I teach middle school science in a Christian school, and a key component to my science teaching has always been the Belgic Confession article 2, “The Means by which We Know God.” It states:
We know God by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government
of the universe,
since that 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:
God’s eternal power and divinity,
as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict humans
and to leave them without excuse.
Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly
by his holy and divine Word,
as much as we need in this life,
for God’s glory
and for our salvation.
The thing I always like to point out to my students is that the first way by which we know God is creation—namely, science! That usually is a bit of an eye opener for my middle school students who naturally assumed the number one way is the Bible. Many of them have never thought about general revelation.
The thing I always like to point out to my students is that the first way by which we know God is creation—namely, science!
At Byron Center Christian School we utilize Teaching for Transformation (TfT), a tool that really helps us as teachers focus on creating Christian servant workers (“practicing Christians”) in our society. As Nicholas Wolterstorff says, “It is nothing but a pious wish and a grossly unwarranted hope that students trained to be passive and non-creative in school will suddenly, upon graduation, actively contribute to the formation of Christian culture” (31). It is this idea of having students actively work and practice living out their faith in school that drives us.
In Teaching for Transformation, we also write “deep hopes.” A deep hope is the guiding principle for who we are and what we do in our classes. It really is our greatest goal for our students. In my science teaching, my deep hope is that “in everything we do we see the story of God in creation—his creation of the universe, our fall, our redemption, and his restoration—and we use that story to become his agents of restoration in our fallen world.”
I lay this out at the beginning of this article because as a science teacher I use these principles to drive what I do in the classroom. How do we recognize fallenness? How do we see that and work toward restoration?
In class we spend a fair amount of time looking at human body systems—how they work and how they are organized. Not only do we do activities and seek information to learn about the human body, but we also practice seeing the fallenness (which is usually pretty easy) and seeking ways to work toward restoration. Often we have speakers come in to talk about the issues they have faced; sometimes we partner with organizations to help with restoration in a particular arena.
[They] identify someone with a nervous system disorder, they research information about the disorder, they interview the person with the disorder, and they present their findings in a peer group.
We spend a lot of time in our nervous system unit. We learn about how the system works by doing experiments and exploring it, but one of the greatest things we do there as a part of seeking restoration is to work with someone who has a nervous system issue. This is the biggest project my students do in eighth-grade science. In a nutshell, they identify someone with a nervous system disorder, they research information about the disorder, they interview the person with the disorder, and they present their findings in a peer group.
I always start off this project by reaching out to parents. Parent buy-in is a huge help with this project. I want to educate them about the upcoming project, and I want them to try to identify someone they know who would be safe and willing to be interviewed by our students. Most importantly, I want them to understand the goal of the project—to try to build empathetic Christian stewards who learn to walk alongside those who struggle. If parents don’t know of someone available, I have accumulated a list of people who have done this in the past and are willing to be interviewed by students.
I often hear the question, “What counts as a nervous system disorder for this project?” That’s a pretty wide-ranging question, but over the years my students have had great experiences with all varieties of disorder. I have had students interview people who deal with addiction, trauma, traumatic brain injuries, depression, paralysis, hearing impairment, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and PTSD. I have also had students interview caretakers of those who have had things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Really any nervous system disorder that adversely affects a person or their caretaker is effective.
Once the parents (or myself) have identified a person to interview, it’s time for the student to research the disorder. We research what the disorder is, how it is acquired (if known), and what the treatment or cure is. We also research whether there are support groups or other ways to “walk the path” with the person who is struggling. The goal of the research is to give our students understanding of the issue in order to help them come up with quality interview questions.
Clayton Lubbers is a middle school science teacher currently placed by God at Byron Center Christian School. Clay regularly meets God in creation. Lubbers@bccs.org
Belgic Confession. 1561. Translated by Faith Alive Christian Resources, Christian Reformed Church of North America, 2011, https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/belgic-confession#toc-article-2-the-means-by-which-we-know-god.
Wolterstorff, Nicholas P. Educating for Life: Reflections on Christian Teaching and Learning. Edited by Gloria Goris Stronks and Clarence Joldersma, Baker Academic, 2002.