FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Activity Map: Labs and Community

Overview

What's the Focus

One of the stereotypical images to emerge from Victorian times is that of the lone scientist laboring in the laboratory. In reality, science is usually collaborative and depends on mutual trust and constructive working relationships. For students who will work in the sciences, collaboration is part of their future. Yet, the way we work with and treat others is also part of lived faith in the present, right in the midst of learning. In schools, too, the competitive pressure of individual grades can lead to an emphasis on individual performance that overshadows the creation of a learning community in which the virtues that sustain relationships are exercised so that all can thrive.

This activity map focuses on practicing relational virtues now in the science classroom as a part of present discipleship and a foreshadowing of future collaboration in the workplace and beyond. Teaching FASTly includes making relational virtues an explicit part of planning and a focus of reflection for students. This will help them see their present science learning as connected to their moral and spiritual growth and also help them to see how this relates to the nature of scientific practice itself.

This activity map engages students in reflection and builds classroom practices around the intersection of scientific practice and supportive relationships with others. It helps students connect science learning with community, both conceptually and through intentional practices. Working in community can cultivate virtues such as patience, humility, and diligence within students. This collection of science-related activities can be used throughout the year to emphasize the need to learn and work in community.

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.

Discover activities offer brief ways into the topic and 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 these activities should be used with the same class.

Quick Stop Lesson Plan

The best way to use this activity map is to explore all the activities and see which ones fit in your particular teaching context. If you just 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.

PreviewDownload Files

Discover Activities

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

  • Activity

    20 min

    Lab Groups and Patterns

  • Activity

    12 min

    Brainstorming

  • Activity

    30 min

    Tower Building Teams

Lab Groups and Patterns

In Brief

Forming lab groups that work together for an extended period of time can help build community within a science class and also provide a context within which to focus on the virtues that sustain relationships. Teaching FASTly leads us to focus not only on the content of science, but on the virtues developed as we engage in science with others. This activity offers a way to form initial lab groups that will help students see the way they relate to others as part of science learning. 

Goals

Students will begin to reflect on the virtues needed to collaborate well in the science classroom.

Students will articulate goals and desired virtues for their lab groups.

Thinking Ahead

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. Consider how to give more than lip service to the virtues that help us relate well to one another in science learning. A focus on building community will be learned most effectively if it is not just a stated value at the beginning, but is followed through in assigned work that is genuinely collaborative in nature and in a continued, formative focus on how students collaborate with, and respect one another, as the semester progresses.

In another words, it will be necessary to develop classroom practices that genuinely focus on community and to engage students in both action and reflection related to living well in community. It is helpful to keep students in the same lab group for a long enough period that they get to know each other and build strong relationships.

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

As students enter class, give each one a card from Lab Groups and Patterns with a word printed on it (see below) and allow them to sit wherever they choose. On the back of the card, have them write: (1) their name, (2) one thing they consider themselves to be an expert at, (3) one thing they still struggle with, and (4) one thing they consider an important value or virtue for working together in the science classroom. It may help to display or give students a list of values/virtues to choose from. A sample list and explanation is provided in Virtues List. If there is different information that you wish to gather about your students, you could have them include that as well. Having students write on the card prevents them from swapping later on when they are getting in groups.

Without revealing the categories, tell students to find three people to form groups of four based on the words that were printed on their cards when they received them. For a smaller class omit some categories. As students try to find their groups, they will discover they need to ask questions to clarify what categories a word belongs to. For example, “Is Mercury a planet, a car, or an element?” Initial groups may need to re-form as more groups fall into place.

Sometimes when the class gets stuck, one or two students emerge to take leadership roles and start writing groupings on the board or laying all the cards out so that they can all be seen at once. Let the students figure things out on their own with as little interference as possible. The goal is to create an initial experience of collaborative investigation.

Possible Groupings (there are other equally correct groupings since some cards can go in multiple categories):

  • Presidents: Lincoln, Bush, Washington, Clinton
  • Disney Characters: Minnie, Mickey, Pluto, Donald
  • Cities: New York, Cadillac, Charlotte, Austin
  • Elements: Mercury, Oxygen, Cobalt, Neon
  • Planets: Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter
  • States: Florida, California, Texas, Iowa
  • Cars: Ford, Honda, Dodge, Volvo
  • Names: Grant, Dallas, Lily, Brooklyn
  • Virtues: Charity, Courage, Hope, Justice

Once groups have been established and everyone is sitting back down, discuss the following ideas and how they relate to the scientific learning community of your classroom. You may wish to display a possible solution, such as the one above and compare it to what emerged, to make clear that there are multiple possibilities.

  • Like this exercise, many scientific questions have more than one right answer or more than one pattern that could fit the data.
  • To arrive at a final solution everyone’s data was needed, this was not a task to solve alone. Science is often like that.
  • Finding a pattern does not necessarily mean having found the answer. One or two data points do not make a pattern, and an initial pattern might not fit all the data later. Even after we have an initial pattern, we keep investigating.
  • The answer evolves over time as more data comes into view and different patterns are tried. Again, science works like this.
  • Very often human feelings can become involved in investigation as we become attached to an initial pattern and don’t want to dissolve it or feel as if our piece of the data is not being taken seriously in the whole.
  • How are virtues such as humility, courage, and kindness relevant here? Humility is involved in being willing to reconsider a position already taken. Leaving the security of a provisional solution for renewed inquiry requires courage. Kindness can create a context in which risks are more easily taken.
  • How did the way the group worked help or hinder arriving at a solution that everyone is happy with? Communication, attentiveness to others, sharing information, and listening well are all important. Treating each person’s information as important was part of arriving at a solution.
  • Is arriving at a solution all that matters or does it matter how we worked together to reach it? How might the way we interacted make it easier or harder to work successfully together on future problems?

Finally, ask students to read over the explanation of virtues in the Virtues List. Discuss briefly how, even though the classroom is not a church, the virtues that underpin Christian community are relevant there. Tell students that they will continue to work in these groups in the coming weeks. Have students share the virtue they included on the back of their card with the rest of their group. Give each group a large note card and have each group decorate the card with their team name and three or four key words that describe the core goals or values of the group that will inform how they work together.

As students work, walk around and collect each student’s card so that you can get to know her or him better through the information on the back. Make time as the semester proceeds to return to these for brief group self-evaluations based on the stated values – has any growth taken place? While the groups will stay the same for several weeks, the teacher can change where each group sits by placing the group name note cards at various tables each day before class starts.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License adapted from https://fnoschese.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/subversive-lab-grouping-game/.

Brainstorming

In Brief

The following brainstorming activity requires students to think deeply about a topic or concept, rather than just skimming the surface, as a preparation for delving into a topic area. It also uses a form of collaborative practice that focuses on building upon others’ ideas and encouraging each other to think less superficially.

Goals

Students will collaboratively review their knowledge of key science concepts.

Students will reflect on the connection between virtues, collaboration, and community.

Thinking Ahead

It is very helpful to student learning to have students make explicit what they already think and know before you teach new information. Making existing knowledge and assumptions conscious increases the likelihood of new learning. Many brief brainstorming activities surface only the most obvious ideas and are easily dominated by one or two voices.

This activity engages students in digging deeper and also focuses attention on how we can encourage each other to think harder. It also connects science with relational virtues as it focuses on collaboration. This allows explicit discussion about community, particularly how this activity itself required students to work together within their own group to add to the ideas and knowledge of other groups.

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. Consider how to make this connection clear to students without seeming self-righteous. Teaching FASTly pushes us toward being clear about the values and virtues that frame what we do in science education.

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • One concept sheet per group

Directions:

Prepare the concept sheets (see examples below), one per group. Identify the key questions and concepts involved in a topic/chapter that you are about to teach and make a sheet for each concept. The sheet will have the concept sentence printed at the top and the rest of the sheet should be left blank for student notes. Avoid listing individual facts or pieces of information, but look for the underlying ideas.

For example, a unit on motion/kinematics could begin with the following concept sheets using a sheet for each concept:

  • What are the similarities and differences between speed and velocity?
  • What does it mean to accelerate? What are some examples?
  • What does the term projectile motion refer to? What are some examples?
  • What prior knowledge do you have about falling objects?
  • What does the term force of gravity mean? How does it compare for individual objects?
  • How do Distance vs. Time and Speed vs. Time graphs represent an object’s motion?

A unit on light, sound, and waves could begin with the following concept sheets:

  • What types of waves have you heard of before?
  • What do you know about sound waves?
  • What do you know about light waves?
  • What prior knowledge do you have about the Electromagnetic Spectrum?
  • What is meant by the term harmonics? How does it relate to sound and waves?
  • What properties of waves are you aware of?

Make one question sheet that is not unit specific, but rather addresses the idea of virtues that sustain relationships in science. For example, “How is respect for others related to the practice of science?” If you did not use Activity 1: Lab Groups and Patterns, give students a copy of the Virtues List to support this part of the activity.

Write each concept clearly and succinctly at the top of a sheet of paper. Match the total number of concepts/questions to the number of student groups who will be involved in the activity. If you have more groups than concepts, create more than one sheet for each concept until you have enough. If you only need to duplicate some concepts, choose the more central ones. It can be very helpful for keeping track of this exercise to use a different colored sheet of paper for each different concept.

Teaching the Activity

Tell students that they are going to work collaboratively and will be reflecting both on key science concepts and on the way we interact. Have students work in groups of no more than four. Give each group one of the concept sheets. Ask them to brainstorm together and write down everything they already know about the concept or question on the sheet.

Allow three to five minutes for brainstorming, then take each group’s sheet and give it to the next group moving clockwise around the classroom, so that each group has another group’s sheet. If you have duplicate sheets with the same concept, make sure they are distributed in such a way that groups will rotate through each different sheet as the sheets progress around the room.

Each group must now read what the previous group wrote on the sheet they just received and add at least one or two ideas that have not already been mentioned.

Repeat the previous two steps so that the sheets continue to rotate around the room at intervals. Repeat until every group has seen every sheet or until every group has worked on several ideas. With each rotation the task becomes more challenging since the obvious ideas have already been noted. After two or more rotations you will need to increase the brainstorming time slightly to allow for reading what has already been written.

Collect the sheets at the close of the activity. They can be saved to refer back to throughout the chapter, at the end of the chapter, or posted on the wall for everyone to see. You can also use them to gain an understanding of what your students already know and what they did not think to mention, in order to inform your own planning.

Finally, discuss briefly with the class what was gained by having them try to build on another group’s thinking rather than simply brainstorming for a longer time in their own group. Note how it can force harder thinking and prevent circling around the group’s own favorite ideas. Make the connection to how scientific inquiry involves building upon and extending other people’s work. Help students see how community can support inquiry. Discuss briefly how some of the virtues on the Virtues List can support collaboration. Connect to the idea of community and how we can strengthen each other’s contribution by sharing information and by building on and improving each other’s ideas.

This activity could also be used in a similar way at the end of work on this topic as a means of review.

Tower Building Teams

In Brief

This quick, fun, and engaging activity is based on Tom Wujec’s TED Talk Build a Tower, Build a Team1. The focus here is not on learning science content, but on provoking reflection on collaboration as a foundation for working well together in the lab. Students are given a few simple materials and eighteen minutes in order to build the tallest tower they can.

Goals

Students will work collaboratively to solve a challenge.

Students will reflect on the connection between collaboration and virtues.

Thinking Ahead

This activity engages students in reflecting on their roles and contributions as they work together. Think about how you see the place of respectful collaboration, service, and honoring of others in science, whether in school or in the world of professional scientific practice. Are they merely a secondary backdrop to the real business of science or an inherent part of the practice of science, which most often involves collaborating with others?

You will be better prepared to help students see the connection between this activity, faith, and the practice of science if you have yourself reflected on the ways in which the virtues we practice in relationship to others affect how collaborative scientific work gets done. Making these connections explicit to students will make the difference between this activity being a fun aside and it being part of teaching FASTly.

Related Book Review: God in the Lab: How Science Enhances Faith by Ruth M. Bancewicz.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • 20 spaghetti noodles per group

  • 1 meter of masking tape per group

  • Scissors

  • 1 large marshmallow per group

  • 1 meter of string per group

  • Timer

  • Copies of the Virtues List. Students may already have this from other activities in this activity map.

Teaching the Activity

Divide students into groups of three to four students and give each group one set of materials. Explain that they will be given a challenge and will have exactly 18 minutes to work as a group to complete the challenge. When the time is up, all groups’ work will quickly be measured. Set the timer for 18 minutes and put it where everyone can see it.

Instruct students that the challenge is to build the tallest freestanding tower, supporting the entire marshmallow at the top, using only the materials provided. Freestanding means not leaning against or supported by anything except the table on which is it standing. Pass out the materials and start the timer.

Do not interfere with groups as they work. Remain watchful but do not help them. Students need to struggle with this challenge without input. Frustration, procrastination, disagreements, and fun are all part of the process at this stage. When the time is up, quickly take a meter stick and measure the height to the marshmallow for each group. Have students clean up materials.

Students will initially want to discuss the results of the challenge. What is the tallest tower ever made? How did the other groups do? What would happen if we had additional materials? They will want to share their successes and failures. Allow for some free-flowing discussion. The TED Talk by Tom Wujec can be an interesting way for students to enjoy their failures and successes from this particular challenge as the video shows towers made by people ranging from adults to kindergartners.

After some discussion, share the following quotations with the class. A slide is provided in Tower Building Teams:

None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than on each other.” – Thomas Stallkamp

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it.
1 Corinthians 12:21-27 (NET)

Discuss with the class how these quotations relate to the work of a scientist and to the tower building challenge. Help students think about the different roles involved in science and in the tower building: builders, planners, technicians, mathematicians, visionaries, managers, etc. Talk about which roles emerged during the tower challenge. Then discuss constructive and less constructive behaviors that emerged during the challenge. Did individuals become frustrated with each other, or cut off each other’s ideas, or shift blame for failures onto others, or claim too much credit for success? Did students encourage others after failures, or mediate when tensions arose, or help make sure all voices were heard?

Discuss how any of the virtues listed on the Virtues List might be linked to the challenges of the activity. Make the connection to the practice of science. How are encouraging others, honoring the variety of gifts and roles, practicing humility, or showing arrogance or impatience relevant to the work of a scientist?

You may wish to round off the activity by asking students to reflect in a journal entry on the following questions:

  • What role or roles do you see yourself in when engaging in collaborative work?
  • What character qualities did you show during the activity?
  • What did you notice others contributing that was helpful to the group?
  • Are there ways in which you would like to grow as a result of reflecting on this task?

1This activity is based on Tom Wujec’s TED Talk Build a Tower, Build a Team and licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Delve Activities

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

  • Activity

    “That’s a good question…”

  • Activity

    Group Challenges

  • Activity

    Photo Scrapbook

“That’s a good question…”

In Brief

If reflection and inquiry are being encouraged in the science classroom, then good questions will arise that reach beyond the textbook or the day’s assigned information. This activity offers a way of dealing with these questions in a way that strengthens the sense of a learning community. It can be used as a periodic form of review.

Goals

Students will become involved in researching questions that arise during the course of instruction and sharing their findings.

Students will understand the connection of this activity to serving others and seeking the good of the learning community.

Thinking Ahead

Do you get nervous when student ask questions that are beyond your knowledge? This activity turns these situations into a normal part of the science classroom, encourages students to be curious and ask good questions, gives teachers a way to validate questions students raise, and allows the teacher to take on the role of learner.

By taking on the role of learner and letting students present their own research, you can model humility and the fact that you, too, are part of the learning community and not the expert on all things scientific. Consider how your own need to show mastery or to be right may affect the way you teach and how you implement this activity. How will your own practices and your feedback to students validate their own inquiry?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

Decide how you will reward participation in this activity. For instance, you might treat it as an assignment in which each student must complete a certain number of sheets during the year, or offer extra credit for additional sheets.

Teaching the Activity

Explain the procedures for this activity near the beginning of the year or semester, giving each student a copy of the research sheet and making sure that everyone knows where more are stored. Be sure to explain that the goal is not only to extend understanding, but also to provide opportunities to serve one another within the learning community. If students have copies of the Virtues List you can use it as a point of reference.

Encourage students to join you in monitoring class discussion for interesting questions that reach beyond the current topic. If necessary, plant such questions into the class discussions until raising them becomes a regular part of classroom culture. Broader questions about matters such as science ethics and the relationship between faith and science can be included. When a valuable question arises, ask for one or two volunteers to research it and report back. You may need to help students break big questions down into researchable sub-questions.

While this can be done by individuals, there are benefits to asking two students to undertake the task jointly; this will encourage cooperative learning and potentially extend the amount of research done.

You may wish to give pairs of students specific guidance such as asking them to conduct initial research individually online and then compare what they found for thoroughness and consistency before writing a joint report. Instruct students to include their sources in their written report and to indicate how complete, and how certain or provisional, their answer is. Tell students that many questions will lead to further questions rather than quick answers, which is normal.

Have students turn in their report once it is completed. Set a reasonable timeline and track completion. Then take a few minutes in class to have the researchers present their findings back to the class. You may wish to wait until a few research reports have accumulated and set aside a slightly longer time to review them. This will allow you to review prior learning as you discuss the findings with the class and relate them back to the concepts that triggered the original question. Coach the class in providing respectful, constructive feedback, and attentive engagement to presenters.

The research reports can be accumulated in a class binder or, better, on a shared webpage or wiki, building a cumulative body of class research. Encourage students to consult this and look for ways of introducing learning tasks that require them to consult it through the year. This will keep it from being a task that is, in the end, just for the teacher.

Consider the role of your own verbal practices as the year progresses. You can highlight how working in community for the common good is related to science through:

  • naming the sheets “research reports”
  • treating them seriously as collegial contributions when they are discussed in class
  • thanking students publicly for their contributions to the class’s overall scientific work
  • commenting from time-to-time on how professional scientists work collaboratively and constantly build upon reports of each other’s findings
  • making explicit connections to relational virtues that are being practiced; if students have copies of the Virtues List, you can use it as a point of reference

Group Challenges

In Brief

These activities can be completed by individual lab groups or as whole class challenges. These challenges can be guided or very open-ended depending on the level of the students, time available, and the amount of challenge desired. The goal is to improve collaboration among students and help students reflect on how faith, character, and collaboration are connected.

Goals

Students will work collaboratively to solve a group challenge.

Students will reflect on the connection between collaboration and virtues.

Thinking Ahead

Select a topic from those provided or revise a lab activity that you have used in past years so that it is framed as a challenge. Using groups or whole class challenges repeatedly throughout the year will allow students to build their collaborative skills and also put into practice the specific actions and ideas that they reflected on after previous activities. Use the Virtues List to connect the activity explicitly to Christian virtues, encouraging students to make connections between faith, virtue, and collaboration as a frame for the whole activity. If this is not done explicitly, students may not reflect on the deeper “why” of the activity, as their focus will be on solving the challenge.

Use the ideas provided as well as your own to come up with a series of challenges to use throughout the year. It will be important to help students see that rather than collaboration being an obstacle to individual achievement (“others are dragging me down”), the task is to learn effective and gracious ways of collaborating with one another.

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. Consider how to make this emphasis clear as you frame the activity for students.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Various supplies and handouts as needed (see below)

Directions:

Have necessary supplies ready for students as well as any handouts students might need – several versions of the activity are provided:

Prepare copies of the Virtues List if students do not have them from previous activities. If you choose to do the challenge as a whole class, read through the accompanying instructions for whole class challenges in Group Challenges for more details on how to best facilitate that.

Teaching the Activity

Begin by introducing the idea of a group challenge to the class, and make explicit that the goal is to grow in how we relate to one another as well as learn science. Point out that in order to be successful, the students will need to collaborate and draw on the gifts of each group member and that this will demand practicing the virtues. Refer students to the Virtues List. Working in community means not only that you are with each other and supporting each other, but also that you are going somewhere together. This is where the challenge comes in. Make clear that the goal is not simply to arrive at a result, but to get better at collaborating. Introduce the specific lab challenge to the students and assign groups as needed.

Once students are aware of the guidelines of the challenge, as well as any time or material constraints, let them begin. As students work, circulate and listen in. If any groups are not collaborating well, remind them that working on the collaborative process is part of the goal. If you overhear a key idea or helpful piece of information you may ask that group to share it with the class. For whole class challenges, see the additional guidelines included in Group Challenges. Without including names, take mental or written notes of how you see students working together well and not so well. You may wish to reference these examples at the end of the challenge.

When the challenge is complete, give time to reflect. Have students begin by journaling, using any or all of the following prompts and referring to the Virtues List. If you plan to complete multiple challenges throughout the year, you may wish to use a different set of prompts after each one.

  • As we worked, how did I help or hurt the community by what I said? By what I did?
  • What did I contribute to the community?
  • What could I do differently next time?
  • What qualities were needed by members of the group to collaborate well together? How did I contribute to this? How could I have done better?

Have students share their reflections with their group/class if appropriate. Then give one or more of the following prompts for group reflection.

  • For the next challenge, what three goals for improvement does your group have?
  • One thing we did well together was . . .

Collect these reflections from each student/group and have the students refer to them before the next challenge.

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 they see when they look 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

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 what is going on in the photo as they looked 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.

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

    Rotating Review #1

  • Activity

    Rotating Review #2

  • Activity

    5 min

    Closing Questions

  • Activity

    15 min

    Praise and Lament

Rotating Review #1

In Brief

This activity provides a way of communally reviewing material in order to sustain the intensity of engagement longer than working in small groups and to create interactions between different combinations of students within the class, breaking students out of their habitual groups. It invites students to consider the contribution of others to their learning.

Goals

Students will review science material collaboratively.

Students will reflect on the benefits of working collaboratively.

Thinking Ahead

This activity has the potential to engage students for some time with minimal teacher intervention. Consider how you can use this freeing of your attention to listen in and diagnose areas of weakness, target particular learners for support, and offer positive feedback when students are working well together. Crouching by working pairs of students and offering help or feedback at eye level create a stronger sense of solidarity and support. Such supportive behaviors on your part models and reinforces the message of the activity, that each member of the community is valued and can contribute to the whole, and that we can gratefully receive from others as we learn.

This activity is part of a larger pattern of activities in this activity map in which the role of virtues in classroom relationships has been explicitly reflected upon. If you have been engaging students in such reflection through other activities from this map, this activity could serve as an implicit reinforcement. The connection from faith to virtue to ways of interacting while learning should, however, be made explicit at some point.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Assorted review sheets

Directions:

You will need: assorted review sheets listing key topics and questions to be reviewed. Break the information for review down into a small amount for each sheet, enough for no more than 5 minutes of review, using a variety of sheets to cover the whole of the material. For this activity to work well you will need a classroom with movable furniture where it is possible to create two large concentric circles of chairs, forming a circle of facing pairs.

The activity can also work with double rows of chairs facing each other. See the alternative version below. Arrange the seating before class begins to avoid chaos, wasted time, and a distracting start to class. If you have an odd number of students, make one of the pairs into a group of three. Place one cue sheet on each seat along the inner circle so that each pair of seats has a different review prompt sheet with different topics/questions.

Teaching the Activity

Tell students they are going to work at reviewing what they have learned, and are going to do so collaboratively and in a way that seeks to support one another. Once students are seated facing a partner, make sure that each pair has a review sheet. Give a different sheet for each pair, or, if you have too many pairs, give copies of a sheet to two pairs who are on opposite sides of the circle. Give them five minutes to work through reviewing the questions on their sheet. Encourage them to check in with you. If you are able to use a circle layout, you can be easily available in the center to clarify areas of uncertainty.

After five minutes have the students in the outer circle move one place to the left. The review sheets remain with the students in the inner circle, who do not move.

Repeat the five minutes of review. This time each pair contains an “expert” who has already reviewed and clarified the material, and a “learner” who is reviewing these questions for the first time. Make clear that the expert’s role is to make sure that the learner understands the material.

After five minutes, have the students in the inner circle move one place to the left, leaving the cue sheet behind them for the next student. Now the student in the outer circle is the “expert” who is repeating the topic. Continue to alternate which circle rotates, and each topic will be reviewed twice while students alternate between expert and novice roles.

Continue the rotations for as long as needed. The continuing change of partners and topics sustains engagement, as no single conversation lasts long enough to devolve into inactivity. Be sure to keep the time allotments tight and the rotations brisk to sustain a sense of pace.

At the end, make time for a brief discussion about what was gained by reviewing with a variety of different people as compared with reviewing alone or with a favorite partner. How did a regular change of partner help? Did students learn anything from someone with whom they would not normally interact? How can we focus on strengthening one another’s learning rather than just on our own achievement? Through quiet reflection or journaling, allow for brief expressions of thankfulness for what was received from others.

Alternate layout: if the shape of the classroom does not allow for large circles, essentially the same effect can be achieved using double rows of chairs facing each other. When one row moves to the left, the person at the left end of the row moves to the right end of the row to maintain the rotation.

Rotating Review #2

In Brief

This is an alternate version of Activity 7: Rotating Review #1 that requires less movement but sustains intensity of engagement longer than working in small groups. It creates interactions between different combinations of students within the class. It provides a way of intensively reviewing a range of material. It invites students to consider the contribution of others to their learning.

Goals

Students will review science material collaboratively.

Students will reflect on the benefits of working collaboratively.

Thinking Ahead

This activity is capable of engaging students for some time with minimal teacher intervention. Consider how you can use this freeing of your attention to listen in and diagnose areas of weakness, target particular learners for support, and offer positive feedback when students are working well together. Crouching by working pairs of students and offering help or feedback at eye level creates a stronger sense of solidarity and support. Such supportive behaviors on your part models and reinforces the message of the activity, that each member of the community is valued and can contribute to the whole and that we can gratefully receive from others as we learn.

This activity is part of a larger pattern of activities in this activity map in which the role of virtues in classroom relationships has been explicitly reflected upon. If you have been engaging students in such reflection through other activities from this map, this activity could serve as an implicit reinforcement. The connection from faith to virtue to ways of interacting while learning should, however, be made explicit at some point.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Cue sheets based on key topics to be reviewed

Directions:

Each cue sheet should be different and should include the key information to be reviewed and a list of questions that can be used to review the information. Each sheet should contain enough material for no more than five minutes of review. Include on the sheet the key information needed to answer the questions.

For this activity to work well you will need a classroom with movable furniture where it is possible to create either a single large circle of chairs or more than one smaller circle. Arrange the seating before class begins to avoid chaos, wasted time, and a distracting start to class. If you have an odd number of students, make one of the pairs into a group of three. Place one cue sheet on every second seat, with every cue sheet covering a different set of material.

Teaching the Activity

Once students are seated, have them form pairs in which one person has a review sheet and is to the left of their neighbor who does not have one. Give them five minutes to work through reviewing the questions on their sheet, with the person who has the sheet acting as the questioner/expert and the person without a sheet acting as the learner. Tell students that the person with the sheet should listen to their partner’s answers before seeing if they can extend or clarify them.

After five minutes ask the person with the sheet to give the sheet to the person on their right and then turn in their seat to the person on their left to form a new pair. The person receiving the sheet should turn to the person on their right and act as the expert. This forms new pairs, one of whom is reviewing the sheet for a second time but in a different role, the other of whom is new to this sheet.

After another five minutes of review, the experts again pass their sheet to the right and turn to the left. This returns them to the partner with whom they started, but with a new review sheet.

Repeat the alternation for as long as desired. Pairings will alternate between two configurations, review sheets will rotate around the circle, and each sheet will be reviewed twice by each person, once in the expert role and once in the learner role. Keep the timing tight and the rotations brisk to sustain a sense of pace.

At the end, make time for a brief discussion about what was gained by reviewing with alternating partners as compared with reviewing alone. How did a regular change of partner help? Did students learn anything from someone with whom they would not normally interact? How can we focus on strengthening one another’s learning rather than just on our own achievement? Through quiet reflection or journaling, allow for brief expressions of thankfulness for what was received from others.

Closing Questions

In Brief

This brief closing activity allows students to reflect on the virtues and scientific concepts covered during a class period. Engaging students in brief reflection, both on the ideas in the class and on the virtues relevant to the classroom process, helps students see how science learning and virtue can be connected.

Goals

Students will learn the habit of reviewing their lab work in terms of virtues as well as scientific concepts.

Thinking Ahead

Consider using this activity repeatedly throughout the year as both a means for student reflection as well as an opportunity for formative assessment. Think about how the formational goals you have for your students relate to your classroom practices, such as the questions you ask students to think about – do you make space for student reflection on effective responses, faith questions, or virtues and vices as the year progresses?

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • One half-sheet handout per student

Directions:

It is helpful to have a stack of the half-sheet handouts ready to pass out at fitting moments. Alternatively, students could submit their answers electronically using survey monkey, google forms, email, etc. You may wish students to have access to the Virtues List.

Teaching the Activity

At the end of class, have each student individually answer the following questions. If needed they can refer to the Virtues List used in preceding activities. Their answers will inform you as the teacher as to the key ideas they are taking from the lab and can also inform where to begin the lesson or discussion the next day.

  • What was the main idea of today’s lab/lesson?
  • What is one thing you learned or realized through today’s lab/lesson?
  • What is one question you have about this topic—either something you are confused about, or a question that delves deeper into the topic?
  • What is one positive contribution made by another person in your lab group?
  • What is one virtue that was relevant to how you worked as a group?

Alternatively, you can simply tweak any lab that you currently use in your class so that students are given opportunity to concretely show gratitude for a lab partner. Have students work through the lab activity as usual. At the end of the lab handout that you will be collecting from students, add this final reflection question:

  • What is one positive contribution made by another person in your lab group?

Once you collect the handouts, note what students have shared about their peers. Consider sharing a few positive examples, without including names, with the whole class or individually tell the student who was written about what his or her classmate appreciated. Repeat this practice throughout the year. As students get better at it, you may consider having them tell their lab partner in-person what they appreciated about their contribution to the group rather than simply writing it down.

Praise and Lament

In Brief

This brief activity offers a way to wrap up a unit, semester, or the entire year by reflecting on how virtue has been present or absent in how students have worked together in class. It engages students in reflection on how they have worked together and encourages them to see how learning science together, virtue, and thanksgiving or lament can be connected.

Goals

Students will reflect together on the presence or absence of virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit as they have worked together in class. They will learn to give thanks when virtues have been present and to lament when they have been absent.

Thinking Ahead

Decide beforehand what part of the class period, the beginning or end, would be most appropriate for you and your students to reflect on relational virtues that have been a part of your classroom’s collaboration throughout the past unit, semester, or year. You can refer with students back to the Virtues List as a guide.

Consider how you as a teacher can best position yourself to be part of the activity rather than a facilitator. Sitting at the same level as the students rather than standing in front of them encourages more open exchange. Think about how the formational goals you have for your students relate to your classroom practices, such as the questions you ask students to think about. Do you make space for student reflection on effective responses, faith questions, or virtues and vices as the year progresses?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Blank sheets of paper

Directions:

If students’ desks are typically in rows, arrange them in a circle instead and include a spot for the teacher to sit, or plan time for the students to help set up the room before you begin. You may want to have blank sheets of paper available for students to write on. You may wish students to have access to the Virtues List.

Teaching the Activity

Either individually or in small groups have students reflect back on the unit/semester/year and write down words or phrases that capture how they have observed people relating to one another in virtuous ways, as well as situations in which the virtues have been absent or lacking. It may be helpful for students to think about the Fruit of the Spirit (i.e., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) and/or refer back to the Virtues List. Instruct them not to include specific names of their peers in what they write.

Next, bring the class together as a whole group and ask them to share examples, again without names. After students have shared, and if appropriate in your context, wrap this time up with a prayer thanking God for how these good things have been present in class.

Then repeat the exercise, this time asking students to share what relational virtues they feel have been missing or situations in which they feel virtues were lacking. After students have shared, and if appropriate in your context, close this section with a prayer of confession and lament. 

End with a time of quiet reflection for students and yourself to consider how they might better exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit/relational virtues in this class or future science classes.