FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Activity Map: Stewardship, Science, and Faith

Overview

What's the Focus

The focus of this Activity Map is to explore stewardship in relation to environmental science and from the perspective of theology. It explores such questions as:

  • What is the biblical basis for practicing stewardship?
  • How should we practice stewardship?
  • Why should we practice stewardship?
  • What are the benefits of stewardship?
  • What happens when we don’t practice stewardship?
  • What are practical ways that anyone can get involved in the task of stewardship?
  • How do we teach others to practice stewardship?
  • How are science, ethics, and faith connected with concrete environmental concerns?

Questions like these invite us to see stewardship in a new light, with opportunities for collaboration between science and Bible/religion teachers.

The activities in this Activity Map are designed to engage students in thinking theologically and practically about stewardship in tandem with the learning they draw from your regular science curriculum. The activities ask students to focus on context:

  • Students are asked to carefully consider the context when interpreting the Bible.
  • They are asked to think about the practical context of their life in relationship to stewardship.
  • They are asked to carry their learning into the context of their relationships, and to see its connection to faith as it reshapes their practice.
  • They are asked to consider how their beliefs affect the larger context of the world in which they live.

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 and are designed to set the stage and get students thinking.

  • Activity

    20 min

    Hebrew in Science Class?

  • Activity

    30 min

    What’s in a Name?

  • Activity

    15 min

    Ask the Community

Hebrew in Science Class?

In Brief

This is a starter activity to introduce the Bible’s language of stewardship. It helps students see how faith, stewardship, and science can connect. It introduces key words in the original language of Genesis, and gets students engaged in interpretation of how Genesis talks about the role of humans in the natural world. Students are asked to explore the meanings of four key words that appear in Genesis and how these meanings might relate to stewardship, and asked to look at further passages to explore God’s care in creation.

Goals

Students will understand that Genesis 1 includes imagery of forceful ruling, as well as of careful service and preservation.

Students will understand how other biblical passages can help frame an interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis in relation to human stewardship of creation.

Thinking Ahead

This activity could be used in a science class as preparation for work on environmental stewardship, or in Bible class as part of a cross-curricular collaboration between Bible and science teachers. The activity What’s in a Name? could be used instead of, or as an extension to, this activity.

The early chapters of Genesis are a common point of reference for considering how the Bible views humans in the context of the cosmos. This activity focuses on four key words that appear in the Hebrew text in these early chapters that frame our understanding of how humans are to interact with the rest of the world. These four words are:

  • Radah 
  • Kabash
  • Shamar
  • ‘abad

Radah means “to reign or rule over (like a king),” and kabash means “to subdue, bring under control or submission, enslave.” Both are used in Genesis 1:28. Shamar means “to keep and watch or preserve, to exercise great care,” and ‘abad means “to work or serve.” These two words appear in Genesis 2:15. A deeper discussion of the meanings of the words can be found in the activity The Stewardship Triangle.

You might take time to consider your own assumptions as you prepare to engage with students:

  • Do you think of Genesis as only relevant to science in terms of arguments about the age of the earth or the validity of evolutionary theory?
  • Do you associate Genesis mostly with humans having dominion over the earth or mostly with caring and serving?
  • Where do your assumptions come from, and how might the nuances of the text be used to alter them?

Related Book Review: From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World by Norman Wirzba

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

This can be used as a homework assignment or can be done in class, if students have internet access in school.

Give students the handout Hebrew in Science Class. Ask the students how, if at all, they think the book of Genesis is connected to science. Explain that they are going to do some investigating around a particular theme in Genesis 1 and 2 that might be less familiar than origins debates.

The handout asks students to research the meaning of each Hebrew word online. Once students have done this, they should write a definition for each word that draws upon information from at least three sources. Then they should create an English sentence using each Hebrew word, which illustrates the word’s intended meaning. Finally, ask students to find where each word appears in Genesis 1-2.

Review students’ findings the next day, or after the activity if it is done during class.

Attempt to come to a consensus with the class on the meaning of each word. Have the students read their example sentences while the class listens. Remind students that it is normal for words to have a range of meanings in different contexts. Ask for some initial thoughts on how the ideas these words bring up might be relevant to how we think about science:

  • Can we think about science as control or service?
  • Is science related to stewardship?

Keep the discussion brief at this point.

Next, discuss with students how we should approach the ambiguity of the language in the Genesis passage. The words studied include the ideas of ruling over (subduing, controlling) and caring for (tending, preserving). How would we go about deciding what to understand from these words?

Elicit the need to compare other passages to get a broader perspective of how the Bible views God’s care for creation. Give students the following passages (using Hebrew in Science Class Slideshow) or have them look the passages up:

  • Psalm 104:10-17 – This passage speaks of God caring for animals and plants, as well as human beings. Many commentators suggest that being made in God’s image, as described in Genesis, includes imitating and enacting God’s rule. If this is true, how might Psalm 104 help us read Genesis 1?
  • Matthew 10:29-31 – This passage affirms the value of human beings by invoking God’s care for sparrows. Would the promise to humans here make sense if God did not actually extend care to sparrows?
  • Matthew 20:25-28 – This passage focuses on serving other human beings. Is what the passage shows us about Jesus’s view of what it means to rule relevant to how we might read the call to rule in Genesis? If Genesis speaks of ruling over the natural world like a king, how does the rest of the Bible think a king should exercise authority?
  • Revelation 11:18 – While this passage likely refers to armies pillaging, and not modern issues like pollution, it sets judgment in the context of God’s care for the earth. How might this passage set limits on the ruling over creation portrayed in Genesis 1?

These verses don’t have to be used simply as a way to hammer home a correct answer. Questions such as those suggested above can help draw students into thinking about how to build a more consistent interpretation through reading multiple passages together. Emphasize that the case is not closed simply because we looked at a few more verses—for a thorough investigation, we would have to consult many passages in their context across the whole Bible. Explain, however, that the connections they just made are the kinds of connections that offer a case for Genesis 1 calling us to care for and preserve the non-human creation. Return briefly to the question of how science could be part of this care for creation.

Optional Extra

As an optional homework assignment, you could ask students to identify an additional passage. Have them explain its relevance to the question of how to engage with Genesis 1, and to questions of human stewardship of creation. Although this assignment is intended as a brief introduction to the topic, you could extend it and assess student understanding by having students investigate further, and then in a writing assignment build a biblical case for connecting science to stewardship.

What’s in a Name?

In Brief

This activity is about the meaning of giving names to things, which is a basic human impulse, as well as a part of scientific inquiry. It uses the story of Adam naming the animals in Genesis to help students see how naming may be connected to stewardship. It engages students in an exploration of the implications of giving names to unfamiliar species, by having them name a species unknown to them.

Goals

Students will be introduced to interpretive questions surrounding the naming narrative in Genesis 2.

Students will understand how this passage may inform a theological account of science as a human calling.

Thinking Ahead

This activity looks at the act of naming in Genesis 2 in connection with science and human stewardship of creation. It provides an alternative biblical introduction to the topic of stewardship to that found in the activity Hebrew in Science Class?, or it could be used as an extension of that activity, as part of a sequence focused on the theology of stewardship.

One of Adam’s first tasks in Genesis is to name the animals. We find a wide range of views on how to interpret that section of Genesis. This activity is not about engaging that debate, but rather focuses on the why of the act of naming. There are several views of why God called Adam to name the animals, including:

  • This is Adam’s first act of dominion over creation. In ancient times, it was an act of authority to establish names and an act of submission to receive them.
  • Adam is imaging God by exercising his reason and his capacity for speech and communication. In the Hebrew tradition, to name something is to know its essence and nature, so to name is to understand and proclaim the essence of each creature.
  • By naming the animals, Adam learns that among them there is no suitable helper for him. His need for Eve is revealed.

The activity engages students in brainstorming initial possibilities, and then in refining those against the text and additional sources. It briefly engages students in attending to context. You might consider how your teaching practices can encourage students to read the Bible and the world carefully.

This activity explores the first and second views, as listed above, of why God called Adam to name animals. It has students look at humankind’s responsibility to know and name the creatures of this world, and understand their niche, life cycle, habitat, and relationships to others, so that we might care for them completely, as stewards in God’s image. You could use this activity at the beginning of the year, or at the beginning of a unit on Classification and Taxonomy, or in Bible class as part of a collaboration between Bible and science teachers.

The following quotation from biologist and natural historian Joan Maloof captures the depth of meaning that naming can have. You might reflect on it before class to see if you can think of a personal example to add when you share it with students:

When I walk through the woods I touch, smell, watch…and name. My hand glides across smooth bark and my lips proclaim hornbeam. The smaller voice in my head rehearses the Latin: Carpinus caroliniana. Just as a person’s name conjures up other thoughts, so too does a tree’s name; I think about the habitat it lives in and perhaps the person who first introduced me to it. Despite those other thoughts though, it is mainly the naming of the name that I care about.

– Joan Maloof, from “The Naming of Things” 1

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Using What’s in a Name, present Genesis 2:19-20 and read it out loud.

Ask students: Why do you think God had Adam name the animals?

After taking some initial suggestions, which may be pure speculation, tell students that paying attention to the context may help.

Display Slide 2, which lists Genesis 1:26, 2:15, and 2:19-20, and ask for further suggestions:

  • How might naming be related to ruling?
  • How might it be related to being the image of God? Did we see God naming in Genesis 1?
  • Does checking this context point towards any of our initial suggestions as being closer to what the text may have had in mind for why God had Adam name the animals?

Ask students what further sources we might need to consult to refine our suggestions. After brief discussion, show Slide 3, which lists three reasons offered by biblical scholars (What’s in a Name) for why God called Adam to name the animals. Could all three be true? Tell students that they are going to think some more about the first and second reasons, since these two relate to the theme of stewardship. (Adam’s relationship to Eve is a complex topic on its own.)

Show Slide 4 and read the quote from Joan Maloof aloud (note that the photo on the slide is an image of the same tree she is describing). If you have one prepared, share a personal example or story of how naming has played a role in your life.

Explain to students that you are going to show them images of several little-known species and provide some basic information about each one. After observing and reading each slide, students are to attempt to name each species in two to four words, with sound reasoning behind the name given. Show the slides in What’s in a Name, and after each slide, solicit responses from the class and short explanations for each name. Capture good examples on the board.

Conclude with a discussion of these questions, either in class or as a homework activity:

  • How did the name you gave something affect your attitude toward the organism?
  • If your name were to be widely adopted, how might it affect how people treat that creature, or how much they might care about its survival?
  • How might naming something enable better stewardship?
  • Why do scientists name things? What could be the benefits of abstract-sounding and Latin names?

Finally, have students journal briefly on this last question to assess understanding:

  • How might the story of Adam naming animals in Genesis contribute to a theological account of why humans should engage in science?

 

1From “The Naming of Things” by Joan Maloof in Environmental Philosophy, Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2008, pp.17-20. Used with permission.

Ask the Community

In Brief

This activity is designed to get students talking to their parents or another adult about the topic of stewardship. Fostering adult-student interactions creates an opportunity for family members or other adults to identify their beliefs, where these beliefs might originate, how beliefs are passed on, and what might be lacking. It also honors the fact that learning around life’s big questions happens in the context of relationships. Students will interview a parent or another adult on the subject of stewardship and then compare their results in class.

Goals

Students will involve the wider school community in their learning by discussing questions relating to the idea of stewardship with family members or other adults.

Students will learn about how the adult community thinks about stewardship.

Thinking Ahead

All learning takes place in multiple contexts, and teaching FASTly takes context into account. The activity Hebrew in Science Class? set the topic of stewardship in a biblical context; this introductory activity sets it in a relational context. Student engagement with faith and science questions takes place in the context of their family relationships and the beliefs of the family members and adults around them.

Stewardship is a familiar idea to many Christians, but it is not easy to define it or clarify what we mean by it. Some people may use the term, but associate it only with matters such as financial planning or responsible spending, and not with the environment. For others, it may be a carefully considered element of their faith. The idea of stewardship has roots in God’s command to the first humans in Genesis 1 to rule the earth, fill it, and tend the garden. It also draws support from the biblical picture of creation glorifying God (e.g., Psalm 19) and the biblical picture of God’s care for creation (e.g., Psalm 104), among other biblical themes.

Consider the associations the word triggers in your own mind—what have you taken it to include? Work through the questionnaire yourself. If you have thought a little about this yourself, you will be better prepared to help students reflect.

You might also consider to what degree your teaching practices regard students’ relationships as vital to their learning and thriving. Do you ever work to include adult interaction in students’ learning, helping them to see school learning as enriching their key relationships, rather than existing in tension with them?

Give students a few days to complete the activity so that there is time to arrange a meeting with a parent or another adult. If you plan to regularly involve parents and other adults in homework activities, it is advisable to communicate with them early in the school year about why this is happening, so that expectations are clear. (See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents.)

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • A copy of the handout Ask the Community for each student. This handout contains a set of questions that ask people about stewardship, including what they understand by the term, where they hear about it, and in what aspects of it they would like to do better.

Teaching the Activity

Tell students that they will interview a parent, guardian, or another trusted adult on the topic of stewardship.

Help students see that when we think about big, important questions involving faith and science, it is good to listen to the perspectives of those around us, and to remember that learning occurs in the context of our relationships with others.

Conduct a sample interview with a student in front of the class to model helpful and unhelpful interviewing behaviors to the class. Ask students to focus on how well they treat their interviewee, as well as on obtaining answers. The handout includes some elements to focus on, including showing attentiveness and expressing thanks.

Give students a few days to complete their interview. After the interview has been completed, divide students into groups in class to compare the responses they received. Have them look for interesting similarities and differences. Conclude with a whole-class discussion of what patterns they noticed, and explore with the class why those might exist.

Have students write a journal entry outlining what they have learned about how the adult community thinks about stewardship.

Conclude by connecting this to the learning that students will engage in about stewardship, asking them to consider what their learning might be able to contribute to their community.

Delve Activities

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

  • Activity

    45 min

    Ruling and Stewardship

  • Activity

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    The Stewardship Triangle

  • Activity

    60 min

    The Fruits of Stewardship – A Case Study

  • Activity

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    Connecting Begets Caring

Ruling and Stewardship

In Brief

This activity explores in more detail the biblical picture of humanity’s relationship to the natural world and of the call to stewardship. It engages students in careful interpretation of Genesis and active reflection on ethics in relation to science and the environment. By investigating the use of key words in Genesis and comparing passages in Genesis 1 and 2, students will explore the concept of rule.

Goals

Students will understand the case for reading the biblical call to rule over creation in terms of care and stewardship, and not simply power.

Thinking Ahead

This activity can be used as a continuation of and to augment the learning in the activity Hebrew in Science Class? When combined with the activity The Stewardship Triangle, it could also provide an opportunity for cross-curricular cooperation between Bible/religion class and science class, by using explicit cross-referencing of what is being discussed in the other classroom.

When we think about the Bible and ethics, our minds may go to the Ten Commandments, but there is already an ethical picture of human responsibility for creation in the first chapters of Genesis. This activity gives students a more detailed understanding of what Genesis is—and isn’t—saying. It employs a model adapted from Cal DeWitt’s book Song of a Scientist to bridge between theology, science, and action.

This activity does not just focus on giving students the right answers; it seeks to engage them in responsible interpretation of the biblical text. You might consider how your teaching practices could enhance or inhibit students’ wrestling with this process:

  • Do your teaching practices reduce learning to an information checklist or a set of right political answers, or do they provoke students to deeper engagement and exploration?
  • How will you balance the number of questions and statements you offer as you teach?
  • How will you use silences after key questions to allow reflection?
  • Will any of your behaviors imply dismissal of student thoughts that do not fit the plan?

Related Book Review: Song of a Scientist: The Harmony of a God-Soaked Creation by Calvin B. DeWitt

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Give students copies of the handout Ruling and Stewardship 1. Using Slide 2 of Ruling and Stewardship, project the following two words on the screen: Radah and Kabash. If you have used the activity Hebrew in Science Class?, ask students if they remember the English meanings of these Hebrew words. If not, define them (and reveal the definitions on the slide):

  • Kabash – subdue, bring under control or submission, enslave
  • Radah – reign or rule (like a king) over an enemy

Next, on the same slide, display Genesis 1:28 (NET):

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue (kabash) it! Rule (radah) over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.”

Ask students to jot down three adjectives that describe what kind of rule this feels like, and then collect some examples. Answers may include “dictatorship,” “harsh,” “forceful,” “commanding,” “powerful”—it is fine for students to use negative words at this point.

If you have used the activity Hebrew in Science Class?, remind students that there is debate about the precise meaning of these words in Genesis. If not, point out that for some people, the words justify an aggressive stance toward the non-human creation. For others, the words mandate care and careful stewardship. It might seem straightforward to get from a command to “rule” and “subdue,” to the view that we should use creation as we see fit. So how do people get from words that focus on control and submission, to the idea of care and stewardship?

The following steps help students make this connection.

These verses imply an image of ruling like a king. What kind of king does the passage seem to be suggesting as a model?

Display Genesis 1:26-27 (Slide 3). Ask students what these passages add to our understanding of the kind of leadership that is meant. Draw students’ attention to the connection of ruling with the image of God. This suggests delegated authority, rather than absolute authority; our ruling is to reflect the character of God’s ruling.

How does God rule? Ask students to describe how God rules and, again, ground their comments by referring to biblical texts.

Use Slide 4 to present and discuss Psalm 72:8, 12-14 (NET):

May he rule (radah) from sea to sea,
and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth!

For he will rescue the needy when they cry out for help,
and the oppressed who have no defender.
He will take pity on the poor and needy;
the lives of the needy he will save.
From harm and violence he will defend them;
he will value their lives.

And Psalm 145:9 (NET):

The LORD is good to all, and has compassion on all he has made.

Ask students to articulate what the implications might be if we put these passages alongside Genesis 1:26-27. You could also refer students to passages such as Psalm 19 (creation shows God’s glory) and Psalm 104 (which details God’s care for the non-human creation).

Now display the words shamar and ‘abad (Slide 5). If you have used the activity Hebrew in Science Class?, ask students if they remember the English meanings of these Hebrew words. If not, define them (and reveal the definitions on the slide):

  • Shamar – to keep and watch or preserve, exercise great care
  • ‘abad – to work or serve

On the same slide, display Genesis 2:15,19 (NET):

The LORD God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for (shamar) it and to maintain (‘abad) it.…The LORD God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

Ask students to jot down three adjectives to describe what kind of rule this feels like, and then collect examples. Answers may include “service,” “gentle,” “caring,” “parental,” etc. Ask how this second broadening of the context affects how we understand what it means to rule over creation. Connect this to the idea of stewardship. Genesis 1 and 2 belong to the same text, so we need to read them together. Ruling in Genesis 1 and 2 seems to involve (Slide 6):

  • Ruling creation in God’s image; showing what God is like (kind, just, compassionate)
  • Subduing the dangers of creation, working to meet our needs (building homes; using resources wisely and sustainably; creating culture—art, music, technology), and having children to continue this task
  • Lovingly caring for, preserving, and serving this creation; knowing it so we can know how to care for it

Note that reading Genesis 1 and 2 together does not resolve all debates as to which actions constitute wise rule or stewardship, or exactly which interests should be protected; it simply shows that there is a case for seeing more going on in the Genesis call to rule than the exercise of raw power over the world.

Raise the question of what the New Testament has to contribute to the conversation.

Draw students’ attention to Matthew 10:29-31 (God’s care for humans and sparrows). Ask students to consider how Jesus’s way of ruling and leading others is portrayed in the New Testament. Answers may include “he sacrificed himself,” “he washed others’ feet,” “he was gentle and caring,” “he healed others,” “he cared for the poor, the widow, and the sick.”

Display Mark 10: 42-44 (Slide 7):

Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. But it is not this way among you. Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all.” (NET)

  • How does this connect to the Genesis passages?
  • How does it compare with the picture of proper kingship provided in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (in which the king is instructed not to amass personal resources)?

The New Testament pictures Jesus as Lord of all creation, yet laying down his life for the world. Ask students to articulate how this might connect with the picture of ruling that they just explored in Genesis. If there is time, you could also consider examples of how ruling over others is viewed in other parts of the New Testament, such as Titus 1:7-8.

Optional Extra

Have students read the first five paragraphs of page 4 from Lynn White’s 1967 essay The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” This should take about 10 minutes. Explain that this was a short but influential essay that argued that Christianity played a large role in the ecological crisis we are approaching today. Discuss with students:

  • How does White describe Christianity’s view of man?
  • How does White describe Christianity’s view of the purpose of creation?
  • What does “anthropocentric” mean? Does White believe that Christianity is an anthropocentric religion?
  • What are his reasons for this?
  • As Christianity replaced other religions in Europe, how did it view the use of nature?

Hand out Ruling and Stewardship 2, which contains a response by Steven Bouma-Prediger to White’s argument. Discuss with students:

  • What critiques are raised of White’s influential essay?
  • Are Christian cultures excused from ecological degradation?
  • Have Christians only ever understood dominion as domination?

The following questions could be used for a concluding discussion:

  • If Christians have sinned through poor stewardship practices, what would be appropriate responses to God and toward the world?
  • If Christians see environmental problems that did not arise through their own choices, what would be appropriate responses to God and toward the world?
  • If Christians see sinful actions done in the name of environmental concern, what would be appropriate responses to God and toward the world?

The Stewardship Triangle

In Brief

This activity is intended to connect to and extend the activity Ruling and Stewardship. It invites students to see the interconnections between faith, science, ethics, and action. It uses The Stewardship Triangle to help students organize and visualize the components of stewardship.

Goals

Students will be introduced to a simple model and graphic organizer for thinking about current issues in terms of stewardship.

Thinking Ahead

This activity can be used as a continuation of and to augment the learning in Hebrew in Science Class? When combined with the activity Ruling and Stewardship, it could also provide an opportunity for cross-curricular cooperation between the Bible/religion class and the science class, by using explicit cross-referencing of what is being discussed in the other classroom.

This activity builds on the idea of care explored in Hebrew in Science Class? and Ruling and Stewardship. It uses a model adapted from Calvin DeWitt’s book Song of a Scientist1 to bridge between theology, science, and action.

As you work through this activity, you might consider how your teaching practices could enhance or undermine students’ wrestling with this process:

  • Do your teaching practices reduce learning to an information checklist or a set of right political answers, or do they provoke students to deeper engagement and exploration?
  • How will you balance the number of questions and statements you offer as you teach?
  • How will you use silences after key questions to allow reflection?
  • Will any of your behaviors imply dismissal of student thoughts that do not fit the plan?

Related Book Review: Song of a Scientist: The Harmony of a God-Soaked Creation by Calvin B. DeWitt

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Directions:

For emphasis, arrange students’ seats into groups that form a triangle.

Teaching the Activity

Project Slide 1 of The Stewardship Triangle showing Genesis 1:28:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” (NET)

Explain to students that some Christians interpret this passage to mean that the earth is here for humanity’s benefit and to use as we see fit. Others argue that, attending to the wider biblical context, Genesis presents this rule as being in God’s image, reflecting God’s compassion, care, and justice, as well as focusing on the human calling to serve and care for the world. (See the activity Ruling and Stewardship where this is explored in more detail.)

Let students know that they are now going to think about present-day application. Project the Stewardship Triangle slide and describe each point of the triangle:

  • Knowledge: What do we know? What do we yet need to know? What science is involved? Is our understanding sufficient?
  • Ethics: What is wrong? What is or would be right? What does good stewardship involve? What needs to happen to restore or preserve creation?
  • Practice: What do we do and how do we do it? What actions are required of us?

The next step is to engage students in working through examples.

Hand out the first page of The Stewardship Triangle. Have students complete it either in class or for homework, searching online to find the scientific information.

Have them share their results as a class. Then hand out the second, completed version of the sheet for them to compare their answers with yours. This second sheet includes an update on how the ozone layer problem has been tackled. This activity has the benefit of focusing students on an issue where reflection and action have made a difference.

The second sheet of the handout also lists some other issues that could be thought about in the same way as the ozone layer problem. Have students choose one of these or another current issue to work through using the Stewardship Triangle. You can have them do this orally in groups, for homework, or even for a larger project. Working with multiple examples will help students internalize the model, rather than just focusing on the information. You could also use activities from other sources, such as this one about coral bleaching.

The Stewardship Triangle can become a recurring theme throughout the year, not only for large, widely familiar issues, but also for considering specific local problems (see also the Activity Map on Ecology and Neighbors). It can be integrated into various chapters or units as an essay, a video project, a class discussion, a presentation, a picture sketch, etc. Displaying the triangle with its words somewhere in the classroom creates a useful visual reminder that students will encounter daily.


1
The Stewardship Triangle model is from Song of a Scientist: The Harmony of a God-Soaked Creation by Calvin B. DeWitt (Faith Alive, 2012). Permission requested.

The Fruits of Stewardship – A Case Study

In Brief

This activity looks at some of the complexities of species interactions and the effect they have on the environment, using the example of wolf populations at Yellowstone National Park. It also helps students see how humans can serve and preserve creation, and how stewardship affects the world around us and connects to the Creator. Students will discuss the example of wolf populations in relation to stewardship and write a short essay based on this.

Goals

Students will understand the concept of trophic cascades and its relevance to managing ecosystems.

Students will be able to articulate a connection between faith, stewardship, and trophic cascades.

Thinking Ahead

To give students some theological context for reflection, it is recommended that this activity be preceded by Hebrew in Science Class?, What’s in a Name?, and/or Ruling and Stewardship. It may also be helpful to do this activity, and the aforementioned activities, in a cross-curricular collaboration between science and Bible teachers.

After its establishment in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was systematically cleansed of all its wolf populations; by the mid-1900s, there were no longer any wolves inhabiting the park. It is not fully clear why this occurred, but a lack of understanding about ecosystems and the interconnectedness of species may have been a contributing factor.

The result of this removal of wolves was an explosion of elk populations. The large elk populations devoured small trees and brush. This led to the destruction of small animal habitats, soil erosion, and changes in the look and flow of waterways throughout the park.

In 1995, a program to return wolves to the park was enacted and successfully implemented. Since then, elk populations have been reduced, small tree populations have rebounded (particularly the willow), biodiversity has increased, and erosion has decreased. (See My Yellowstone and Wolves.)

Consider what this example tells us about the capacity of humans to alter the interactions of the natural world, and how this connects with the biblical theme of stewardship and human responsibility as images of God. (See the activity Hebrew in Science Class?)

  • Have you thought before about how a matter such as wolf populations in a national park could be connected to matters of faith?
  • Do you think your students have?
  • How can your teaching practices help them see these complex connections?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Internet access

  • Video projection or devices for students to watch video

  • Copies of the handout Fruits of Stewardship

Teaching the Activity

Remind students of the discussion of the relationship of the Bible to the idea of stewardship in Hebrew in Science Class? and/or Ruling and Stewardship. Begin by showing the video clip How Wolves Change Rivers or directing students to My Yellowstone where they can view it. You may also wish to have them read the accompanying article on that page.

Hand out Fruits of Stewardship. Ask students to discuss the questions on the handout in small groups:

  1. What is a trophic cascade?
  2. List five different types of living things that were blessed by the wolves’ return, and describe how they benefited.
  3. How well have humans done as stewards and inhabitants of Yellowstone Park from the park’s beginning until 1995?
  4. Seventeenth century theologian and educator John Comenius wrote, “All creatures should have cause to join us in praising God.” How might this be relevant to what has happened at Yellowstone?
  5. As our understanding of creation and its ecosystems has increased, how have our stewardship practices in Yellowstone changed? What has the fruit of this change been?
  6. As you think about the changes in plant and animal numbers since the wolves’ reintroduction, what future stewardship issues might we need to begin to think about?
  7. Is this a matter that should concern Christians? How might faith, scientific investigation, and the balance of animal populations be connected as we consider an example such as Yellowstone?

Finally, have students use their answers from this sheet to write a short essay using the following prompt:

  • Explain how trophic cascades relate to making decisions about managing wolf populations in Yellowstone Park, and what connection Christian faith could have to decisions like these.

When assessing this essay, attend both to understanding of trophic cascades, and to students’ ability to articulate possible connections between this topic and questions of faith and stewardship. More leeway should be allowed in the latter for divergent views, since such questions remain a matter of discussion among Christians.

Connecting Begets Caring

In Brief

This activity seeks to engage students in reflection on their enjoyment of the creation, in order to forge a bond that leads to a desire to explore, care for, and protect it. By engaging students in observing an outdoor piece of land over time and documenting their observations, this activity connects students more directly to ideas of stewardship and their environment.

Goals

Students will experience a connection between their science learning, the theme of stewardship, and time spent present in, and observing, natural surroundings.

Students will demonstrate an ability to observe and to ask personal and scientific questions about a natural location.

Thinking Ahead

Technological progress removes us more and more away from direct, physical contact with the creation. Forays into the creation are now primarily recreational, as most inhabitants of the Minority World do not produce their own food or harvest supplies necessary for survival. This separation creates a distance between us and the responsibility of our stewardship task. Are there ways to restore that connection?

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Ask students:

Explore briefly with students whether talking about these matters, or providing more information, is enough to motivate or change actions. What more is needed, and why? Elicit that our relationship to the world draws on our loves, desires, and habits—not just our ideas.

Project the following quotation from Slide 1 of Connecting Begets Caring:

Far too many of us live in technologically dependent cubicles disconnected from both wonder and creation. We don’t need to get dirt under our fingernails in order to eat—we leave that to the ever-shrinking number of farmers. We spend decreasing amounts of time in nature. If we lose our connection to creation, we can unreflectively dismiss our sacred responsibility to care for and sustain this world.
Dorothy Greco, Relevant Magazine

Ask students:

  • What does this quotation suggest is a factor driving lack of concern for stewardship?
  • Could it be that the way we live influences our beliefs, and not just the other way around?

Next project the following quotation (Slide 2):

What lasts and what changes hearts is wonder: a wonder born of a firsthand experience of creation.
Leah Kostamo, Planted

 Ask students what this quotation suggests as one avenue of change:

  • Is it plausible that more direct, first-hand involvement in the natural world around us might affect our attitudes?
  • If so, what are some steps we could take in that direction, in order to foster an attitude of care in ourselves?

Next, ask students to remember their favorite outdoor place or experience. As they ponder, ask:

  • What time of the year was it?
  • What did it smell like?
  • What did it sound like?
  • What time of day was it?
  • What was the temperature?
  • Were other people there?
  • How often are you there, or was it a one-time experience?
  • What made it so memorable?

Ask students to share what it is they valued about the experience—was it a sense of beauty, of energy and freedom, of being in a place that helped foster connection with others, or something else? Are any of these things that God would also value?

Next, introduce the Plot Study project (full instructions are in Connecting Begets Caring) and walk students through the instructions. Specify due dates for each task, and be sure that students take note. You may wish to modify these instructions to focus on a particular science topic in your course.

This project requires students to engage in firsthand observation of a particular outdoor location, and interact with it in various ways over a period of time. You could show them this example of a similar student project outcome.

After the Plot Studies are finished, you could have students create a presentation to share their experiences with the class. Have them include the following:

  • Slide 1 – What is the place called, where is it, how did you discover it?
  • Slide 2 – What did you learn about your plot?
  • Slide 3 – How did the activity change your relationship to the place you studied?

As students present their reflections, have other students make notes on:

  • What common themes were prevalent as you listened to the presentations?
  • What place presented by someone else would you most like to see? Why?

As a class, discuss students’ answers to these questions. Close with a discussion of how our choices about where to spend time, and what to pay attention to, affect our ability to care about and for the world around us.

Debrief Activities

Debrief activities bring the sequence of 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

    Stewardship Survey

  • Activity

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    Lights, Camera, Action!

  • Activity

    This activity occurs over multiple class periods

    The Vegetables of Stewardship

Stewardship Survey

In Brief

This activity is designed to help students connect what they have learned about stewardship with their own sphere of influence. It places learning about stewardship in the context of family relationships, character, and faith, and points to concrete courses of action. Students will create a survey on stewardship to give to a parent or another adult and then discuss their results in class.

Goals

Students will identify concrete possibilities for change related to stewardship in their immediate environment.

Students will understand that addressing such changes involves character and faith, as well as knowledge and know-how.

Thinking Ahead

Not everyone is going to be directly involved in animal conservation or correcting large-scale pollution, yet we are all implicated in stewardship choices through our daily practices.

Three significant areas where we use resources are in our home energy use, our home water use, and our waste output.

Currently, the vast majority of our energy is produced using fossil fuels. This is a non-renewable resource, and therefore a prime area for asking questions about what might constitute wise stewardship.

Our water use impacts multiple parts of the environment: the amount of water available to farmers and others, the quality of water returning to the environment after we use it, and the energy and cost used to clean the water and transport it to us. Reducing both the amount of water we use and our contamination of water can be a valuable part of our stewardship practice.

Additionally, reducing our waste output can serve two important purposes: first, it reduces the amount of land needed to receive our waste; second, components of our waste can serve other purposes, and can become part of a sustainable practice of reusing materials.

Most of us have heard about these issues many times, yet the response can be guilt or apathy, and little change. This activity engages students with these questions in the context of the important relationships in their life. It invites them to see these issues as connected to our relationship to God. While this does not guarantee change, it does place the issues in the context of relationships that can shape who we become. You might consider your teaching practices when teaching about matters that have practical consequences—does your way of teaching imply that information is enough?

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Remind the class that stewardship is a practice, not just an idea: God calls us not just to think about it, but to enact it.

One easy and practical place to begin is in our homes. Display the slides in Stewardship Survey showing the three categories of home stewardship that will be the focus of this activity. You could use some of the explanations for each area from the Thinking Ahead section above to provide reasons for the practice of stewardship in the home.

Arrange students into groups of three. Have each student in the triad pick one of the three areas: energy use, water use, or waste reduction.

Using the slides, explain to students that before researching and writing survey questions related to their topic, as a group they must write an introduction to their survey that can be read to survey-takers (a parent or another adult). It should explain what the survey is for, why it matters, and how it relates to their views on stewardship.

Each group member needs to create eight questions about the topic that will be added together to form a 24-question survey.

Of these eight questions, at least four must be about something that students can accomplish themselves with their existing resources.

Each question should be accompanied by a suggestion for improvement. Students should research their topic online, and select or create questions that relate to common household practices in their area of the world.

Research will probably take 15-20 minutes. You may need to provide students a few search suggestions such as “ways to save energy at home,” “ways to reduce waste,” etc.

Here are a sample question and suggestion:

Topic Area: Home Energy Use

Question #1: Do you have attic insulation, and if so, do you know its rating?

Suggestion: Install attic insulation rated R-30, and seal any attic leaks to reduce high home cooling costs. You’ll save money each month and could qualify for a rebate of $75 or more from your energy company.

Once each student has completed their eight questions and suggestions, have the group members check each other’s questions for accuracy and validity. Once they have consensus on their 24 questions and suggestions, have them submit the survey to you on paper or electronically.

Print out surveys for each member of the group, and have them take them home and complete them with a parent or another adult. The survey may take a night or two to complete depending on the availability and schedule of the adult. If you plan to regularly involve parents and other adults in homework activities, it is advisable to communicate with them early in the school year about why this is happening, so that expectations are clear. (See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents.)

When the surveys have been completed, allow students to get back into their triads and discuss their results. Have them talk about the following questions:

  • What areas was your home strong in and what areas was it weak in?
  • Were any of the suggestions something that could be implemented?
  • Did the survey produce good reflection on stewardship practices at home?
  • Is there anything you should plan to do differently as a result of what you learned?

Have students leave their surveys on their desks and allow them to walk around the classroom and view other groups’ surveys.

Once students have seen one another’s surveys, discuss the following questions with the class:

  • Are any of the suggestions that were made unachievable?
  • Are any of the suggestions that were made unwise? (For instance, in trying to tackle a perceived stewardship problem, might we be creating a different difficulty?)
  • What are the main barriers to implementing the suggested changes? Why is change difficult?
  • Are the barriers to change more scientific or technical in nature (we don’t have the right knowledge, technology, or resources) or more related to virtue (we may need to grow in consistency of character)?
  • In what ways could Christian faith help or hinder tackling changes such as these?

Lights, Camera, Action!

In Brief

This activity has students collaborate to create media content that informs viewers about stewardship problems and suggests changes in attitude and/or behavior. It offers an opportunity for students to commit to research and communicate about a stewardship topic in a way that could benefit the community. Student groups will make a short video exploring stewardship issues.

Goals

Students will collaboratively research and communicate to an outside audience about a stewardship-related topic relevant to their community.

Students will exercise the skills and virtues needed for effective collaboration.

Thinking Ahead

This activity could follow on from The Stewardship Triangle because the video’s framework involves the three points of the triangle: knowledge, ethics, and practice. You’ll want students to have worked through several examples of the triangle first, before they attempt to write their own triangle to guide the creation of their film. This activity implicitly invites students to consider the ways in which what they are learning creates the responsibility to share with others, and affects their relationships outside the classroom.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Announce to the class that they will be starting a video project on stewardship.

Hand out and review the video guidelines and rubric in Lights, Camera, Action. This handout also includes a list of potential topic areas. You may want to suggest topic areas relevant to your local community or part of the world.

Present to students the Example Stewardship Video Proposal, and talk them through it. This handout uses Japanese Knotweed as the topical example and demonstrates to students how to work through The Stewardship Triangle to develop the film idea.

Inform students that they will be seeking feedback from real audiences—friends outside the class, family, or other trusted adults—so they know that they are filming for an audience other than the teacher.

Arrange students into groups of three to five. As you form groups and introduce the project, emphasize that students will be faced with two tasks:

  • They will need to effectively research and communicate about a stewardship topic.
  • They will need to exercise the communication skills and the virtues needed to collaborate effectively and graciously in teams.

Make clear that you will be considering both tasks when assessing the project, so arriving at a great product based on one person doing all the work is not a good success strategy.

Have the students begin researching a few topics until they can come to a consensus about one to use for the project.

Following is a general timeline towards completion, though it can vary based on the level of outside work expected, and the level of detail required in the videos:

  • Two days for topic research. Each group member needs to become a quasi-expert on the group’s topic. Assist students in finding scientifically trustworthy sources related to their topic.
  • One day to write The Stewardship Triangle—the knowledge, ethics, and practices—that will guide their movie-making process (again, see the Example Stewardship Video Proposal).
  • One day to decide on a film idea to capture the details expressed in The Stewardship Triangle that the students created the day before.
  • Three days to film.
  • Three days to edit.

After films have been finished, ask students to view their group’s film with friends, family members, or other adults to seek their reactions to the topics the video raises. Then ask students to submit a brief written reflection on the collaborative process that led to the video, focusing on how well they succeeded at maintaining good communication, including everyone, and listening to everyone’s ideas.

As you assess these videos, include feedback in two areas:

  • Did the video include clear and responsible scientific information, ethical reflection, and practical action steps? (You may wish to arrange for student groups to each evaluate another group’s video on these criteria.)
  • How well did students manage the collaborative process, and were there signs of the presence or absence of virtues affecting collaboration?

The Vegetables of Stewardship

In Brief

This activity builds upon the Fruits of Stewardship activity and can also draw from various other activities in this Activity Map. It requires that students reflect on what they have learned, and formulate written responses to differing opinions on stewardship, drawing upon both science and theology. It does this in the context of practicing the virtues involved in respecting those with whom we disagree.

Goals

Students will articulate a position on environmental stewardship and respond to other positions using both science and theology.

Students will demonstrate understanding of the relevance of the biblical themes of ruling, service, and the image of God to thoughtful analysis of stewardship, and the ability to relate these themes to issues informed by science.

Thinking Ahead

Beliefs about the environment, human responsibility, and their relationship to the Bible vary; often they are not expressed in carefully considered ways. Learning how to rationally and respectfully discuss these issues with others, and share theological ideas in a Christ-like way, can bear positive fruit in relationships and affect change in people’s behavior and action.

Teaching students to engage in these types of conversations is one way to help them practice the virtues needed to communicate well in the midst of disagreements. Having to write out one’s thoughts and beliefs on stewardship is an important step in getting students to learn, to own their thinking on this topic, and to crystallize their viewpoints on their human calling.

Consider how this activity resembles or differs from your usual assessment practices:

  • Do your usual practices take into account a relational context outside of class?
  • Do they direct students’ attention not only to what is known, but also to how we respond to others in the light of our knowledge?
  • Do they invite students to see learning and virtue as connected?

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

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Hand out the writing prompt Vegetables of Stewardship to students. It can be used as a test essay, take home essay, or a journaling exercise.

The text of the prompt:

Imagine that you are at a holiday dinner with your extended family. You, being the lucky person you are, get seated right between your two talkative and opinionated “favorite” uncles. One asks what you’ve been learning in school these days, and you reply that you’ve been learning about stewardship.

Uncle #1 snorts and says, “Stewardship?! Isn’t that just some tree-hugger type of stuff? Genesis clearly says that God put us in charge of the earth to use it how we want. It’s there to provide for us. Fact.”

Uncle #2 hears Uncle #1 and replies, “That’s nonsense. Humans have no special role or place here on earth. Everything has equal value and should have equal rights to life—no matter how it lives. We’ve also got to protect our resources on this planet, because our children will need them.”

Develop a response to both of your uncles in the form of a letter to them that accomplishes the following:

  • Identifies and affirms what you agree with in both uncles’ statements
  • Identifies and explains, with gentleness, what you disagree with in both uncles’ statements
  • Makes clear connection to relevant biblical and theological arguments related to ruling, service, and image of God and shows how these arguments might speak to each uncle’s view
  • Gives at least one significant example of how scientific understanding can inform the discussion
  • Clearly outlines your own position on stewardship and the reasons for it

Explain to students that you will be looking for:

  • Responsible use of sound scientific understanding. (Can students give valid examples of how science helps us understand human environmental impact?)
  • Responsible, careful use of theological and biblical material. (Do students balance, for instance, the biblical imagery of ruling, of serving/preserving, and the status of humans as being made in the image of God?)
  • Evidence that students have thought about how to communicate with humility and gentleness in the midst of disagreements.

You may wish to adapt the prompt to ask students to make use of specific scientific concepts that you have been covering.