FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Activity Map: Motives, Virtues, and Science: The Story of DNA

Overview

What's the Focus

Teaching the details of the discovery of DNA’s structure provides an opportunity to integrate history, ethics, the nature of science, and discussions of what motivates people in science. Connecting this story to the larger question of how faith can relate to science offers space for exploring how the eyes of faith might see the range of motivations for doing science and the need for virtues in working collaboratively.

This activity map also offers opportunities to build cross-curricular connections between science class and Bible class, with activities that could be used in each. The cross-curricular approach engages students in model building, exploring the drama surrounding Watson and Crick’s famous discovery, reflecting on ethical behavior, and making applications to their own motives for learning. The goal is to provide students with opportunities to reflect on the possibility of engaging in Christian practices when doing science.

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. Use particular activities at relevant moments to enrich your existing curriculum.

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 of 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

    30 min

    Science, Technology, and Motives

  • Activity

    0:35

    Why Do Science?

  • Activity

    20 min

    Believe It or Not?

Science, Technology, and Motives

In Brief

This activity introduces distinctions between basic science, applied science, and technology, and engages students in exploring how these relate to faith-informed motivations.

Goals

Students will understand the distinctions between basic science, applied science, and technology.

Students will understand that each of these can be related to various faith-informed motives.

Thinking Ahead

This activity also appears in the Activity Map on Science, Technology, and Service, where you can find further activities that relate to motivations and science.

Our often untested assumptions about the nature of science and technology, and the behavior of scientists, can have a strong influence on how we see the relationship between faith, science, and technology.

This activity engages students in exploring how motives relate to different aspects of science and technology. It is intended as a vehicle for seeing possible connections, not for providing a set of right answers. Consider whether any of the motives explored here are evident in your teaching practices.

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

Print the activities cards and the motives cards on different colored paper.

Teaching the Activity

Explain to students that they are going to begin to think about the relationship of science and technology, and also about how faith can inform the motives of those who work in science or technology. If the concepts are new, first ask students what they think the difference is between basic science and applied science.

Elicit that while both disciplines engage in research and develop models, basic science seeks to generate general explanations, models, theories, and predictions, such as how cells work, while applied science seeks to generate explanations, models, and predictions that help solve a specific applied problem, such as curing a disease. Then ask how both of these are different from technology, and elicit that technology involves building solutions or products, often drawing on the findings of science, to meet particular goals (such as developing a marketable vaccine).

Ask students to work in pairs. Give each student a categories sheet and the two sets of cards (provided in Identifying Assumptions). Ask them to work first with the cards that list various kinds of science- and technology-related activities and to use the category sheet to sort them under Basic Science, Applied Science, or Technology. Expected answers are as follows:

Basic Science

  • Researching the properties of electromagnetic waves
  • Developing a theoretical model of the structure of DNA
  • Deriving three-dimensional momentum conservation laws
  • Developing a classification of rain forest plants

Applied Science

  • Investigating optimal materials for use as WiFi receivers
  • Developing a model to explain why a disease spreads rapidly and predict how it might spread further
  • Researching factors that could make nuclear power more efficient
  • Researching the effect of car mass on the damage sustained in a collision
  • Researching how different designs for aircraft wings affect fuel consumption
  • Studying rain forest plants to determine which of them have medicinal potential

Technology

  • Designing more efficient wireless devices
  • Building a nuclear power plant
  • Studying the relative effectiveness of alternate methods for slowing the progress of a disease
  • Developing a procedure for genetic testing during pregnancy
  • Developing a car design that maximizes driver safety when the car crashes
  • Developing a procedure for extracting a medical ingredient from a rain forest plant

Circulate the classroom as students complete this chart to look for common misunderstandings. After a brief discussion to review the results and check student comprehension, tell students that the second set of cards lists a number of motivations that Christians might have for investing time and effort in science or technology.

Again in pairs, ask students to see whether any of these match best with basic science, applied science, or technology. Some will be easier to place than others. After allowing students to wrestle with this for a few minutes, point out that here the correct answer is less clear, but ask what kinds of motivations fit best at the technology end of the continuum and which fit best at the basic science end.

In conclusion, ask students to reflect quietly for a moment on which of the motivations most strongly speak to them personally.

The remainder of this activity map focuses mostly on applied science and technology. For more activities that look at faith in relation to motives for basic science, see the Activity Maps on Faith and the Nature of Science and Science, Technology, and Service.

Why Do Science?

In Brief

This activity aims to engage students in thinking critically about why science is done, why people enjoy science, how it should be done, and the limitations of science. By looking at a historical example through other peoples’ eyes, students can consider what science should be for. This activity can serve as a primer for Activity 4: The DNA Drama.

Goals

Students will understand that science as a human practice is connected with questions of motivation and character and with ethics and worldview.

Thinking Ahead

Like any other human practice, science is pursued amid a variety of motives, character strengths, and flaws. People can engage in science, applied science, and related technologies for a range of reasons, including pursuit of truth, a sense of the beauty and wonder of what is there, the desire for money or fame, or a desire to help others. Often there is a mix of these and other motives. Also people look at science through a variety of worldviews.

While science classrooms rightly focus on scientific inquiry, skills, and understanding, if no attention is paid to the human context of science, it can create a false image of science, as a human practice can be created and some of the connections between science and faith will be obscured. Since a wide variety of personalities and motivations are involved in the drama of DNA’s discovery, it provides an excellent historical example for discussing motivations and methods for doing science. A brief history of the discovery is included in the activity below.

Think about the mixture of motivations that led you to focus on science in your learning and career and how these motivations relate to faith – this activity creates an opportunity for you to share personally with students.

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Begin by asking the question: “What is the purpose of doing science? Why would people give their time and energy to it?” Responses might include: to understand the world, to learn more, to earn money, to help other people, to control something, to be famous, to figure things out or solve problems, to learn how to care for God’s world, to see more order or structure in the world, to feel smart, etc. You may wish to prompt students to think about both “pure” or “basic” science and applied science in order to broaden the range of motivations.

Next, ask: “What are the personal rewards or motivations for people who do science?” Responses might include: money, fame, satisfaction, excitement, seeing beauty, status, contentment in solving something, joy of discovery, learning new things, etc.

Next, ask: “How should we do science? How should the work of science happen?” Answers may vary widely. Some students may focus on the concrete steps of the scientific method while others may think about how people will interact and engage each other in the process and how those relationships might look or work. Encourage both of these approaches. This is the point at which to begin to help students to think about the “how,” including both technical processes and issues connected to commitment and character (such as commitment to honesty and integrity, treating colleagues well, maintaining a sense of wonder, etc.).

Finally, ask: “Does science have a limit? Are there things it should not pursue? If so, who determines the boundaries?” Answers may vary significantly here as well. Some may focus on the technical limits, some may focus on the philosophical limits (science is limited to the physical world), and others may focus on God’s sovereignty in controlling what humans achieve.

If at first students think science has no limits, ask questions such as: “Can science tell us how to interpret a poem? Should scientists be able to use people for testing dangerous things?” (Students may not know, for instance, about processes for approving research on human subjects through a review board that considers ethical constraints.) “If science finds that people are selfish does that mean we should accept being selfish because science says it is normal?”

Draw together the discussion of this series of questions in a brief summary: science involves careful, repeatable, technical processes, and is also connected to matters of character and to questions of what is right and how we should live.

Direct students to this interactive website timeline on DNA’s history. Have them read the biographies of Rosalyn Franklyn, Francis Crick, and James Watson as well as watch the video on Linus Pauling’s proposed model for DNA. This will provide adequate background for students when they engage the quotations in the next step.

Hand out Why Do Science, which contains various quotations and a grid for organizing them. Ask students to sort each quotation into the most fitting category by writing its number on the grid and adding a few words about how it answers the question for that category. Tell them there is more than one way to organize the quotations, but that there ought to be a reason or reasons for their decisions. They could do this individually or you can arrange them into pairs or groups.

When this is completed, ask students, as a group or as individuals, to pick the statement that they agree with the most, and the one that they agree with the least, and give reasons why. Go around the room and solicit responses.

Finally, have the groups or individuals go back to their statements and pick one more quotation. Ask them to answer the following questions in writing more fully than they did on the grid:

  • What does the statement say about how the world works or why people do science?
  • What does the statement miss or hide about how the world works or why people do science?

You can use these written responses to assess whether students are able to think with the aid of the categories framing the exercise and see scientific practice as connected with character, motives, ethics, and worldview.

Believe It or Not?

In Brief

This activity for science or Bible class engages students in thinking about what makes us accept things as true. What constitutes evidence for us? Students will consider a wide range of claims that certain groups of people accept as true, will attempt to identify whether they also accept them as true, and how faith and evidence are involved.

Goals

Students will think critically about the roles of trust and evidence in coming to believe the findings of science as compared to other kinds of belief.

Thinking Ahead

Activity 1: Science, Technology, and Motives focused on motivations for doing science, and Activity 2: Why Do Science? placed science in the context of character and worldview. This activity again connects science to worldview in terms of how we come to believe. It could be used in a science class or in Bible class to create cross-curricular connections around the topic of faith and science. Each of these activities seeks to help students see science as embedded in human practices and prepares them for considering the story of DNA and its human dimensions.

What counts as evidence? What makes someone believe something? Whose authority do we trust? Are we more persuaded by evidence or by our prior convictions? These questions are basic when considering the nature of science and also confront us every time we read an article on the internet. We typically choose to believe or not believe things in ways based on our underlying sense of what is plausible. Our motives may also affect what we are inclined to believe. We do not have first-hand access to the evidence for most scientific findings, and so our degree of trust in those who report them plays a significant role. We did not witness the events of the New Testament firsthand, and so our degree of trust in those who report them plays a significant role.

Science offers the reassurance that its results are testable and repeatable. But its methods are not well suited to “why” questions, to bigger questions of meaning and ethics, or to unique historical events where testimony becomes more central. Think about the different kinds of trust that are involved in your own beliefs, whether scientific, religious, political, and so on. Consider how to help students learn to be discerning in a way that balances the need to be critical with the need to trust reliable testimony.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Hand out the guiding questions in Believe It Or Not and display the first slide of the presentation which also displays the guiding questions. The questions are:

  1. Do you believe it? If you do, what convinces you? If you don’t, why not?
  2. Rate, from 1-10, how much you trust the authority or believability of the source.
  3. What background or preexisting knowledge do you have on the subject?
  4. What evidence would make you change your mind?

Explain to students that you are going to present five scenarios where claims about the universe are being presented, and they are to answer the guiding questions for each scenario.

Advance the presentation to the first scenario and either read it to students or allow them a few moments to read it for themselves. Then give them five minutes to answer the guiding questions. Repeat this for the next four scenarios. The scenarios include a UFO conspiracy theory, the current rate of species extinction, the view that the earth is flat, unusual caterpillar behaviors, and belief that Jesus is God’s Son.

When finished, quickly work through answers to guiding question #1 for each scenario by asking students to raise their hands if they believed it. Keep the tempo quick through this so students are looking and listening to you and not looking around for an opportunity to judge others. Aim to get a sense of what the majority did each time. Then ask students the following discussion questions:

  • What was the most important factor in determining whether you would believe each
  • scenario? Why did you trust it or not trust it? 
  • How would you define “trusted sources of information”? Is this a definition that can be applied to anything?
  • How does the scientific community accept something as truth or knowledge? What types of knowledge or truth does science not consider?
  • Is your trust in the Bible similar to or different from your trust in scientific findings? How so?
  • How is scientific information different from or similar to other kinds of information? Can we do an experiment to test the resurrection of Christ?
  • Is it valid to believe things based on the testimony of others? How do our prior ideas of what is plausible affect whether we believe others?
  • How might different motivations for learning about and doing science influence what you tend to find plausible? How does science try to limit the influence of our motives on what we conclude to be true?

The goal of this activity is to get students thinking about what they put faith in rather than to resolve all questions about what to believe. In concluding this activity, draw students’ attention to the role of prior assumptions. Can we determine whether to trust the caterpillar science aside from the question of whether we trust scientists and their reports? Can we determine whether the incarnation is plausible aside from the prior belief that God does or does not exist? Why does it matter that we can trust the work of others?

Delve Activities

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

  • Activity

    90 min

    The DNA Drama

  • Activity

    45 min

    Collaborating and Model Building

  • Activity

    60 min

    Building a Protein

The DNA Drama

In Brief

This activity engages students in examining the history and drama surrounding DNA’s discovery. It gives them the opportunity to analyze the motives of scientists, observe and critique good and not-so-good behavior, and observe and analyze scientific methodology. It engages students in seeing the history of science from multiple perspectives.

Goals

Students will learn about the story of the discovery of DNA’s structure.

Students will examine the story from the angles of methods, motivations, and morals and understand the relevance of each to scientific work.

Thinking Ahead

This activity involves showing a video that delves into the events that occurred during the discovery of DNA’s structure. The activity can be preceded by a presentation on DNA’s history before the events where the video starts. Part of the point of this activity is to present science as a human practice that is bound to human motivations, virtues, and vices.

Consider whether students in your courses are taught science in a way that suggests that scientific results and theories simply appeared and had no history in human choices and responsibilities. Once we begin to see science as a practice involving people working together in concrete circumstances, and not just a methodology or a body of knowledge, it becomes easier to see how science is connected to our formation and to questions of how we treat one another and the world around us. Science is related in its practices to moral responsibility and, ultimately, to the faith that calls us to love our neighbor.

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • The documentary film DNA: The Secret of Life (Full Title = DNA: The Molecule of Life – Episode 1: The Secret of Life, Directed by Ian Duncan and David Glover, Windfall Films Production, 2003); this film is widely available for download, streaming from the internet, or in DVD format from your local library.

  • Student copies of The Drama of DNA

Directions:

Copying each page of The Drama of DNA on different colored paper will be helpful.

Teaching the Activity

Divide students into three groups. They do not necessarily need to sit by each other; you could simply number students around the room. Hand out the appropriate question sheets from The Drama of DNA so that every student in each group has a copy of their group’s sheet. Each student will receive their own sheet and make observations independently during the film. The questions given to each group of students focus on a different aspect of the film.

  • Group 1 focuses on the motivations, reasons, and benefits of doing science for each of the main players in the DNA drama.
  • Group 2 focuses on the ethics of the scientists’ behavior during DNA’ discovery.   
  • Group 3 focuses on the methodologies used during DNA’s discovery.

Give students a few moments to look over their task.

Play the DNA: The Secret of Life video (approx. 53 minutes). You may want to break this up over two days and provide time for students to ask questions at the halfway point.

The following details can be presented to students at the beginning or teased out through the film viewing:

  • Watson sat in on Franklin’s presentation and used that information to build a model with Crick. (Using research results that have not yet been published is not good scientific practice.)
  • Crick and Watson used the results of Franklin’s X-ray to figure out the structure of DNA.
  • Franklin was never awarded a Nobel Prize because she died before it was given to W/C/W, and the award isn’t given posthumously.
  • Franklin never knew that Wilkins had shown Watson her X-ray picture which provided evidence for a double helix structure.
  • Franklin was also responsible for providing evidence that the nucleotides were on the inside, not the outside.
  • Franklin died of ovarian cancer, which ran in the family, and Crick and his wife spent a lot of time with her near her death.

When the video is finished, direct students from each group to meet and review their notes. If you copy each group’s sheets on paper of a different color it makes it easy for group members to find each other. Allow students to write and rewrite their notes as they discuss each other’s observations and think of new insights and missed information. Encourage them to come up with the most thorough report they can by collaborating and sharing findings within their group. Emphasize that each member of the group needs to end up with a thorough report on their own sheet because they are going to be asked to share it further.

When they have finished discussing, re-form the students into new groups of three containing one student from each of the original groups. If you have used colored paper, each group should have one sheet of each color. Provide clean copies of the two handouts each student is missing. For example, a student originally from group 2 will need handouts 1 and 3. Provide each student enough time to explain and expound on their group topic while the other two take notes. When finished, each student should have full notes for all three situations. These notes will be useful in Activity 8: Analyzing Motives and Methods.

Conclude with a brief class discussion of how methods, motives, and morals are all meaningful ways of looking at scientific work. Ask students to consider where faith might enter this picture.

Discussing the collaboration during the student exercise and why different people focus on different things and then having students share their findings might be a valuable way to conduct inquiry. What does this gain over individual work? Did they find they had missed things noticed by others? Ask students to comment on what virtues are needed for the collaboration to work well. For example, each group needs to be diligent and honest. Trust in and respect for the work of others is needed. Have students explicitly consider not only whether the collaboration led to good pragmatic outcomes, but also why it might be valuable in itself in terms of honoring other people.

Collect students’ response sheets to assess understanding of the video. If you wish, have students write a brief reflection that considers the practical benefits and virtue aspects of collaborating with others, and how these could relate to scientific work. See also Activity 8: Analyzing Motives and Method for a further assessment suggestion.

Collaborating and Model Building

In Brief

This activity focuses on the virtues needed for collaborative scientific work. As students interact within collaborative processes, they will also learn the key concepts that are necessary for assembling a model of DNA.

Goals

Students will use key DNA concepts to assemble a model of DNA.

Students will understand that virtues are one of the connections between faith and science and are relevant to collaborative scientific work.

Thinking Ahead

This activity seeks to engage students in reflection on how the way in which scientific work is done might be related to the interpersonal virtues called for by Christian faith. Teaching FASTly includes recognizing that the connection between faith and science is complex. There are factors in scientific work beyond discussions of truth claims, and these include the role of motivations, practices, and virtues.

An activity like this is most effective if it takes place in a classroom where students have had other opportunities to reflect on the values implicit in classroom activity. Think about what opportunities students have in your courses for reflection on learning practices, how you can help them think beyond whether a given procedure gets things done efficiently, and on to what values and virtues are either embodied or ignored.

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Copies of Collaborating and Model Building for each group

  • DNA model pieces from: (1) the purchase of DNA modeling kits through a science education supplier, (2) the creation of your own kits using common household/lab items such as thumb tacks, paper clips, and rubber bands to represent the various DNA pieces, or (3) the template in Collaborating and Model Building 2

Directions:

If you use the template in Collaborating and Model Building 2, have students cut out the pieces ahead of time to save class time.

Teaching the Activity

This activity engages students in collaborative problem solving. Arrange students into groups of 5-7 depending on total class size. Hand each student in a group a strip of paper with a DNA fact from Collaborating and Model Building. Some students may receive two depending on the size of each group. Provide them with material to build a DNA model from Collaborating and Model Building 2 or elsewhere.

Instruct students that each person is responsible for knowing and providing to others the information that is on their piece of paper and that groups should be careful to ask each group member for their information rather than just taking the slip from them. Students are to work together to assemble a model of DNA. Once a group finishes they are to assist groups that are struggling. The activity will not be complete until every group has a correct model of DNA assembled as decided by the teacher. Have students record this model in their notebooks; you can use your regular resources to test their understanding of the model.

When finished, discuss the following questions with the class:

  • How did we work together in this activity? How did the way we treated one another help or hinder the process of arriving at a result?
  • What does working collaboratively or competitively imply about the way we view the people around us? What virtues or vices does each method of working call for? How does each approach nudge you to behave?
  • What parallels might there be between these two ways of doing a classroom activity and the choices that professional scientists make about how to work with their colleagues?
  • Christian faith includes commitment to a set of virtues, including love for and kindness to others, humility, patience, and gentleness. How do you think these might be relevant to learning science? How might they be relevant to professional scientific work? You can use this List of Virtues for your own reference or as a resource for students to think about virtues.

Conclude with a brief opportunity for students to journal using the following prompt:

  • What does the way we work at learning science suggest about what we believe? How do virtues connect faith and science? What is my own contribution to how we work together?

Use this task to assess students’ understanding of the relevance of virtues to the relationship between faith and science.

Building a Protein

In Brief

The relationship between faith and science is not just about evaluating scientific and theological claims. Another connection happens when the language of faith draws imagery from the realm of science and uses it to see truth more clearly. This activity focuses on scientifically understanding how proteins are synthesized in the cell, and also engages students in reflection on how scientific understanding might enrich a metaphor used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 where the community of faith is compared to the body of Christ.

Goals

Students will understand the process of protein synthesis.

Students will consider whether increased scientific knowledge can inform how we hear Scripture in ways that deepen faith.

Thinking Ahead

Protein synthesis is an abstract concept. While pictures and videos can help students comprehend the process, seeing it live and participating in it significantly increases student retention and understanding. This activity engages students bodily and draws on their imaginations to help make basic cell operations memorable. It also offers the chance to think about how learning more about natural science can enrich rather than undermine imagery used in Scripture. This activity is not about how Scripture affects science, but about how science might inform insight into Scripture. It could work well as a coordinated collaboration between science and Bible classes.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the image of the parts of the body working together as a means of urging Christian communities toward a way of life in which each member of the community is loved and valued. Just as the ear cannot say to the eye “I don’t need you,” those who are part of the church are different from one another, but all belong.

This image is particularly significant because it is more than just a convenient comparison; it is connected to the claim that the church functions as the body of the risen Christ. Bringing up this passage alongside DNA does not imply that this biblical metaphor somehow gives us a better scientific understanding of how cells work, or that the Bible anticipated science; the passage never intended to teach cell biology. It can, however, raise a question in the other direction: as science tells us more about how the world works, can that enrich faith by adding new dimensions to familiar comparisons? Notice that this activity also avoids just talking about these ideas and focuses on practices as well. It engages students in collaborating in an activity in which each member has a role to play.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Presentation slides Building a Protein

  • Note cards with organelle names and functions (see Organelle Cards)

  • Grapes

  • Oranges

  • Apples

  • Knives

  • Skewers

  • Markers

  • Plastic Wrap

  • Small packages of candy such as Smarties

  • Petri Dishes

  • Note Pads

  • Note cards with “A,” “O,” or “G” on them

Directions:

See Cell Skit for additional instructions.

Teaching the Activity

Print off the organelle cards and determine the number of each type you’ll need according to class size. Keep in mind that DNA/RNA/Ribosome/ER work as pairs (DNA/RNA, RNA/Ribosome, Risbosome/ER) so you’ll have 4, 8, 12, or 16 students involved in that sequence depending on how many groups of them you choose. Announce to the class that we’re going to be acting out the functions of a protein-producing cell. Hand out the organelle cards to students and allow them a moment to familiarize themselves with their organelle’s duty.

Announce that all cards with the word “energy!” are jobs that require a student to eat a piece of candy before performing their function. This applies to all cards and elicits goodwill! Station students around the room according to their job. Chloroplast should be by a window, plasma membrane by the door, and DNAs should spread out near the back and each partner with an RNA. Ribosomes should each partner with an E.R., which should be located near a side wall. Golgi can be at a desk. Lysosomes need to be near a surface where they can do some cutting.

Begin by explaining the sequence of events that will occur. See Cell Skit for further instructions. As you explain, walk them through the events one step at a time. Run through a second time more briskly once you have explained all the steps. After they have become familiar with the overall procedure and their specific task, the process can function by itself for 5-6 rounds.

When the activity seems to have run its course, bring it to an end and have students return to their seats. Discuss the following questions with the class. It may be helpful to ask students to share an answer with a neighbor before taking answers from the class:

  • What did the ribosome need in order to do its job? (Instructions from RNA, food chunks from lysosome, ATP from mitochondria)
  • What did the lysosome need in order to do its job? (Whole foods from vesicle, ATP from mitochondria)
  • Which parts of the process where unnecessary? (None)
  • Which ones were less important than the others?  (None)

Finally, ask students to write a summary of the protein synthesis process to aid retention and clarification and so you can check understanding. You can also use your regular science teaching resources to test student understanding of protein synthesis.

Next, or concurrently in Bible class, project 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31 (Building a Protein). Ask students what analogy Paul uses to describe how Christians work together. Point out that Paul could not have known much about how the body works compared to what we know today from natural science. His point was not about cell functions, but about the visible body in action. What happens to our understanding of this passage as our scientific knowledge advances? Does learning more about how the cell functions change how we hear Paul’s analogy? Does it make it irrelevant, or wrong, or outdated, or perhaps richer? Avoid implying that the Bible was trying to teach about cell biology here or that the commandment to love one another needs validation from biology.

The point here is not to make science or faith substitutes for one another, but to think about how what we know from science can influence how we hear Scripture. Increasing scientific knowledge can change what we understand when we hear imagery in Scripture that is based on how the world works. Keep science and Scripture distinct, but focus on how knowing more science can change the way we imagine Paul’s analogy in a way that deepens it. The relationship between growing scientific understanding and the Bible need not be tension or conflict, but can be characterized by deepened wonder.

Briefly draw attention to the fact that this activity involved everyone in the class in a necessary role, and so illustrated both the science of cells and Paul’s call to community. Have students rewrite 1 Corinthians 12:15-20 using cell organelles instead of body parts. This can be done in class or as homework.

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

    50 min

    Why Do I Do Science?

  • Activity

    40 min

    Analyzing Motives and Methods

Why Do I Do Science?

In Brief

Activity 2: Why Do Science? and Activity 4: The DNA Drama focused on famous scientists’ motivations for doing science. This activity turns attention to students’ own thoughts, desires, and actions as they learn science. It engages students in reflecting on their motivations, how they are shaped, and how they connect to faith.

Goals

Students will examine their own motivations for learning science.

Students will show understanding of how faith can inform motivations for learning science.

Thinking Ahead

Previous activities have focused on how motivation and character relate to science. This activity connects these questions to students’ own motivations, asking them to reflect on why they do science, what they’ll use science for, and how they’ll view science in their lives.

Be sure to spend some time reflecting on the questions on the handout (see Why Do Science Survey) before discussing them with students. Note that the activity asks students to notice both that there can be explicitly faith-grounded reasons for engaging in scientific study and that some broader reasons for studying science can be grounded in, or related to, faith also, even if not articulated in explicit faith language. This is because of science’s connection with serving and seeking the well-being of others and of creation, with appreciating the wonder of creation or with developing our gifts.

Consider what is communicated through the way you practice and talk about science during your regular science teaching, and why students should take the work seriously. Is motivation framed mainly in terms of school requirements and deadlines, or is it regularly related to deeper human motivations for science?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Explain to students that they are going to take a survey about their motivations for doing science. Make clear that the survey does not assume they love science, but instead asks them to think about why they put any effort into science class and what might make science learning seem personally worthwhile to them.

Hand out the survey found in Why Do Science SurveyIt lists various motivations for people to do science. Have students work individually to rank the items in terms of how much each motivation listed applies to their own motivation to do science work in school.

Arrange students into groups of 3 or 4 and have them exchange papers and view other group members’ rankings. Have them discuss which person in the group they were most similar to, and what types of motivations were ranked high or low across the group. Discuss the findings as a class, and ask students why they think some motivations were ranked higher than others.

Have students answer the take-home reflection questions on the back of the handout for homework. They are:

  • What reasons or motivations were new to you or something you had not thought of before?
  • Can you think of other motivations or reasons that weren’t listed among the 10 examples? What are they?
  • How do you think your own reasons or motivation could change or be changed?
  • Look at the motivations you have ranked more highly? What character qualities do they imply, such as curiosity, care for the well-being of others, capacity for appreciation and wonder, discernment, desire to serve, ambition? Are these qualities you want to develop?
  • One of the motivations listed mentions God. Which of the others could also be Christian reasons for studying science? How might they connect with faith?

Take time at the beginning of the next day’s class to discuss students’ answers to the reflection questions. By beginning with a chance for them to compare answers in small groups before the whole class discussion, you create a safer space for students to share their ideas rather than asking for immediate sharing to the whole group. Collect students’ written responses to assess students’ ability to connect faith, motivations and science, especially in ways that move beyond the presence of explicit God language to more implicit faith motivations. Many of the motivations listed do not mention God but could be connected to faith. See whether students are able to make these connections.

Analyzing Motives and Methods

In Brief

This activity can be used as a test essay or take-home assignment to follow up and assess learning from Activity 4: The DNA Drama. Students engage in critical reflection on ethical behavior in relation to character and choices. 

Goals

Students will show that they can relate the story of the discovery of DNA structure to faith, ethics, and their own learning context.

Thinking Ahead

This activity is designed to provide closing reflections after Activity 4: The DNA Drama. It explores students’ ability to make connections between Christian concepts such as human sinfulness and the human calling to explore creation and the specific scientific story of DNA just investigated. It probes whether students can see and articulate how faith, ethics, and science can be connected. Referring back to students’ own choices helps reduce the possibility of settling on glib answers to the first few questions and encourages students to explore the moral complexity of the story rather than just providing a simple list of correct answers.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

After watching and discussing the film as detailed in Activity 4: The DNA Drama, the following questions can serve as a take home assignment or test essay.

  • Compare the research approaches and attitudes of Watson and Crick with those of Franklin and Wilkins. What are each approach’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • What might faith have to do with science? At what specific points in the story do Christian ideas such as the human calling to explore and understand the creation, the distorting effect of sin, or the call to virtuous character seem relevant to this story?
  • If you could change the way this story unfolded, what would you change and why? Do you think you would have made different choices if you had been one of the players in the story?
  • What parallels do you see between the human dynamics of this story and things that happen in school? Are there any things you could help to change?

As you assess this essay, in addition to considering whether students have accurately represented the scientific story, also look for evidence that students understand that motivation and character can be ways in which faith and science are related. Use this assignment to assess students ability to make connections between faith, ethics, science, and their own context and character. Making connections like these is at the heart of Teaching FASTly.