We can talk about Christian education all day, but unless we teach in distinctively Christian ways, we might as well close our doors! My work with schools involves helping them bridge the gap from philosophy/mission to classroom teaching practice and it usually is the area of greatest need in all Christian schools. I would like to share with you some very specific examples of teaching that, I believe, make a real difference in shaping the minds, hearts, and hands of students. I have been given permission by two excellent teachers, Mark Kauk and Janie VanDyke, from Unity Christian High School in Orange City, Iowa to share the ways they integrate faith and learning in their classrooms. They exemplify the kind of teachers I described in Part 1 of this series. I am grateful to both of them for allowing their work to be shared in this post and I am hopeful that these examples may also be an inspiration to you!
Mark uses questions to focus on four key concepts associated with the aspect of Creation in his high school science units. He states that these questions “really force students to think and get at ideas about God’s world that they never have really thought about much.”
Here are his belief statements and questions in a unit on waves/sound/light that link general revelation and a Biblical perspective:
Creation. God created everything through the Word. That Word is Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who is the perfect image of the Creator.
Summarize the main thought of each passage:
Purpose In Creation. God created everything with purpose and meaning, ultimately to bring glory to himself.
List five examples from the study of waves, light, and sound. Describe their purposeful function.
Class Discussion: Why are waves, light, and sound important in a world that functions with God created purpose?
Patterns in Creation. We see evidence of design, order, and patterns in all that God created.
Explain five observable examples of the design, order, and patterns found in the study of waves, light, and sound.
Class Discussion: How do these examples of waves, light, and sound show evidence of the wisdom of a grand design?
Providence in Creation. God sustains and upholds his creation by his Word.
List and explain any natural laws that describe the behavior of waves, light, and sound. Include any mathematical descriptions.
What are some of the miracles in the OT and NT of the Bible which are reminders of God’s sustaining power in the physical creation? Must be specific to waves, light, and sound.
Potential in Creation. God created the universe with the potential for man to investigate and develop through scientific study and technological development.
Research the historical timeline for the discovery of the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Include our understanding of at least 7 different categories of waves.
List ten technological developments associated with the electromagnetic spectrum.
Class Discussion: How have these developments contributed to the benefit or demise of man’s created purpose to glorify God?
Mark mentions that the big picture concepts of Purpose, Pattern, Providence, and Potential work equally well in other units of science that he teaches to assist faith learning integration. In the process I believe he is teaching students a “habit of mind” to consider all four of these aspects as they look at creation. Additionally, and of perhaps even more lasting importance, he has given them a framework for future thinking, so that they can identify Biblical thinking related to conceptual understandings.
Janie VanDyke uses what I would call faith-enhancing practices such as faith stories and reflective writing in her English class to encourage faith development in students. In an assignment for the online Distinctive class that I teach, Mark listed these ways that Janie integrates faith and learning in her class. (Janie was kind enough to allow sharing of these examples – thank you!)
In Freshman English Janie uses the stories, “Things We Couldn’t Say” by Diet Eman with James Schaap and “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom to teach about faith stories. These people lived out their faith in the context of challenging circumstances. One of the themes she discusses is sacrifice, of how people help others even when they are very different from themselves. She also shares her own faith story. The strategies she uses for this unit are reading the books, discussion in class, writing an assignment of their own story, and also journaling. The journaling is interesting because she will ask them to write about various personal things such as a struggle they may have had or a circumstance where their faith affected their actions.
Another project she does is a genealogy research project where each student researches aspects of their ancestors. The faith of many generations is seen and the faithfulness of God is demonstrated. The strategies include discussion, sharing, and assignments involving writing, composing a poem about themselves, creating a dictionary of terms about common phrases used at home, doing an essay, and conducting an interview of a grandparent.
In Communications class, where students give speeches, they first read a book by Quentin Schultze, a professor at Calvin College, who has written a book on public speaking. In it he emphasizes the idea of being a servant speaker, not an ego speaker. One of his chapters also deals with the fruits of the spirit in public speaking. Her strategy is to have students read this and then discuss it before students even begin composing speeches.
In a senior literature class she has the students read “Night” by Elie Wiesel, about a Holocaust experience. She then assigns a paper on injustice where students must write about some global or national injustice. She also uses information from a former student who is a lawyer and has become involved with International Justice Mission.
Resources: She has collected her ideas and curriculum content over the years from books she reads, people she knows, other teachers, articles she has read, and her own interests. One example is how she read an essay once of Lewis Smedes called “How I Found God at Calvin College” and she took that idea and now has students write an essay on where they have found God.
I think these are some helpful ideas and specific examples of how master teachers who are passionate about their faith are revealing truth, unfolding creation, and integrating faith and learning in their classrooms. Any ideas you would like to share?