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.
TCF Receives Templeton Foundation Grant for Faith and Science Teaching Project
We’re thrilled to announce that The Colossian Forum, along with our partners at Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning, received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to support the next phase of the FAST (Faith and Science Teaching) Project. FAST is a resource to equip high school teachers to engage big questions around faith and science with both confidence and creativity, with the goal of changing the way young people consider these big questions, thereby opening the way for humble inquiry and faithful pursuit of both intellectual and spiritual virtue. The first phase of FAST will conclude this September with the launch of the FAST website. This phase centered around developing alternative and fruitful ways of integrating education at the intersection of faith and science through creation of a web-based curricular resource and training for teachers of science and religion. FAST’s second phase (which this new grant makes possible) will: Nearly double the number of activities provided on the FAST website Produce two short films that creatively illustrate the FAST approach to teaching Embed FAST into a high school, creating a model to inspire other institutions Our goal is that the FAST website will become a trusted source for high quality, creative, and integrated teaching materials that foster discipleship in the context of scientific inquiry. We couldn’t undertake this project without the support of partners like the John Templeton Foundation or without your gifts and prayers as we seek to invite young people to engage potentially thorny topics (like the intersection of faith and science) as occasions to build Christian communities that actually look Christian.
FAST Project Underway: Working to Transform the Classroom
What comes to mind when you remember your high school science class? Were you one of those fortunate students whose biology teacher opened the door to a fascinating new world of living things? Did your physics professor introduce you to a universe of ideas you’d never imagined? Perhaps more unusual – did you feel like you left the science classroom a better person? Here at TCF, we’re persuaded that we have the opportunity to pursue personal and spiritual growth everywhere – even in the classroom. So we’ve partnered with the Kuyers Institute to develop a resource to help teachers and learners alike grow as disciples of Christ. This week, an outstanding team of teachers is meeting in South Haven to design lesson plans and activities that don’t change what gets taught, but how it’s taught. The intersection of faith and science – so often charged with controversy and threatening questions – proves to be a fruitful arena for instilling virtues like empathy and truth-telling and stewardship. As our teachers design hands-on resources, they’re testing them in their classrooms, and we’re discovering in real-time just how effective they can be. One of our teachers recently commented: I have always encountered groups of students that are challenging - both in terms of ability and lack of motivation. These are often the students that have been told (directly or indirectly) that they aren't good at school, and by high school they've pretty much bought into that message. This year is no different in that sense, but it has been radically different in terms of the classroom morale and general disposition. I think significant credit can be given to my change of perspective, giving a theme like empathy priority in a discipline like chemistry. There is a bit of push back sometimes—students just want "the facts" so they can move on—but there have been several glimmering moments along with a slow changing of the tide, indicating that they are starting to see the big picture. We’re grateful to teachers like this one, who willingly share their expertise and energy to develop this groundbreaking project. And we’re grateful to the John Templeton Foundation for underwriting this effort to transform the classroom into a place where students can grow both intellectually and spiritually!
Reconsidering the Criteria for Scientific Success: Love over Truth?
Rob Barrett, Director of Forums & Scholarship, was recently invited to present at the Christian Perspectives in Science Seminar Series at Calvin College. Drawing on The Colossian Forum’s experience with scholars and laypersons, this lecture describes our work to advance both truth and love. If, like us, you’re intrigued by the challenging interplay of these two Christian virtues, you'll certainly appreciate the insights Rob shared in his abstract (below), and his lecture, available to stream here. Abstract The Colossian Forum engages divisive topics of faith, science, and culture as opportunities for Christian formation. As we have led forums that engage questions such as origins and human sexuality within the context of the Great Commandment, forum participants and observers have regularly voiced concerns that subordinating the pursuit of truth to the pursuit of love means we never make progress toward the truth. But Christian love, unlike liberal tolerance or celebration of diversity for its own sake, does not impede the pursuit of truth but rather motivates and sustains it. In this talk, I describe The Colossian Forum’s approach to engaging divisive issues among Christians with examples drawn from conflicts over origins and sexuality. I examine our reasons for subordinating truth to love and argue that, perhaps surprisingly, positioning truth within a context of love holds a potential for acquiring both, while hoping for love to emerge from the pursuit of truth sometimes fails to produce either. I will argue this at three levels. First, Christians should be careful when naming the kinds of truth we pursue to avoid limiting the category of truth to solutions to technical problems. Second, experts working on contentious topics easily fall into defensive postures that both replace self-giving love with fear and anger and obscure the truth they pursue. Third, popular appropriation of any scientific expertise that has relevance for culture requires more than assenting to expert information, for formation of individual and social life requires a range of capacities that Christians traditionally label virtues, with love being the virtue that inspires and animates all of the others.[end-div]
This month’s conversation at RespectfulConversation.net ventures into the territory of faith and science, specifically “Evangelicalism and Scientific Models of Humanity and Cosmic and Human Origins.” Here at TCF, we hear story after story of the painful fallout surrounding these particular issues. We hear of young people, seeking career advice, being warned that they can become scientists or remain Christians – but not both. We hear of awkward holiday dinners, family members doing their best to skirt the antagonisms that have flared over differing perspectives on creation and evolution. All that to say, this month’s topic is near and dear to our hearts. Dr. Peter Enns brings to light a theme we’ve seen surface time and again. The disagreements – ostensibly about the mechanisms by which our world and life came to be – in fact reflect much deeper matters. Because where we line up on these “scientific” positions has significant implications for how we understand God, and our place in God’s world. The two are inescapably intertwined – and our job, as faithful Christians, is to work out how that entanglement might be understood as God’s good gift. We at TCF are convinced that the church can work this out – that in fact, all things already “hold together in Christ,” and what remains for us is to find what that might mean in the arena of God’s creative work. The conversation at RespectfulConversation.net brings together Christians – from widely divergent backgrounds and perspectives – to begin to sort some of this out. Please join in!
Templeton Foundation awards grant to TCF and partner Kuyers Institute
In partnership with the Kuyers Institute for Teaching and Learning, TCF is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a $200,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation. This award will help fund programming costs for the development of training and cutting-edge online resources for science teachers. These resources will address the need for effective teaching strategies at the intersection of faith and science. Curriculum will be composed of the highest level of scientific scholarship while also addressing how science is connected to discovering and expressing Biblical virtues. Over the course of three years, this project will develop and deploy an interactive website that will include a multi-layered bank of teaching strategies, training materials, and brief related essays. It will draw on the contributions of experienced teachers to create, evaluate, and communicate effective teaching methods. As a standalone site, it will extend the reach of the innovative websites whatiflearning.com and whatiflearning.co.uk and will be developed in a similar style. In the upcoming months watch for updates from the team as this project moves forward. You can expect occasional previews of new material, stories from the writing team, and links to effective resources as we discover them.