FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Part 1: Course Orientation


Identify Assumptions 1

The goal of this first lesson in Part 1 of the course is to begin identifying assumptions that students may have about the nature of science and of faith—whether true or false.

You can open this class session by acknowledging that the topic of faith and science is one about which some of us have strong opinions and feelings, and about which none of us are perfectly informed.

Ask the class to describe what kinds of behavior towards one another make it possible for people to share their ideas openly, without fear of others. If your school is Christian, raise the question of what a Christian learning community should be like. Consider drafting a class covenant with students that establishes some basic rules for how you will work together.

As a way to help students engage their assumptions and fears concerning faith and science topics, consider doing a brief exercise with index cards. Start by handing out an index card to each student. Tell the students that they need not write their names on the cards.

On one side of the card, ask students to write some thoughts about the topics and themes they expect to be part of a course on science and faith. What kinds of things do they expect to be discussing?

When they have had a few minutes to do this quietly, ask them to turn the card over and write down any feelings or concerns they may have about engaging with faith and science topics. Do they associate it with anxiety about threats to faith, impatience with people they disagree with, excitement about exploring a complex topic, or something else?

Next, ask them to turn to a partner and share as much as they feel comfortable sharing about what they wrote on their card.

After a few minutes, draw the class together and lead a discussion of the topics students expect for the course. It may be helpful to map the topics on the board as they are shared. Then do the same with the feelings the students have written. Listen for signs of students’ preconceptions about faith and science, but do not challenge them—simply make space for them to share their starting points.

As you continue the discussion, you can use questions such as:

  • Why did you choose to participate in this course?
  • What do you hope to gain from this class?
  • How do you anticipate that it will be similar to or different from other science courses or Bible courses?

Next, invite students to reflect aloud on their previous science classes. Ask them to focus on what was conveyed about what is involved in science learning and why it is important. How might this class differ?

As you draw this discussion to a close, invite the students to continue to reflect on how the actual course differs from their initial expectations, and encourage them to review their initial assumptions about faith and science throughout the course.

At the end of the exercise, collect the index cards and read them on your own to gain a sense of how your students are thinking and feeling. Look for themes that you may want to weave into the course and any anxieties the students may have on the course’s topic.

After this initial discussion, turn to the activity Science in Words.This activity engages students in creating a graphic representation to help them see in a fresh way how science and faith are talked about in the world at large.

Note that the homework for the next lesson asks students to spend time in conversation with a parent or other adult. Mention this now in order to give students more time to plan. Make copies of the homework sheet Identifying Issues available for any students who might need to work on this assignment early due to family schedules.

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Identify Assumptions 2