Essay: What is Teaching FASTly?
What is Teaching FASTly?
Some years ago, I was talking to an experienced biology teacher at a Christian school. He was committed to applying his faith to his teaching with integrity. “The trouble is,” he confessed, “most of the time I’m just explaining photosynthesis. Big faith-science questions come up every now and then, but mostly it’s routine science, and faith does not seem very relevant.”
This way of looking at things seems to imply that faith only pops up in the science class when there is a fight to be had or when science does not seem to know the answer to a question. Faith’s assigned role is to occasionally speak up and put science in its place or to be eventually overruled by scientific findings. It is probably equally true that science comes up in Bible class mainly when there is an apparent conflict between science and Scripture. This gives the impression that faith and science only interact when one or the other claims to trump the other. Otherwise faith is mostly consigned to Bible class and science to the lab.
We believe there is a better way. We call it Teaching FASTly.
Teaching FASTly has nothing to do with hurrying up. FAST stands for Faith And Science Teaching. “And” may be the shortest word, but it is vital. Too often popular discussions of science and religion portray them as two sides at war, asking us to embrace one and accept the defeat of the other. This picture is simplistic and misleading. There are some challenging controversies at the intersection of faith and science, but the relationship is much richer and more complex than a few high-profile arguments. Teaching FASTly means teaching in a way that allows both faith and science to remain in play, each with its own integrity, neither canceling out the other.
As my conversation with the biology teacher continued, we began to talk about other ways that faith and science might be related. What about the character qualities needed to be a good scientist? What about collaboration and community? What virtues do we need when we encounter people with different views? What about ethical issues in science? What about scientists who are motivated by the desire to serve others or to pursue truth? What about beauty, wonder, and gratitude? How does Scripture continue to inform the work of scholars? Perhaps the connection between faith and science is not like a single contested bridge across a chasm, but more like a tapestry with many threads. My teacher friend sat back in his chair. “I never thought about it like that,” he confessed. Teaching FASTly means looking out for all of the ways that faith and science can be in conversation, and not just for the few opportunities to take positions on controversial questions.
Students learn in a context filled with competing voices. Their relationships to their parents, their pastors, their teachers, and their peers, as well as media and internet chatter about controversial faith-science issues, all contribute to the landscape of education. Honoring both faith and science in the classroom—the science classroom and the religion classroom—helps students engage their whole selves in learning and move beyond fear and simple slogans. The focus here is not on providing the right answer to each difficult question, but on how we can build a learning environment in which students explore faith and science questions responsibly and in a manner that honors others. Teaching FASTLY means approaching students as whole people with beliefs, commitments, and relationships, and not just as recipients of knowledge.
Faith on this site means Christian faith. We hope that those who are not Christian might also find useful resources, however our main goal is to offer a Christian perspective on teaching faith and science responsibly. The many teaching activities and resources provided here are accompanied by detailed commentary that expands on what it means in practical terms to teach FASTly. We hope you find ideas that enhance your teaching and your students’ learning. Teaching FASTly means not letting the faith-science conversation be just a debate, but seeing it as an opportunity to foster rich learning through creative pedagogy.
Take a look around. See what you can glean. And teach FASTly.