When I was four years old, our preschool teacher took us outside the classroom to explore some wonders of nature at the Lekwa water trail in rural Iowa. The damp air was cold. Leaves had already fallen; the nearby forest of trees was bare. A recent rain made the dark Midwestern soil cling to the bottoms of my shoes.
Our guide gently assisted some children in traversing a fallen log. But my friends and I ran right past. We didn’t want her help—we were big enough to jump to the top of the log and not afraid to jump off all the way down to the bottom. That day we learned about coniferous trees, natural habitats for frogs and fish, and the effects of flooding on the riverbank.
Years later, I gave my heart to Jesus Christ at Riverside Bible Camp, less than ten miles from that preschool river hike. I am thankful my salvation story took place in that picturesque camp experience. Crickets serenaded us at night as we sang around the campfire. By day we rode horses, shot bows and arrows, canoed down the river, and swam in the summer sun.
I would return to that camp many more times while growing up. Thank you, Jesus, for such memories! Beginning at an early age and continuing throughout my entire life, others have taught me how to delight in God’s creation. Even though today I live near a major city, it has been a regular practice to spend at least one full week of the year in the great outdoors. It has been this way for decades. My theology demands it. A verse I absolutely love is Psalm 111:2—“Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”
The works of God are great, but many miss them. The church needs Christian educators to teach the next generation to see the great works of God. Of first importance, young learners should be taught the great works of salvation contained in the words of the Bible, such as the exodus of Israel out of Egypt and the establishment of the church by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this edition of the Christian Educator’s Journal, we want to emphasize a second aspect of God’s works: his glory in creation. This is our heavenly Father’s world. Therefore, students should be taught the great works of God in his creation through the study of physics, astronomy, biology, history, and other disciplines.
[S]tudents should be taught the great works of God in his creation through the study of physics, astronomy, biology, history, and other disciplines.
We should take the time to study and think about all of God’s works. In addition, we should grow our appreciation and enjoyment of these works because filling our hearts with wonder and delight pleases our Creator and Redeemer. When that happens, the teaching and learning enterprise becomes a joy for all those involved. Cultivating enthusiasm for God in the Christian classroom will benefit our students tremendously.
Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and writer who encouraged the imaginations of young learners. Although she never had children of her own, Carson influenced many young minds to responsibly care for our planet. In 1965 she wrote an article that gave an account of her outdoor adventures with Roger, her three-year-old grandnephew.
If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, the excitement, and the mystery of the world we live in. (46)
“One adult,” Carson urged. Just one adult is needed to keep alive their sense of wonder and delight. The need for adult guidance in our contemporary culture is probably far greater now than it was in Carson’s day. Our entertainment age, bloated with trivial information and oozing with the ubiquitous sludge of digital images, has robbed the imagination of children. More than ever children need the wisdom of those who can cut through it all with the beauty of creation. And then, from that wonder of creation, children can be guided into the majesty of their Creator.
Our entertainment age, bloated with trivial information and oozing with the ubiquitous sludge of digital images, has robbed the imagination of children.
To grow this sense of wonder and delight in children will take an approach that goes beyond what Carson first offered. Raised by a Presbyterian minister and likely a Christian herself, Carson didn’t really teach from a Christian perspective, per se. She often spoke of the joy, the excitement, and the mystery of the world we live in. That is a good starting point, but woefully inadequate to reach the standard given in Psalm 111:2, “Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” As Christian educators, we want to help those we lead to praise not the creation but the Creator.
How can we teach students the wonders of creation and lead them to the God of creation? An interdisciplinary approach teaches students to make important connections across the curriculum.
This is an abridged version of this article. To read more, subscribe to the print or digital edition of Christian Educators Journal.
Carson, Rachel. “Help Your Child to Wonder.” Woman’s Home Companion, July 1956, rachelcarsoncouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/whc_rc_sow_web.pdf.
Rasmussen, Adam. “Francis Schaeffer’s Use of Questions Can Be Helpful to Christian Educators Today.” Christian Educators Journal, April 2021, pp. 23–26.
Schaeffer, Francis. Pollution and the Death of Man. Crossway Books, 1970.
Adam Rasmussen, PhD (Talbot School of Theology, Biola University) joyfully serves as Associate Professor of Humanities and the Director of the Core Liberal Arts Curriculum of Arizona Christian University.