Every summer it was the same. After graduation I would crash for a week or two out of sheer exhaustion, binging on ice cream and whatever TV shows I hadn’t had time to watch the last ten months. It felt nice to accomplish nothing for a while. But pretty soon my overachiever teacher mode would kick back in, and I’d create a list of all of the things I wanted to do over the summer to improve my physics class:
- Rewrite all of my labs
- Replace tests with performance assessments
- Create packets of extra practice for each unit
- Redesign one unit as PBL (project-based learning)
- And on and on . . .
“Sure, it might seem like a lot,” I’d say to myself, “but I have all summer to do it, right? Plenty of time!”
Inevitably reality would sink in as my other obligations and need for genuine rest kept me from completing the majority of my lofty and unrealistic goals. Two short months later I would face the new school year with a faint sense of failure for not having reimagined my entire course over the summer. There’s nothing worse than starting the year feeling discouraged!
Can anyone else relate? Your list of grand summer revamps probably looks different than mine—hopefully more realistic, if nothing else! But I’d venture to guess that most of our summer to-do items center on finding ways to make our courses more meaningful and engaging for our students.
For many science teachers, finding new ways to weave faith into their subject and making their content more personally relevant to their students are high on their wish list of summer improvements. Faith integration in science class can be tricky, after all. How do you make meaningful connections that aren’t cheesy or contrived and actually lead to deeper engagement?
Developing meaningful faith and science connections can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are a few simple ways to invite students to think about how their faith intersects with science and the wider world. Bonus: the prep will not usurp your whole summer!
Offer Short Journaling Prompts
Short journaling prompts can be a great way for students to reflect on the content they’re learning. Either as a bellringer or as a break in a lecture-heavy lesson, give students five minutes to respond to a question that connects content to faith or the broader world. The answers don’t have to be long or elaborate—just a chance for students to make some connections. Such prompts can be great for a think-pair-share activity or group discussion as well. Here are a few examples to inspire you:
- So many natural processes take a very long time to occur—a river carving out a canyon, a species adapting to a new environmental challenge, a planet forming around a star. What do these slow processes tell us about the God who set them in motion and creates the world through them?
- Ocean currents flow throughout the world, redistributing heat, nutrients, and oxygen throughout the oceans . . . and also trash. This trash can kill the fish that communities on the other side of the ocean rely on for food or pollute their beaches. Are people across the ocean our neighbors? If so, how can we love them better based on our new understanding of ocean currents?
- We just learned that there are 350,000 different species of beetles crawling all over the world. Not only did God create this many species of beetles, but God knows each different species AND God cares for each individual beetle. If God knows and cherishes that many different types of beetles, what do you think God makes of all the big and little things that make you unique?
“Invite students to think about how their faith intersects with science and the wider world.”
Highlight Christian Scientists
So often the examples of Christian scientists that come to our minds are long since dead: Galileo, Copernicus, Faraday, Mendel, etc. But what about scientists today? There are passionate Christ-followers in all STEM fields pursuing cutting-edge research and using their expertise to worship and serve God.
Take a few minutes in class to highlight someone who integrates their faith with their science and uses the concepts your students are learning to love others. Bonus: this is a great way to challenge students’ assumptions that all scientists are white men with glasses and crazy hair. Unfortunately, there is no master list of all the Christians working in science, but these resources are a good place to start:
- Scientists of Faith: 28 Stories of Brilliant Scientists with Remarkable Faith in God. This 2023 book is a great resource for younger students.
- 101 Great Big Questions about God & Science. Check out the impressive contributors list!
- The Advisory Board of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion is full of thoughtful scientists of faith.
- BioLogos is a faith and science non-profit with many examples of Christians working in science.
Discuss News Articles
It can be tempting for students to think that science is simply memorizing a bunch of static facts. But our knowledge of the natural world and how we apply that knowledge is constantly growing and changing. Bring in a recent news article (or have students bring in their own!) and discuss how the science concepts connect to our call to love our neighbors and steward God’s creation. Below are example articles:
- “Climate, environmental change puts 90% of world’s marine food at risk, study says.” Ecosystems are complex and delicate systems. How could activities in your region potentially contribute to the decline of “blue foods” in China and Norway? Are there things you could be doing in your own life and community to help protect fish and marine life?
- “Crispr Gene Editing Can Cause Unwanted Changes in Human Embryos, Study Finds.” Our increasing understanding of genetics has led to our ability to edit genes using a technology called CRISPR-Cas9. We can use this tool to more effectively treat cancer, develop pest-resistant crops, and much more. But there are also applications that are ethically unclear, like using this CRISPR-Cas9 to edit human embryos. How we make sure that this gene-editing technology is used to love and serve others and move toward God’s justice in the world?
Explore Christian Virtues in Lab Activities
Labs might not be an obvious place for faith integration, but the practice of science requires more than appropriate safety gear and technical skills. For example, most scientific research today is done in teams, and the quality of the results depends as much on a team’s ability to work together as their experimental method. Check out the resources at Practices for Teams, a curriculum developed by professors at Calvin University, which helps students understand how embodying Christian virtues like humility, hospitality, rest, and gratitude in their lab work can actually make them better scientists.
None of these ideas requires you to restructure your entire course over the summer or even cancel that beach trip you have planned. Taking 10 minutes here and there to implement one of these ideas can impact how students see science connecting to their faith and the world around them. For a deeper look into why discussing science and faith in the classroom is so important, check out this CACE blog series.
If you’re looking for resources to help you incorporate these and other faith and science activities seamlessly and easily, check out Integrate, a faith and science curriculum supplement from BioLogos designed to bring rigorous science, Christ-centered faith, and gracious dialogue into your classroom. Integrate’s flexible, module structure includes everything you need to implement the four ideas above and so much more in your science classroom.
On July 12 BioLogos will be hosting Integrate Summer School—a free, virtual workshop designed to introduce educators to the Integrate curriculum and help them explore ways to incorporate it into their classroom. Attendees will also get some exclusive resources and a special discount code for purchasing the curriculum.
So rather than creating impossible lists and starting the academic year with failure, take one or two steps now toward higher engagement, deeper faith integration, and better teaching and learning.