needed for fruitful collaboration.

Thinking Ahead

Teaching FASTly includes recognizing that the connections between faith and science are complex. Beyond discussions of truth claims, many factors create connection points, including the roles of motivations, practices, and virtues. This assignment engages students in communicating and collaborating inside and outside the classroom.

Group activities can be frustrating for students. Over time, many have learned that their main goal is to complete tasks in order receive credit. The very human processes of sharing out tasks and trying to get each team member to pull his or her weight, while negotiating the different gifts and perspectives each one brings to the group, might seem less efficient than working alone. However, collaboration is a cornerstone of both scientific work and healthy community. Developing the interpersonal virtues needed for collaboration to be successful is an important step in students’ learning.

The List of Virtues might aid you in connecting this activity explicitly to Christian virtues, and encouraging students to make connections between faith, virtue, and collaboration as a framework for the activity. You might consider how this activity relates to your teaching practices during the rest of the year. Do your practices communicate that getting the task done is the main thing, or do you also focus on the quality of the interactions between students?

Related Book Review: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Students will need access to email.

Directions:

Determine a task that requires collaboration among students. This homework assignment works well with topics that involve models (e.g., atomic models, models of the cell, etc.). The specific example below relates to building a cell.

Teaching the Activity

Create groups of three students. Have the groups assign a number to each member, such that each group contains a student 1, student 2, and student 3. Ask the groups to agree on a method of communication (e.g., email, text, social media, etc.) and exchange contact information. Once this is done, have each group turn in a list of the group’s members including each student’s number in the group (i.e., 1, 2, or 3) and his or her email address.

Let students know they will receive an email from you after school with details about a joint task. When they receive this, they should begin to collaborate on the task. Emphasize that the goal is not simply to get the task done, but to collaborate effectively.

This activity can be adapted to various specific topics; the following example focuses on cell structure.

First, divide the parts of the cell into three lists (based on the number of students in the groups created):

#1 – cell membrane, nuclear membrane, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondrion

#2 – nucleolus, ribosomes, chromatin, Golgi apparatus

#3 – lysosome, centrioles, microtubules, cilia

List #1 should be sent to all student 1s across the groups, list #2 to student 2s, and list #3 to student 3s. Each student should only receive one list, thereby fostering collaboration within each group in order to achieve the assigned task; students must collaborate to assemble the complete list.

All students should be sent the following text in an email (remember to include the items for their specific list):

Tomorrow in class, the three members of your group will work together to assemble a model of a cell, based on items and objects you bring from home. 

It’s your job to communicate with your group members regarding what objects you will use to represent the items in the list you have received, so that together, you can develop a model of a cell that has a cohesive theme and is relatively to scale (for example, the nucleus should not be smaller than a ribosome). The model should show your group’s understanding of how the parts of a cell fit together.

At the beginning of class tomorrow, you will have 10 minutes to assemble your model. The model will be evaluated according to the cohesiveness of its theme, appropriate scale, and whether all parts are represented.

In class, after students have assembled their cell model, hold a class debrief on the process:

  • How hard was it to trust each other? Were you tempted to take over the tasks of others to make sure they got done, or to leave things undone in the hope that someone else would do them?
  • What went well in the process of collaborating? What did not go so well? Why is collaborating difficult?
  • What virtues (character qualities) are needed for collaboration to go well? Which of these do you need to work at?

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Optional Extra

Give students the opportunity to repeat the assignment on a second evening with new groups and differently distributed lists of organelles. Focus on whether groups can improve their collaboration process.

Biological Phenomenon

In Brief

This activity engages students in visually representing scientific information, and in imparting it to an adult conversation partner with an emphasis on both clarity and respectful, supportive communication.

Goals

Students will create an accurate visual representation of a biological phenomenon under study.

Students will practice explaining scientific information to an adult conversation partner, with an explicit focus on respectful, supportive communication.

Thinking Ahead

Like other activities in this unit, this assignment fosters student interaction with a parent or another adult, related to the topics being covered in science class. This activity invites you and your students to see faith and science questions as matters involving a wider community; 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 can become reduced to helping monitor homework deadlines. This activity invites students to consider how sharing their learning can strengthen relationships. It involves practicing good communication with a parent or another adult on scientific topics.

If you plan to regularly involve parents and other adults in homework activities, it is advisable to communicate with them early in the school year about why this is happening, so that expectations are clear. (See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents.)

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

Plan to assign the activity over enough days for students to be able to arrange a conversation with an adult.

Teaching the Activity

Explain to students that they must illustrate a specific biological phenomenon. Give students a handout listing the items and/or processes that their illustration must contain. Any biological phenomenon that can be illustrated may be used for this activity. For example:

  • Photosynthesis
  • Nerve signal transduction
  • Mitosis
  • Osmosis and diffusion

The handout should include all relevant items and/or processes that students would need to mark on an illustration explaining the biological phenomenon. A sample handout for photosynthesis is included in Biological Phenomenon 1.

Instruct students to create a clear diagram illustrating the phenomenon under study, specifying that it needs to be both accurate in its representation of the scientific information and accessible as a teaching tool to share that information with another person. For example, it should be large enough to show to another person while explaining what it represents. Allow time either in class or as homework for students to create their illustration, and check their work for accuracy and clarity.

Once the diagrams have been completed, tell students that they will now use their illustration to teach the material to a parent or another adult. Group students into pairs and allow a few minutes in class for them to rehearse sharing their illustration with their partners. Instruct students to give feedback to their partners on the clarity and pace of their explanation, and on the supportiveness of their demeanor as they teach.

Give students a few days to arrange a meeting with a parent or another adult and to explain the science behind their illustration. Discuss explicitly with students what might count as supportive, respectful behavior while teaching another person (e.g., no eye-rolling if points are not understood at first), and specific strategies for showing interest in a person’s questions (“That’s a great question. I wondered about that myself…”).

Give students a copy of Biological Phenomenon 2 and tell them to have their adult conversation partner fill it out. The student should bring back the completed paper. Once the assignment is complete, allow a few minutes in class to debrief about how the conversations went.

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Debrief Activities

Debrief activities bring the sequence of the study to a thoughtful close by helping students reflect on how they have been invited to see science and faith anew.

  • Activity

    Look Ahead, Look Back, Reach Out

  • Activity

    Home Demonstrations

Look Ahead, Look Back, Reach Out

In Brief

This is a short homework activity for use at the beginning and end of a unit or topic in the science classroom. It engages students in observing changes in their own understanding and sharing this process with a parent or another adult.

Goals

Students will articulate and revisit their assumptions related to scientific topics.

Students will practice clear and gracious communication of scientific ideas in the context of family relationships.

Thinking Ahead

Helping students recognize their current level of understanding as it relates to common misconceptions can be one of the first steps in teaching new, more accurate scientific models or explanations. This activity helps students identify their initial assumptions, not as a test of knowledge, but in order to make the learning process more explicit and visible. Doing this with a parent or another adult places learning in the context of relationships and communication with others.

In order to allow students sufficient time to arrange a meeting with their adult conversation partner, pass out the assignment a few days before you plan to begin the new unit in class.

As you give students instructions for this assignment, focus explicitly on how important it is for them to be gracious in the conversation they have with their parent or another adult. Ask students to name specific behaviors that could communicate lack of graciousness, such as eye-rolling if predictions seem foolish, or gloating if their prediction was more accurate than that of the adult. You can use the handout on Gracious Interviews to support this. Consider having students role-play a helpful and an unhelpful example of how a student might present the correct answer to their adult conversation partner.

If you plan to regularly involve parents and other adults in homework activities, it is advisable to communicate with them early in the school year about why this is happening, so that expectations are clear. (See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents.)

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

The first page of the handout Look Ahead, Look Back, Reach Out will be used at the start of a unit or topic; the second and third pages are to be used at the end.

Teaching the Activity

Prior to beginning a new unit or topic in class, give students copies of the first page (titled “Look Ahead”) of the handout Look Ahead, Look Back, Reach Out and four questions about the new topic that are focused on predictions related to key concepts. Sample questions for several topics are provided in Look Ahead, Look Back, Reach Out Samples; similar questions can be generated for any topic.

Tell students to take the questions and the response form home, and to discuss each question with a parent or another adult. For each question, students should record their own prediction, the adult’s prediction, and a short summary of the discussion that occurred between them. Students can share their answers in groups in class on the day the assignment is due. As teaching on the topic proceeds in subsequent classes, return to these questions as they relate to the activities and material learned.

At the end of the unit or topic, take some time in class to have students refer back to their initial forms and answer the questions on the second page (titled “Look Back”) of Look Ahead, Look Back, Reach Out. Then give students copies of the third page of the handout (titled “Reach Out”), and for a final homework assignment, have them share their answer to the fourth question on the Look Back sheet with the parent or adult with whom they discussed the Look Ahead questions. Take time to explicitly revisit the question of how to communicate graciously and listen well. You can use the handout on Gracious Interviews to support this.

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.

Home Demonstrations

In Brief

This activity reviews in-class science learning and invests in strengthening relationships between students and a parent or another adult. It engages students in conducting demonstrations at home and communicating graciously with a parent or another adult about the results.

Goals

Students will conduct and explain a scientific demonstration with an adult audience.

Thinking Ahead

These short demos or experiments bring in-class learning home and encourage conversations between students and a parent or another adult.

Be sure to give multiple nights for students to complete this assignment, to allow for a convenient time to be arranged for conducting the activity.

In preparation for this activity, consider how you imagine the role of parents or adult guardians in relation to students’ learning:

  • Are parents or adult guardians there to help monitor deadlines?
  • Are they potential sources of complaints, who must be kept happy?
  • Can key relationships provide a rich context of learning?
  • What do school practices imply about the relational context of learning?

If you plan to regularly involve parents and other adults in homework activities, it is advisable to communicate with them early in the school year about why this is happening, so that expectations are clear. (See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents.)

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

The downloadable file Home Demonstrations contains instructions for two demonstration experiments that can be conducted at home with readily available materials. This activity could easily be extended to additional experiments and demonstrations. The demonstrations are included as a way of reviewing learning covered in class; home demonstrations like this could also be used to preview an upcoming topic.

As you give students instructions for this assignment, focus explicitly on how important it is for them to be gracious in the conversation they have with their parent or another adult. Ask students to name specific behaviors that could communicate lack of graciousness, such as eye-rolling if predictions seem foolish, or gloating if their prediction was more accurate than that of the adult. You can use the handout on Gracious Interviews to support this.

If students already know the outcome of a demonstration and the adult predicts incorrectly, what might a gracious response look like? If students are teaching the adult a correct explanation after having learned it in class, how can the student convey that he or she, too, may have initially been incorrect?

Finally, reflect briefly, but explicitly, on how faith can relate to science learning, both in terms of thinking about how faith ideas relate to scientific concepts, and by leading us to focus on how science learning, like everything we do, lives in the context of our relationships with those around us. Faith calls us to inquiry into truth, as well as to practice love for others and to honor them in our practices.