The Nature of the Nature of Science

After nearly twenty years of teaching science at the secondary level, I have come to a concerning realization: being a Christian, teaching at a Christian School, and teaching Christianly are not all the same thing. Put another way, Christian curriculum does not guarantee Christian pedagogy. Through developing and testing materials for teachfastly.com (mainly tenth and twelfth grade Chemistry curriculum), I have begun to see the potential of Christian pedagogy and the impact teaching Christianly can have on both student and teacher.

One topic I have struggled to teach well at the high school level is the nature of science. Most science textbooks start the same way: lengthy, boring, and often trite descriptions of the scientific method and how it has saved the world from ignorance. Some versions feature a vignette about a famous scientist who overcame impossible obstacles to make some major discovery, likening science to a boxing ring and the scientist to Rocky. In my experience, most first chapters overtly suggest that my students compartmentalize their faith and their understanding of science. This has always bothered me both as a Christian and as a teacher of science. However, developing an opening activity about faith and the nature of science has given me a new start to the first day of class (see the “Faith and the Nature of Science” Activity Map at teachfastly.com for all of the activities referenced in this article). This activity aims to show the power of both faith and science and to begin asking how science interacts with faith—an essential question and an enduring concept in all my classes.

Sources of Knowledge

This activity is a “discover” activity, designed to offer a brief introduction to the topic that orients students and begins the learning process. As students enter class, they find two books on each desk: the Bible and a science textbook. Right away, this evokes the question of how to reconcile these two “sources of knowledge.” I then share this quotation with them: “[The] universe is before our eyes / like a beautiful book / in which all creatures, / great and small, / are as letters / to make us ponder / the invisible things of God” (Belgic Confession, article 2). The books are an invitation to ponder, to wonder. Questions, not answers, are the goal of this activity. What are the things we can properly learn from the Bible? What are the things we can learn from studying the universe? And what are the boundaries around what is learned in each class in the school curriculum?

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