FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Activity Map: Science and the Internet

Overview

What's the Focus

Many discussions, debates, and declamations regarding the relationship between faith and science take place not in the careful prose of scholarly conferences and research articles, but in online arguments. The internet serves as a major source of information and misinformation for most students. Students will go on gleaning ideas about faith and science from internet sources long after they leave the school classroom. They need to learn not only how to be cautious with online sources, but how to find trustworthy sources and accept valid findings.

  • Can we teach them some necessary discernment skills as they navigate the online ocean of claims and counterclaims?
  • Can we help them to become wiser consumers of internet information about faith and science?

This collection of activities engages students in exploring different ways that science and the internet intersect, challenging our ability to seek truth. The activities cover topics such as:

  • Google searching
  • Discerning reputable sources
  • How others perceive us online
  • Pornography

The activities are designed to help students see that engaging faithfully with online information demands complex skills and careful practices.

It is not necessary to use every activity in your class. The Activity Map offers a range of possibilities to enrich your existing teaching resources. Rather than being done in a tight sequence, the activities may be more effective spread throughout the year. Some form a possible sequence, but you may select those best-suited to your context and adapt them to your learning plan.

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

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

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

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

Quick Stop Lesson Plan

The best way to use this Activity Map is to explore all of the activities and see which ones best fit together in your particular teaching context. If you just need a quick lesson outline, you can use the links below to preview and download a lesson plan based on activities selected from this Activity Map.

 

PreviewDownload Files

Discover Activities

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

 

  • Activity

    30 min

    Are You My Neighbor?

  • Activity

    20 min

    Google Everything

Are You My Neighbor?

In Brief

The goal of this activity is to help students see how online behavior calls for concern not only for truth, but also for relational virtues. Students view video clips exemplifying online behavior that is not aligned with Christian values, and engage in constructing a more virtuous response.

Goals

Students will understand the connection between Christian faith, courteous and peaceable behavior towards others, and online commenting.

Thinking Ahead

If you have ever read the comments section under a controversial news article, blog, or social media post, then you will have seen how the anonymity of the internet can encourage commenters to say things they would never dream of saying in a face-to-face setting. Christians are called to care about truth, and also to image God in every interaction with others, whether face-to-face or online. If a preoccupation with being right and winning debates overrides our calling to model peace, kindness, and love of neighbor, then the picture presented is not consistent with the New Testament’s picture of faith.

Consider your own online practices before addressing this with students:

  • Are these practices consistent with your person-to-person behavior in other contexts?
  • How can you model good choices for your students?

Relevant Book Review: God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens by John F. Haught

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Internet access to show two online video clips

  • Projection for slides from Are You My Neighbor

Directions:

Give students some background on Richard Dawkins:

Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist, who has made his understanding of evolution central to his case against religion. He consistently criticizes religious belief, particularly the Christian religion, and is, in turn, regularly challenged by Christians. His best-selling book The God Delusion offers his opinion on why God doesn’t exist and Christianity is false.

In the following video clips, Richard Dawkins reads a hate mail letter from someone claiming to be a Christian. The second link has bleeped-out words as Dawkins reads his letters. Play one or both clips:

Introduce the idea of an “ad hominem” attack—one that attacks the person (“you are stupid”), instead of engaging the ideas with which we disagree (“I think that view is mistaken because…”).

Divide students into small groups. Ask them to discuss whether it is acceptable to use personally abusive language if addressing someone whose views seem wrong, and whether such a choice is consistent with professing Christian faith.

After allowing some time for initial discussion, display Slide 1 of Are You My Neighbor, which shows the text of Titus 3:1-6. Ask students to identify based on the text:

  • Who is included among those towards whom Christians are called to be peaceable and gentle?
  • Would this include critics of religion and people with opposing views?
  • What specific virtues are we urged to practice in this passage?
  • How are these virtues related to salvation according to this passage—are they a secondary matter, or part of the logic of being Christian?
  • What is the relationship between being right and being good?

You can use Slide 2 in Are You My Neighbor to help students see key connections in the passage.

Ask students whether the virtues listed in this passage prevent us from disagreeing with people, or speaking up when we think harmful ideas are being communicated. How can we disagree while still treating others as our neighbors? Discuss specific verbal strategies for disagreeing courteously, such as:

  • I am unable to agree with your view that…
  • My reasons for taking a different position are…
  • I hope that you will consider the following…

Ask students to craft a brief letter to Richard Dawkins in response to the video clips. The letters should identify what is problematic about the letters he read aloud, and model a more courteous tone. The point is not to address his scientific views, about which students may know little, but to practice a different kind of Christian response. It may not be appropriate to send the letters if students have not actually encountered Dawkins’ ideas and are only responding second-hand, but articulating a response to the clips provides practice in responding constructively.

Google Everything

In Brief

The goal of this activity is to help students see online search engines as useful tools that may not be equally helpful for every kind of question. Students are engaged in researching a series of questions online, and discussing the results and the relative merits of different sources of knowledge.

Goals

Students will understand the strengths and limitations of online search engines for different kinds of questions.

Thinking Ahead

It is increasingly common for people, including students, to search the internet for answers to all kinds of questions. While this skill is valuable and needs practice and sharpening, it carries risks and limitations. There are inherent risks when people use medical information found online to diagnose and treat themselves. The benefits of online searches for some of life’s more perplexing or complicated questions have limitations and may only lead to a bottomless pit of others’ opinions.

Helping students realize the value of gathering answers and opinions from a variety of sources prepares them to establish responsible truth-seeking practices. It also affirms that community and relationships matter, even in a digital age.

In order to familiarize yourself with what students are likely to find, work through this exercise yourself before assigning it.

Consider how this activity relates to your everyday teaching practices—do you ever challenge students to use multiple information sources to answer important questions, or to use community resources as well as online searching?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Ask students to search online for answers to the following questions and cite their source(s). The questions are provided on the handout Google Everything:

  1. What is the boiling point of ethanol?
  2. When did Albert Einstein die?
  3. What is a parsec?
  4. What caused the Chernobyl accident?
  5. When should a person get married?
  6. How much should I give to charity?
  7. Is heaven real?
  8. What is the best way to pray?
  9. What should I do for a career?

After students have finished their online research, have them compare their answers in small groups. Then discuss the following questions with the class:

  • Which questions had the most and the least consistently uniform answers?
  • Why? (Draw out the difference between questions that addressed commonly accepted public knowledge and questions that led into beliefs not universally shared.)
  • Were there any answers that you did not really understand? (Discuss how copying an answer from the internet without really understanding it or thinking about it is not really learning.)
  • Other than the internet, what sources of learning might lead to better answers for some of these questions? (Focus the discussion on learning from other people, including people who know you personally, as well as from sources such as books or the Bible.)
  • Which questions would be better answered from some of those other sources first? (Point out that for some kinds of questions, an internet search simply connects us to the opinions of unknown individuals, who may or may not be trustworthy. While this does not mean we cannot find excellent help with important questions online, it can be difficult to locate reputable sources with a general internet search. We should not necessarily trust the first source we find, but may have to go deeper to find reliable answers.)
  • What would a wise use of search engines look like? (Discuss strategies such as not automatically trusting the first result, and defining when not to go to search engines as a first resort.)

If you plan to use the activity A Collaborative Resource, point ahead to it, and mention that students will do some more work on identifying helpful sources.

Delve Activities

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

  • Activity

    45 min

    To Trust or Not to Trust?

  • Activity

    45 min

    Testing the Web

  • Activity

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    Ask the Class

  • Activity

    45 min

    The Science of Porn

  • Activity

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    A Collaborative Resource

To Trust or Not to Trust?

In Brief

This activity encourages students to look at what they accept as truth, whom they accept truth from, and how that can influence the decisions they make. It engages students in an exercise in critical thinking about the pitfalls of too much or too little trust, as they learn to navigate information on the internet.

Goals

Students will understand how intensive use of scientific or theological language can lead to uncritical acceptance of online information.

Thinking Ahead

Most of us, at some point or another, have read something that was scientifically beyond our grasp, but that we accepted as true. Our acceptance can be influenced by factors such as technical language, authoritative writing style, appeal to scientific-looking data, professional appearance of the media, or trust in the person who introduced us to it. The factors that influence our decision-making in these situations are often unconscious.

Analyzing our thoughts and actions in situations like these can help us to be discerning as we sift through the flood of online information. At the same time, there is an opposite danger—learning to be skeptical of scientific findings, and thereby falling into the hands of those who wish to downplay them in order to serve their own interests. It is important in this activity to emphasize both sides of the issue of trusting scientific findings: too much trust and too little.

Consider how your usual practices relate to this issue. If you recommend websites (whether scientific or theological) to students, what is your basis for doing so, and how do you help them evaluate those sources?

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Announce to students:

One important role that Christians play as stewards of creation is protecting our environment, and each other, from hazardous chemicals. Too often, pollution has wreaked havoc on our bodies and our land, and when we are able to scientifically identify new health concerns, we need to consider how to protect people.

Notice that this introduction is carefully worded so as to avoid making any specific claim about the website that will be visited.

Direct students to the website dhmo.org. Have them answer the following questions from Ban DHMO 1 silently, to avoid premature sharing by students who realize the nature of the site:

  1. Look at the home page. What does E.A.C. stand for?
  2. Click on the FAQ link on the website. What is DHMO like, and what does it do to DNA, proteins, and cells?
  3. “Should I Be Concerned…?” How many people support the ban on DHMO?
  4. “What are the Dangers…?” List three of the dangers of DHMO exposure.
  5. “Is it true that DHMO improves athletic performance?” Yes or no?
  6. “What are the symptoms…?” List three symptoms of accidental overdose.

Place the petition form (Ban DHMO 2) at the front of the classroom.

As students finish their questionnaires, have them turn in their forms at the front of the room, and give them the opportunity to sign the petition.

Once everyone has had the opportunity to sign, hand out the second set of questions (Ban DHMO 3). Ask them to answer these in pairs:

  1. What does the prefix “di-” mean? What does the prefix “mon-” or “mono-” mean?
  2. How many hydrogen atoms are in “dihydrogen?” Write “H2” in the space below.
  3. How many oxygen atoms are in “monoxide”? Write “O” behind “H2” in the space above.
  4. For what molecule have you just written the formula?
  5. The Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide hoax is designed to get you to believe that a scientific-sounding chemical is harmful, by using misleading terms and stats. It does not make clear what the chemical really is: ordinary water. Whether or not you were fooled by this hoax, rank the following factors from 1 to 5 that influenced you (or you imagine would most influence someone) to believe the hoax, with 1 being the most influential and 5 being the least.
    1. _____ My teacher recommended we explore the page.
    2. _____ The website seemed professionally designed.
    3. _____ The website used a lot of scientific language.
    4. _____ The arguments were scientifically convincing.
    5. _____ Everyone else was signing the petition.
  6. What questions or concerns did you have while reading and signing that you didn’t have answers to?
  7. The Bible urges us to seek truth and beware of deception (e.g., John 8:26 and 44, Acts 4:22, Acts 20:30, 1 Corinthians 13:6, 2 Corinthians 4:2). How does this apply to the ways in which we use online information about faith and science?

Review these questions as a post-activity discussion. Ask students whether the references were helpful, and find out whether they checked them.

One of the Bible references in question 7 above (Acts 4:22) has nothing to do with truth or deception; this can help you discern if students have been thorough in their work.

If many students did not check, avoid a spirit of “aha, you got it wrong again.” Instead, use this as an example of how it takes work to be diligent in checking sources, and how we tend not to do the work most of the time. Solicit multiple student answers for the last three questions (5 through 7).

Next, display Slide 1 of To Trust or Not to Trust. (The source, which you may wish to explore as a resource for more detailed discussion of this topic, is Tobacco Explained.) Ask students:

  • What is the quoted passage seeking to argue? What conclusion does it want us to reach? (That smoking is not necessarily as harmful as scientists have suggested.)
  • What are the arguments used? (Blind appeal to unnamed authorities, e.g., “distinguished sources”; studies do not all reach the same conclusions; there are other causes of cancer; the matter is not absolutely proven.)
  • Are these good arguments? (The “distinguished sources” are not named; perfectly good scientific research does not necessarily reach complete unanimity, as scientists continue to test and challenge findings; the fact that there are other causes has little logical bearing on whether smoking is a cause; science does not normally operate by cast-iron proof.)

Next ask:

  • Who do students think might have made this statement and why? (The source is hidden; after students have speculated, click to reveal the source.)
  • Why might the tobacco industry want to emphasize that scientific results leave room for further research and are usually not cast-iron proof?
  • Whose interests are being served?

Explain to students that in the early 1950s, it was becoming scientifically clear that smoking was linked to cancer. Tobacco companies were aware of this, and they decided on a public relations campaign with the goal of undermining the idea that cigarettes were dangerous. This included the strategy of downplaying the growing scientific findings. The challenge we face is not only that people make bold claims online that we should question, but that people and organizations wanting to push their special interests often try to make us suspicious of findings that we should actually take seriously.

To close, discuss with students the following questions:

  • Why might we be tempted to believe information on a website too quickly if it uses scientific language?
  • Might the same kind of thing happen with theological language if a website uses a lot of Christian words to frame its argument?
  • Why should we be suspicious when other online sources tell us that widely accepted scientific findings are not to be trusted?
  • If we are seeking truth, whether scientific or theological, how can we set about trying to verify what we read?

Testing the Web

In Brief

This engages students in an activity evaluating online resources related to Christian discussion of faith and science questions about origins. As well as helping students to understand the range of views in such resources, the activity introduces some basic ways of evaluating websites.

Goals

Students will understand the diversity of online resources focused on faith and science questions about origins.

Students will become familiar with some basic ways of evaluating online sources.

Thinking Ahead

It is increasingly common for people, including students, to search the internet for answers to all kinds of questions. Helping students realize that internet sources need to be evaluated for bias, and likely reliability, is important in helping them establish responsible truth-seeking practices. Helping them see and evaluate the range of views shaping online presentation on the topic of origins can help them understand the shape of the discussion in the wider Christian community.

You will need to work through this exercise yourself before assigning it to students, in order to familiarize yourself with what they are likely to find. Requiring students to think critically about what is being advocated, and by whom, will help them develop the wisdom and discernment necessary for their future learning.

Relevant Book Review: Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology by Darrell R. Falk

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Ask students to brainstorm topics where faith and science intersect. You could treat this as a discussion, or use A Map Handout from the Wonder and Wisdom activity A Map, and ask students to list topics, questions, and Bible passages relevant to faith and science on the handout.

Spend a few minutes gathering student’s suggestions. It is likely that questions surrounding origins will feature prominently in students’ findings. It is recommended to focus on this topic for the following class exercise, as websites on this topic are well established and easy to find.

You can return to students’ brainstormed list in the activity A Collaborative Resource.

Give students copies of Testing the Web. It introduces a simple rubric for basic evaluation of faith and science websites. As you review the categories below with students, take time to discuss why each might matter in deciding how useful a website is.

  1. Website URL. (So that you can find it again later.)
  2. What is the philosophical orientation or bias of the site? For instance, does it promote a specific stance on certain faith and science questions? (Websites are not simply neutral information; they reflect the perspectives of those who create them and the constituencies for which they are developed; knowing the basic perspective can help identify where there might be bias in the information.)
  3. Major contributing writers. Include educational qualifications and fields of expertise. (Many websites are put up by people who may be under-qualified to offer more than opinions; checking the credentials of authors can help you decide whether to give their views more weight. Mention also the possibility of searching for an author’s other publications—have they published in reputable scientific or theological journals?)
  4. Evaluate appearance and ease of use. (Accurate information is less useful if it is hard to access. What audience might most benefit from this website because of its design?)
  5. Does the site offer any ways of validating its information, such as referring to studies published in scientific or theological journals? Give examples. (Science advances through a multitude of specific research studies, and referring to these is a standard way of grounding claims. It is still possible to make misleading claims by referring to outlier studies or ones that are out of date, but checking whether research is referenced is a simple first step in seeing if the information offered is serious.)
  6. Does the site show respect for differing views? How constructive and respectful is the tone in the main site content, and in forum or comments sections? (Does the site practice ad hominem attacks or mock or belittle its opposition? Does it model respect for other views? Does this site attract or help to foster serious, courteous discussion? Or is it a place for people to war against their opponents?)

Break students into groups of two or three, and have them evaluate two websites that relate to the topic of origins from a Christian perspective.

Assign sites from the following:

You could also include some more eccentric, less reliable sites for comparison and discussion, such as Clarifying Christianity or Mike’s Christian Corner.

Give students about 20 to 25 minutes to complete the review. When they have had an appropriate amount of time, pair the groups to review each other’s work. Discuss similarities and differences among reviews:

  • Did everyone hold to the same evaluative criteria?
  • Why or why not?
  • What elements of the websites were perceived differently from one student to the next?

Upon completion of the activity, have students write about or discuss which website was most appealing and why. Would they be likely to continue reading and checking the site to further their own education? Why or why not?

Ask the Class

In Brief

This activity aims to support student-adult conversations about science and faith and to draw those conversations into the life of the science class. It engages students in eliciting a question that relates to science and faith from a parent or another adult, and investigating possible answers.

Goals

Students will find out what questions a parent or another adult has about faith and science.

Students will conduct investigations with the purpose of helping their adult conversation partner with their questions.

Thinking Ahead

This activity aims to do two things: give students experience in purposeful online investigation of faith and science questions, and stimulate conversation between students and an adult conversation partner about learning taking place in the classroom.

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

Be sure to give multiple nights for this assignment, so that students have time to schedule with their adult conversation partner and conduct the activity.

As you prepare for this activity, consider how you see the role of parents or adult guardians in relation to students’ learning:

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

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

If you used the activity Google Everything, link this activity explicitly back to it. Having explored some of the limitations of searching for information online, students are now going to explore how it can be done responsibly.

Early in the semester or school year, tell students that they are going to research a question that a parent or another adult has about faith and science, and the possible answers.

For homework, assign students to have a conversation with at least one parent or another adult. The goal is to discover one question that the parent or adult conversation partner has about some aspect of science, or how the world works, and how this relates to faith. The question should be specific enough to investigate. It may be helpful to let students know that if the first person they talk with has no questions, they will need to find a second conversation partner.

As you give students instructions for this assignment, focus explicitly on how important it is for them to be gracious in the conversation they have with their parent or adult conversation partner. Ask students to name specific behaviors that could communicate lack of grace in learning, such as eye-rolling in response to a question that seems foolish. Make explicit that students should not, at this point, offer an answer to the question, even if they believe they have a good answer.

In the next class period, have students form groups of three and share their questions. Each group is now responsible for investigating their three questions. Assign a deadline, and tell students that they must prepare a report on their three questions. Encourage students to use online resources, but emphasize the following ground rules:

  • Each online source should be assessed for credibility and documented. Ask students to rate the reliability of the source and give reasons why they think it may be reliable.
  • Each finding from an online source should be checked against other sources, which could include other reputable online sources, teachers, and library resources. Tell students to avoid basing a conclusion on a single web page. Also instruct students to look for similar wording on multiple websites, and to avoid using a second site for corroboration when it is really another posting of the same source material.
  • Where more than one view is found on a topic, students should document the different views, and not just take the first or most appealing answer. If there seem to be good reasons for finding one view more plausible, these should be included.
  • Emphasize that the answer to an important question can be, “we don’t know,” in which case respect for truth requires accepting that, at least for now, that is the answer.

At the deadline, groups should submit outlines of the progress they have made, with a list of their sources. Check their sources for scientific and theological credibility and give feedback. Once students have received feedback, they are ready for the second part of the assignment. For homework, have them share their findings with their original adult conversation partner. At this time, they should have the adult fill out the response form in Ask the Class.

As you debrief this activity, discuss with students whether they thought they used online resources responsibly. Have them assess the resources’ usefulness and limitations. Ask them to consider the importance of the sources they used, as well as to reflect on their own care in using them.

Optional Extra

If you can make time for students to give brief presentations in class based on what they have investigated, this will allow the adults’ questions to help shape the agenda for learning in the class. This could be communicated back to the adults. Another option would be to arrange an open evening for groups to give brief presentations on what they learned from their investigations and invite parents and/or adult guardians to attend.

The Science of Porn

In Brief

This activity introduces the topic of pornography into the science classroom. It helps students see how a moral and social issue such as pornography can be connected to both faith and scientific research, and how research can help to inform moral prohibitions. Student pairs will read, and answer questions about, an article they find online and then share their findings in the classroom.

Goals

Students will understand that moral questions about pornography can be informed by scientific research.

Students will understand that there is a body of scientific work that points to dangers from pornography use.

Thinking Ahead

The use of pornography is endemic in our culture and has been becoming normalized culturally. Pornography use affects many adolescent students. Given the widespread presence and acceptance of pornography in society, faith-based calls to purity and abstention can appear arbitrary and moralistic. A variety of research studies, however, point to the harms that can result from internet and pornography addiction. Students may not think of faith, science, and moral questions about pornography as connected, and are unlikely to expect the topic to arise in science class. This very unexpectedness could help open space for valuable learning.

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

Verify that all website links you plan to use in this activity can be opened on your school network.

Teaching the Activity

At the beginning of class, ask students to find a partner with whom they will work. In order to introduce the topic in a somewhat non-personal way, begin by projecting or reading a few sobering statistics from a source such as Webroot: Internet Porn by the Numbers or Covenant Eyes: Pornography Statistics.

Be careful to avoid a hectoring tone; be gentle and objective in the way you present the material, bearing in mind that the topic will be uncomfortable for many. Then ask students to discuss the following questions briefly in pairs:

  • Have you ever been involved in a discussion about pornography in a school class?
  • In what school subjects would you expect the topic to arise?
  • What information sources have informed your opinions about pornography?
  • How might science be connected to pornography?

Take a few minutes to allow pairs to report back to the whole class. Part of the goal at this point is to create some initial comfort with the topic by conducting a relaxed conversation.

Tell students that they are going to engage in some online investigation of how scientific research is relevant to current thinking about pornography. Each pair will investigate a specific use of scientific information in a discussion of pornography.

Direct students to Fight the New Drug: Get the Facts, where they will find 15 articles in three categories.

Each pair of students should be assigned one article. You may assign articles to pairs by category (i.e., the first pair will take the first article in the “brain” category, the second pair will take the second article in the “brain” category, etc.). An advantage of having students use the website themselves is that it will familiarize them with the resources available for possible later reference. Alternatively, you could print the articles available for download at Fight the New Drug and distribute them.

Hand out copies of The Science of Porn. Ask students to complete the handouts in pairs. Allow about 20 minutes for this. The sheet asks students to:

  • Summarize the key claims of the article.
  • Click to reveal the citations beneath the article, and identify the branches of research from which data has been used for the article (e.g., medicine, psychology, neuroscience, political science).
  • Choose one of the cited articles from a scientific journal (rather than a book or a newspaper) and search for it online. Read the abstract and, if possible, the introduction and conclusion of the article. Summarize its findings and comment on whether they think it was used accurately in the first article they read. (Point out to students that if they have trouble tracking down a reference, they should choose a different one.)

When students have completed this task, have each pair meet with a second pair to share their findings. If you have time, you could repeat this step multiple times, allowing students exposure to more information on the topic. Optionally, you could have students collate their findings on a class blog, or have them turn in their sheets and make copies for the class.

Finally, gather the class back together and discuss the following questions:

  • What area of life does pornography affect that you had not thought of before?
  • What was the most surprising or shocking thing that you found during your investigation?
  • How does learning about scientific information related to pornography affect the way you see it as a moral issue?
  • Should we immediately accept that this website has irrefutable information about porn? How do we assess the fact that other studies have not found some of these negative consequences, at least, not for all users of pornography? Why might it be difficult to get a clear and unanimous scientific answer to questions about pornography use? (You could refer to Is Pornography Addictive?)
  • The articles brought science to bear on pornography; what does the language of faith have to add to the conversation? (You could discuss, for instance, how seeing humans as God’s images affects how we see pornography.)
  • Is having scientific information enough to change our behaviors? Why or why not? What is the role of Christian practices such as self-denial?

You might conclude the activity by allowing reflective time for students to consider their personal responses to what they have learned. You may wish to mention counseling resources at school, as well as those listed at Fight the New Drug: Get Help.

A Collaborative Resource

In Brief

In this activity, students work collaboratively to generate a bank of online resources about science and faith. This engages them in exploring a particular website in depth and reporting to the class on its resources.

Goals

Students will evaluate and report on online faith and science resources.

Students will collaborate to create a bank of online learning resources for one another, focused on faith and science.

Thinking Ahead

Long after their time in school classrooms, students continue to be confronted with questions and debates about faith and science. New findings and changing topics, as well as the sheer vastness of the subject, ensure that answers learned in school will not cover all future learning needs.

Knowing where to find informed resources on faith and science is an important skill for students to gain, and an investment in their future faith development. Rather than just providing a list of resources, this activity has students conduct research and serve one another’s future needs by communally creating a guide to online science and faith resources.

This could easily be assigned early in the year and left unmentioned until results become due. However, consider how you could keep the class engaged with the activity throughout the year. Not only by reminding them about making progress, which would focus only on task completion, but by reminding them that they are practicing investment in the learning of their community.

This activity is likely to work best with older students.

Relevant Book Review: Emerging Adulthood and Faith by Jonathan P. Hill

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

If you used the activity Google Everything, link this activity explicitly back to it. Having explored some of the limitations of searching for information online, students are now going to explore how it can be done responsibly.

Students will develop a master list of substantial websites that offer thoughtful resources on questions about faith and science. Focus on sites that address the topic in multiple ways, rather than single blog posts, and on sites that seek to offer more than just one writer’s opinion.

You can use the following list as a basis, and add your own as you discover them:

At the beginning of the year or semester, announce that the students in class are going to collaborate in the development of a bank of resources on faith and science.

Have students work in pairs, assigning a specific website to each pair. Emphasize that more than a quick visit to the assigned website is necessary, as they are responsible for informing other students’ learning. They need to spend time exploring the site and produce a substantial report.

Give students copies of A Collaborative Resource. Explain that they will work with their partner to complete the tasks on the sheet, and the results of their work will be copied and shared with the rest of the class as a resource for future learning.

The instructions ask them to investigate the following questions:

  1. Who created the site, and what kind of authors write on it? (Are they professional scientists? Theologians? Journalists? Are they well qualified? Or is the author information hidden?)
  2. What is the philosophical orientation or bias of the site? (For instance, does it promote a specific stance on certain faith and science questions?)
  3. What are the main topics of the site?
  4. What kinds of resources (e.g., short comment pieces, long research articles, videos, interviews, etc.) does it offer?
  5. Who might find them useful? (Are they written for other scientists, or for adults in general, or for children? How easy are they to understand?)
  6. What could a visitor learn by spending time on this site? How highly would you recommend it to others?

Students are then to use the information to create a one-page guide to the website. These guides should be collected when completed and shared with other students to create a class guide to faith and science online. There are various ways in which you could approach this:

  • Each pair of students could be assigned a day during the semester or school year when they are given a few minutes to make an oral presentation to the class about their website. Their one-page guide should be distributed as a handout. Have students collect them in a folder.
  • The various guides could be collected as blog posts in a class blog, or gathered together into a newsletter-style publication at the end of the semester and given to all students.
  • The resulting resource could be shared further, for instance, with parents or other adults.

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

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    Spread the Word

Spread the Word

In Brief

This activity allows students to review their learning about faith and science online from the previous activities, and communicate it to a wider audience. (If you plan to use the activity To Trust or Not to Trust? with other classes, you may want to exclude it here.) Students will create group projects that exhibit their learning and bring these to the school community.

Goals

Students will communicate effectively to an audience outside the class on a topic related to faith, science, and the internet.

Thinking Ahead

Teaching FASTly includes recognizing that the connection between faith and science is complex. There are factors beyond discussions of truth claims, and these include the role of motivations, practices, and virtues.

This assignment revisits faith and science concepts and engages students in communication and collaboration inside and outside the classroom.

Group activities can seem frustrating to students who have learned that the main goal is to get tasks completed and get credit for them. The very human process of sharing our tasks, trying to get each team member to pull her or his weight, and negotiating different gifts and perspectives, can seem like a much less efficient way to get things done. However, both scientific work and healthy community frequently require collaboration, and draw upon the interpersonal virtues needed for collaboration to be successful.

You could use the List of Virtues 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. Consider how this activity relates to your teaching practices the rest of the year—do your practices communicate that getting the task done is the main thing, or do you also focus on the quality of interaction between students?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Resource needs will vary with students’ individual projects.

Teaching the Activity

Have students form groups of two to four. Tell them that each group will be designing a presentation to communicate what they have learned to a wider audience in the school community. There are a variety of potential projects, which could include:

  • A poster to be put up around the school, accompanied by an information booth during a lunch hour
  • A chapel presentation
  • An online presentation, such as a cluster of blog posts
  • A presentation or learning resource for a group of younger students, for parents or other adults, or for a Sunday school group

The exact nature of the product can be left to the group to decide, but it should:

  • Communicate to at least 10 other people who are not part of the class
  • Clearly present some topic that links faith, science, and the internet, based on what was learned from previous activities
  • Include some way of gathering feedback from some of those who read, view, or engage with the product

Ask students to discuss carefully:

  • What topic or piece of information could be both interesting and beneficial to other members of the community?
  • What would be a creative and effective way of communicating that information?
  • What kind of feedback would be helpful to get from those who see our presentation?
  • Who will take which roles within the group, so that everything is prepared well for our audience?
  • How will we hold one another accountable?

Allot time in class for students to have initial discussions, brainstorm ideas, and form a group plan. Then allow enough homework time for students to prepare materials. Have students give final form to their presentations in class, which will let you circulate to check for mistaken information in presentation materials. Require groups to offer their presentation to its intended audience, and then set time aside in class for groups to report on the feedback they received. Have students submit this feedback along with their presentation materials.