Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Science Education".
Why Some Christian Schools Are Teaching Evolution
October 18, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Why Some Christian Schools Are Teaching Evolution
One of the reasons Jim Klima sent his son to Front Range Christian School (FRCS) in Littleton, Colorado, is that he knew the school taught that God created the earth in six days. After his son attended a symposium offered by the school where a proponent of evolution explained his views to students, Klima attended a follow-up session later that evening. “We had an interesting discussion over dinner,” he laughed. Why would a Christian school that holds to a young-earth creationist point-of-view invite an evolutionist to address its students? “It’s foundational to who we are,” explained FRCS head of school, David Cooper. “Yes, we’re a young-earth creationist school, but if we’re going create Christian scholars who will be respected and heard, they’ve got to be able to engage in the scientific dialogue with meaningful knowledge. At the same time, we also want our students to learn how to discuss sensitive issues in a way that honors Christ.” To that end, FRCS partnered with us at The Colossian Forum and offered a day-long Symposium on Origins featuring two scientists: Dr. Todd Wood, a young-earth creationist and Dr. Darrel Falk, who believes God used evolution to create the earth. “We want our community to be able to speak their convictions with boldness and courage, but also be able to hold love as part of the process too,” Kevin Taylor, director of the school’s Veritas et Caritas Institute and a Spanish teacher said. “When the world looks at the church, I’d like them to see it appealing because we behave virtuously and civilly in a world so polarized.” Why Teach Evolution? Many Christian schools embrace young-earth creationism, likely for the same reason as Klima: they want an alternative to the evolution that is being taught in public schools. However, when those Christian-school students graduate and head off to college—even to some Christian colleges—they are expected to have at least a rudimentary understanding of evolution. Christian colleges such as Calvin College, Taylor University, Spring Arbor University, Seattle Pacific University, Point Loma Nazarene University, Samford University, and others generally teach from an evolutionary perspective in their science departments, as do virtually all non-religious affiliated colleges and universities. Introducing evolution to Christian-school students is not without its challenges. Head of school Cooper acknowledges resistance from some parents. “We ask them to be patient, to trust us, but I know it’s difficult for some,” he said. Teachers also approach it with mixed feelings. Leslie Bloomquist, who teaches advanced placement biology at FRCS, covers a large unit on evolution with her ninth-graders. “If I didn’t, my students would have a very hard time taking their standardized tests required by the state because there’s just so much evolution on those tests. But I don’t feel real comfortable teaching it.” Though not every state includes questions about evolution on their mandatory student assessments, an increasing number do. In a 2005 questionnaire sent by Education Week to twenty-two states, seventeen reported at least one question on their tests specifically mentioned evolution—some tests had as many as seven questions about evolution. How Do We Have This Conversation? At the FRCS symposium, approximately 250 middle and high-school students listened to Wood and Falk explain their views on origins and then question each other. Students also met in small groups to share their own thoughts on science and faith and interact with the scientists. “There’s definitely disagreement on this topic among the students here,” eleventh-grader Carissa Van Donselaar explained. “This event has helped us learn how to talk about our opinions without fighting each other, and that’s so important because the image that non-believers have of Christians is that we’re always fighting over something.” Both Wood and Falk have been meeting privately for the past three years with The Colossian Forum, putting to test the ministry’s belief that “all things hold together in Christ.” Both believe the other is not only wrong, but harming the church as they promote their respective views of origins. “Todd believes my views could lead students away from faith, while I believe the young-earth creationist view makes it easy for scientists to dismiss the Christian faith altogether, and we really need a Christian presence in the larger scientific community,” Falk explained. “It has not always been easy because, in a way, Darrel Falk is a mortal enemy of creationism,” noted Wood. “In fact, sometimes our discussion gets quite heated, but we’ve been able to have these difficult conversations and still remain friends.” Both credit TCF for providing a God-honoring process for dealing with conflict. “Our role is simply to remind them what they already believe, which is that the gospel is relevant and powerful—especially where there’s conflict,” Michael Gulker, president of TCF, said. “Rather than being a threat to the faith, conflict actually gives us an opportunity to let the gospel work in us and in our culture in ways the culture can no longer imagine. In doing so, we have the opportunity to witness to the reconciling power of the Prince of Peace. It’s great to be able to show the next generation of Christians that it’s possible to contend for what you believe in a way that honors Christ.” How Can We Utilize These Resources? teachFASTly.com is a faith and science teaching resource curated by TCF and Kuyers Institute. Faith and Science Teaching (FAST) helps equip high school teachers to engage big questions around faith and science with confidence and creativity. FAST aims to use the way young people consider these big questions as occasions to press into Christian virtue. The teachFASTly.com site is filled with a large collection of teaching activities, training materials, background essays, book reviews, and more. Where faith and science are so often seen as a source of conflict, FAST creates a space in which teachers and students are invited to engage them as a fruitful opportunity to learn and grow. FAST explores hard questions with integrity, encouraging the very best teaching practices within the context of Christian faithfulness. We hope teachFASTly is a great asset to teach science well in a Christian context.
Refresh, Rethink, and Reshape the Way You Teach
September 13, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Refresh, Rethink, and Reshape the Way You Teach
Could there be a way forward, a way of exploring the intersection of faith and science that isn’t fearful but hopeful? We certainly think so! teachFASTly.com is a faith and science teaching resource curated by TCF and Kuyers Institute. Faith and Science Teaching (FAST) helps equip high school teachers to engage big questions around faith and science with confidence and creativity. FAST aims to use the way young people consider these big questions as occasions to press into Christian virtue. The teachFASTly.com site is filled with large collection of teaching activities, training materials, background essays, book reviews, and more. We're really thrilled to announce the addition of 70 new activities to the teachFASTly site. Our latest batch of activities cover topics in Bible, biology, chemistry, ecology, and physics. These activities are grouped in the following seven Activity Maps: Stewardship, Science, and Faith Science and the Internet Wonder and Wisdom Homework Models, Humility, and Truth God and Natural Causes Water, Ecology, and Neighbors We are also excited to announce a new section of the website focused on helping teachers and administrators run faith & science forums within their school communities. Like the current activities, these new materials are free and do not require sign-up or registration to download and use. Where faith and science are so often seen as a source of conflict, FAST creates a space in which teachers and students are invited to engage them as a fruitful opportunity to learn and grow. FAST explores hard questions with integrity, encouraging the very best teaching practices within the context of Christian faithfulness. Please check out these new resources and please pass them on to teachers that you know. We hope teachFASTly is a great asset to teach science well in a Christian context.
Schools Bridging Faith and Science
May 17, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Schools Bridging Faith and Science
This article originally appeared on May 8, 2017, in Convivium, a publication of CARDUS: www.cardus.ca. Thanks for the mention! Controversy over religion and science is nothing new. That’s certainly true in the world of education. Indeed, a recent commentary in the Washington Post lamented 60 examples of what the author called “anti-science education legislation” that could affect what American students are taught regarding the evolution-creation debate and global warming. We may even see the odd flare-up of such conflict in Canada. So, it’s not surprising that public skepticism abounds regarding the ability of religious schools – evangelical Christian schools in particular – to teach science. However, new research by the Cardus Religious Schools Initiative (CRSI) at the University of Notre Dame offers evidence that such skepticism is ill founded. In their newly released paper, Blinded by Religion? Religious School Graduates and Perceptions of Science in Young Adulthood , researchers Jonathan Schwartz and David Sikkink examined religious school graduates’ orientations toward science. Using the latest Cardus Education Survey data from Canada and the United States, they analyzed graduates’ views on a range of subjects, including science, creation vs. evolution, and the number of science courses taken. They found that graduates of religious schools do sometimes hold distinct views on science as compared to public school graduates. But these distinctions aren’t uniform across the board. Neither are they the kinds of distinctions that would inspire popular caricatures of religious school grads as simpletons who believe in a flat Earth. In fact, when it comes to taking science courses, you’d be hard-pressed to find much difference between Canadian religious and public school graduates. Controlling for family background and parental education, Schwartz and Sikkink found that “students at private religious schools enroll in science classes at a similar rate to public school peers in Canada.” The distinction in the United States, meanwhile, is that only homeschoolers (religious and non-religious) were the least likely of all students to have taken courses in biology, chemistry, or physics, or to have had at least three science courses throughout high school. There was little to distinguish American graduates of private Christian schools from their public school counterparts in that regard. What about attitudes toward scientists? You might expect some animosity towards them from religious grads, but you wouldn’t find it in Canada. “Generally speaking, Canadians hold scientists in similar esteem regardless of their high school educational context,” say the researchers. It’s a slightly different picture in the United States. There, graduates of evangelical Protestant schools tend to be less trusting of scientists and assign a lower value to their social contributions than public school grads do. That’s a difference to be sure, but hardly a unique or problematic one from a social point of view. The battle over whether to teach creationist critiques of evolutionary theory is certainly sharper in the United States than in Canada. And that seems to emerge in the research as well. “In Canada, school sector does not on its own increase an individual’s belief in literal versions of creationism, but the U.S. case differs,” write Schwartz and Sikkink. American grads of evangelical Protestant high schools were found to be “more likely to adhere to a literal version of creation than their public high school peers.” What they couldn’t determine, though, was whether this was the result of teaching in science class, or an indirect result of the students’ religious and social lives. In short, it will take more research to draw conclusions about whether these schools actually make much difference in graduates’ creationist views. What about perceived conflicts between religious beliefs and science? On this question, both in Canada and in the U.S., there is little evidence to show that the type of school a student attended affects their likelihood to sense a science-religion conflict. However, the researchers did find that the more high school science courses Canadian students take, the more likely they are to perceive a conflict between science and religion. Notably, though, that holds regardless of which type of school they attended. So, this could be the result of a cultural difference between Canadians and Americans. While the science-religion conflict does not come up in a big way in this research, that’s not to say that perceptions of conflict don’t exist. Some educators are taking steps to equip themselves to handle such issues in the classroom, as evidenced by the creation of the FAST (Faith and Science Teaching) Curriculum developed by the Kuyers Institute and The Colossian Forum. The curriculum aims to help teachers lead their students into studying the intersection of faith and science, possibly reducing perceptions of conflict in the process. Meanwhile, William T. Cavanaugh, DePaul University theology professor, and James K. A. Smith, editor-in-chief of Cardus’s public theology journal Comment , have co-edited a new book that tackles related issues from a different angle. Evolution and the Fall examines the implications for a Christian understanding of creation and the entry of sin into the world if the widely accepted view of humanity’s evolutionary origins are true. Its provocative premise lays bare issues that Christians will inevitably have to deal with. All in all, we do see some differences between graduates of private Christians schools and public school graduates. But they aren’t all that stark or as shocking. If anything, this latest piece of CRSI research is perhaps our strongest indicator yet that Christian schools in Canada and the United States don’t have as troubled a relationship with science as many would expect. What’s more, there are efforts within the wider Christian community to bridge what perceived gaps do exist between faith and science.  In time, the research and bridge-building efforts may increase understanding and support for the vital place that religious schools hold in the education systems of both Canada and the U.S.
Growing Virtuous Youth through an Origins Symposium
February 22, 2017 | Andy Saur
Growing Virtuous Youth through an Origins Symposium
Students at Front Range Christian School in Littleton, Colorado prepped for months to participate in the all-day Origins Symposium that was held at their school in late January. They met in their weekly small groups to discuss faith-and-science questions, worked through teachFASTly activities in their Bible and science classes, and registered for breakout sessions on topics as varied as “How would a young-earth creationist explain ape man fossils?” to “Is it appropriate to go to the Bible for scientific truth?” But even with that preparation, many were unprepared for the experience of listening to TCF partners Darrel Falk and Todd Wood explain their different perspectives on human origins. How is it that two faithful Christians could disagree so significantly on such an important issue and still care for each other? Who had the “right answer” to the origins question? When teachers heard their students voicing these questions, they knew the symposium was on the right track. As Kevin Taylor, director of the school’s Veritas et Caritas Institute, explains: “We want our community to be able to speak their convictions with boldness and courage, but also be able to hold love as part of the process too.” To know one’s convictions, a person has to understand both what he or she is moving toward and away from. Even as the students began forming their own opinions on the origins topic through what they learned in preparation for and at the symposium, they also started developing an equally important skillset of holding in tension their growing opinion on the issue with their care for a Christian brother or sister who holds a different viewpoint. This hard work of forming thoughtful disciples of Christ is at the heart of The Colossian Forum’s mission and we were delighted to partner with Front Range Christian School to continue this work among its student body through this symposium. And we whole-heartedly echo the words of Kevin Taylor: “When the world looks at the church, I’d like them to see it appealing because we behave virtuously and civilly in a world so polarized.”
Formed Through the Crucible of Conflict
October 12, 2016 | Michael Gulker
Formed Through the Crucible of Conflict
Our president, Michael Gulker, wrote an article for the recent CSE (Christian School Education) magazine about finding our way through conflict when teaching about faith and science. Enjoy! We had gathered in hopes of using tough, complex conversations like evolution as occasions to deepen faith and witness to the truth that all things hold together in Christ (Colossians 1:17). But things sure didn't feel like they were holding together as we factionalized into two groups--those insisting on the authority of Scripture and those insisting on the need to take science seriously and teach it with integrity. Things had started so well. We began the two-day retreat in prayer and worship, meditating on Mary's annunciation in Luke 1, reflecting on what it might mean for Christ to be born in us in the midst of a pressured conversation like evolution. Later, we read Psalm 22, the opening line of which Jesus quoted from the cross--"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" How are we to act when we, who have been given authority for both the intellectual and spiritual formation of our students, come face-to-face with challenging conversations that threaten to call our own faith into question? How are we to balance our teaching authority and our confidence in Scripture with openness and vulnerability to new learning? And what, in our culture, did students need to see most--a tidy answer or a faithful question to a God whom we can trust to see things through even we we can't? You can read the rest of the article from CSE here.
Teaching faith and science? This new website changes everything.
September 14, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Teaching faith and science? This new website changes everything.
From TCF’s earliest days, our staff has worked closely with high school teachers to help students engage with difficult questions in the arena of faith and science. Young people so often feel the pinch of our culture’s inability to handle conflict well—but we’re convinced that the church can show them a better way. In order to help educators address these unique concerns, TCF has collaborated with the Kuyers Institute on the three-year FAST (Faith And Science Teaching) Project to create and launch teachFASTly.com. Designed by teachers for teachers, teachFASTly.com promotes an integrated, intentional, and creative approach to teaching and learning at the intersection of faith and science. The site offers hundreds of free, ready-to-use activities organized by subject area. It also features a robust resource section containing practical teaching strategies and conceptual resources. 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. The website was designed to support teachers in their efforts to engage students as whole persons, honoring their range of beliefs, commitments, feelings, and relationships. TeachFASTly.com focuses on both information and formation as students engage big questions. The FAST Project is a collaborative endeavor that draws on the expertise of high school teachers, scholars, writers, and web developers. It is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.