See also One World: Teaching Our Origins by Kimberlee Eighmy
The author is seeking publication of this material and this excerpt and story are provided as a way of introducing this work.
The sample session excerpt and story included here are from a curriculum containing two upper elementary-aged lessons and one lesson for early adolescents. An adult leader resource is included with this curriculum. These lessons are transitional in nature and the separate session samples for each age-group are meant to accommodate children in different developmental stages and the ways that they apprehend science and religion. It is my hope, in the future, to expand this curriculum for use in Confirmation programs, as well as to create resources for integrating other aspects of science and theology.
The curriculum is intended to address the ways in which scientific stories of origins and evolution compare and integrate with the theological stories of creation. Understanding how both disciplines of science and theology form beliefs, and perceive the way in which the world functions are included in these lessons. Important to this understanding is looking at how the stories of Genesis are interpreted and applied to scientific theories and facts. Key to this learning is addressing the child at an age appropriate level. My goal is to offer a space for children to explore both the scientific and theological ways of understanding the world, which allows them to move from understanding the two stories as factual and separate to that of understanding the two stories as connected to a more complex view of the world.
There are many appropriate venues for presenting such a resource: traditional Sunday school classes, week-night ministry programs, summer Bible school events or camping ministries. These venues are not limited to children, but might include adult learners who are new to the concepts of integrating evolution and theology, or those who work in various scientific fields in the public sphere.
Ashbrook, James B. and Carol Rausch Albright. The Humanizing Brain: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet. (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 1997). This is an excellent lay resource for understanding the ways in which the human brain interprets the world both scientifically and theologically.
O ‘Neal, Debbie Trafton, Science, Kids, and Christian Education (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2002). Describes simple scientific experiments for the church school classroom in the areas of basic science.
A Sample of an Upper Elementary-Age Session
Session One: The Two Stories
The concepts for this session are: The stories of evolution tell about how our world came to be. The stories of creation tell about why God created the world. While each story tells of a different way to view the world, they both tell us about the same world in which we live.
Gathering the Community and Introduction
Gather the students in a large group and discuss the following questions:
- What kinds of stories do hear about from your family?
- What kinds of stories do you read about in books?
- How do you know if the stories you hear or read are true or not?
- How do you know if the person telling or writing a story is telling the truth or not?
- How can you prove if something you hear or read is really true or not?
- Why do people tell or write stories?
Summarize answers and then introduce the next part of the lesson.
Moving into New Learning
We read and hear a lot of different kinds of stories. Some stories are passed down through people in our families. Each time someone tells the story it might change a little bit. Each person telling the story has a different way of understanding what happened and might make one part of the story seem more important than another part. Sometimes stories contain facts that we can prove, other stories do not always have facts we can prove. People usually believe something that they can see happen with their own eyes, or something that someone they trust tells them has happened. When we hear and read stories we can ask ourselves if there are facts we can prove or not. Sometimes it can be really hard to know if something is true when there are no facts to look at. It can also be really hard to know if something is true when two people tell about what happened in different ways.
People tell and write stories for a reason. If you hear a story begin with the words, "Once Upon a Time," you usually know that it is a fairy tale, right? People tell fairy tales for reasons such as to explain how things happened, or to teach a lesson. If you read a story that begins with the words, "On this day in history," you usually know that it is about an event that happened that people believe to be true based on facts. People tell stories of history for reasons such as to teach about what happened in the past. But we have to remember that the person telling the fairy tale or the history lesson are each telling a story using their own way of thinking about things. Another person might tell or write each story in a different way. It helps us to know who wrote the story, why they wrote the story and who they are telling the story to.
Bible stories too were written by different people, in different times, and the writers had a reason or purpose for writing them. We also hear about stories with facts like the ones about things that happened in history, or scientific stories with facts about how different parts of life on earth came to be. Sometimes we can hear two stories that sound different but tell about the same thing. If we look at the Bible story of how God created different parts of the world and the science story of how different parts of life on earth came to be, they sound different but both talk about the world we live in.
People have different ways of believing the stories of evolution and the Bible. Some people believe that the Bible is like a history book and that everything written is absolutely true and told to us by God, word for word. Some people believe that the creation story tells us that God did actually create everything in exactly seven days and that nothing has changed over time. They think that the story of evolution is not true and that it is against believing in God.
There are also people who do not believe in God and think that evolution is true, and that the Bible does not tell the truth. They believe that it is only through evolution that life appeared, not through anything God did. There are also a lot of people who believe that both the Bible and evolution are true. They believe that God could both create everything and that created things could change over time. It can be confusing sometimes to understand the way people believe. Most people agree or disagree on two basic ideas; how the world was created and how God may or may not work in the world.
Let's take a look at these two stories. We will begin with the Bible and see what we can learn about the story of how God created different parts of the world.
A Sample Story from Upper Elementary-Aged Session Two
"Callie's Big Question" by Kim Eighmy
Callie was excited about the upcoming science fair at school. She was in fifth grade now and this would be her last science fair at Sugar Creek Elementary School. Callie and her two friends, Hannah and Aiden, were on her team to make a display for the fair. The teacher, Mrs. Maxwell, had each group choose their subject from a long list of ideas. Aiden wanted to do something about dinosaurs, but that wasn't on the list. Hannah wanted to do something about plants and Callie was interested in a project on animals. The three friends had a hard time figuring out what to do until Mrs. Maxwell suggested that they work on the subject of evolution. "You know, a project on evolution might be a great choice for the three of you. Evolution tells us about how all living things have changed over time, including dinosaurs, plants and animals." Callie looked back and forth at Aiden and Hannah, and the three friends all nodded in agreement.
Mrs. Maxwell told the class that they would have two weeks to get their displays ready for the science fair and that the teams were expected to work hard on their projects in class. But they would also need to meet together after school to finish all of the work, and this made some of the kids complain a lot. Callie was excited to get started and didn't mind the extra work after school. As she, Aiden, and Hannah began planning their project, Callie thought about her friend, Mr. Steinhaus.
Mr. Steinhaus was a science teacher and was now retired. He lived on the street next to the school, and Callie always stopped and talked to him on her way home each day. Mr. Steinhaus was also a member of her church, so she saw him every Sunday too. He loved to talk about science and she always enjoyed learning something new from him. Callie couldn't wait to tell Mr. Steinhaus about her project. She was sure he would have some ideas that her group could use for their display.
As the three friends met in the library, they began looking up information about evolution and found a book with a lot of good facts. Callie began taking notes as Hannah read the facts out loud. "O.K., here are some things we should put on our display," Hannah said as she read through the book. Callie started a list that included:
- The earth is about 4.6 billion years old, and humans appeared about 5 million years ago.
- Dinosaurs died about 60 million years ago and left behind fossils for us to study. Many different kinds of things alive in the past are no longer alive today.
- Charles Darwin was a man who studied plants and animals. He developed a theory of evolution that tells about how living things change in order to survive over time. He wrote a book about this theory in the mid 1800s.1
Aiden was especially excited about the information on dinosaurs and wanted to be sure that they could put some pictures of different dinosaurs on the display. Hannah wanted to show plants too, especially plants that were no longer alive today. Callie began imagining how the display would look, and thought that Mr. Steinhaus might help the group figure out the best way to put all of the information together. Callie told Hannah and Aiden about Mr. Steinhaus. They agreed to try to meet with him on Saturday for some help with their project. On the way home that day, Callie stopped to talk to him.
As Callie walked home, she saw Mr. Steinhaus in his front yard looking up at his maple tree. He waved at her and as she walked to his yard he said, "Hi Callie, I'm just looking at this tree to decide whether or not to cut it down. It didn't make it through our rough winter very well and I am not sure if it is going to come back to life this spring or not." Callie looked up at the tree and remembered how beautiful it was in the fall when the leaves changed. "Can't you just wait to see what will happen? It's such a pretty tree, I wish you wouldn't cut it down," said Callie. Mr. Steinhaus scratched the bark a little and said, "Well, I could wait, but then it might be too late to plant a new one in its place. I would need to get a new tree in the ground before the weather gets too hot. Sometimes things have to die and you have to make room for new life. There's a time for everything, you know."
Mr. Steinhaus looked down at the book Callie was carrying, and saw that it was about evolution. "I see you are reading about evolution. Are you studying that in science class?" he asked. "Yes, and my two friends, Hannah and Aiden, are working with me to make a display for the science fair. We wondered if you could meet with us this Saturday and help us figure out a way to put all of the information together," Callie replied with excitement. Mr. Steinhaus got a big smile on his face and nodded, "Of course! I would be very happy to help!" Callie smiled too, and ran home to tell her friends. She was sure that with Mr. Steinhaus's help they would win first place at the science fair.
That Saturday the three friends met with Mr. Steinhaus. He looked at all of their information and asked them what they thought was the most important idea to include in their display. "I think we need to list all the plants and animals that are extinct now, like the dinosaurs," said Aiden. "Well that might be a really long list and I don't know if you could fit everything on your display. It would also take a long time to find out every plant and animal that is extinct," replied Mr. Steinhaus. Hannah looked at the list she and Callie made in the library and said, "It says here that Charles Darwin developed a theory of evolution that tells about how living things change over time in order to survive. We learned about theories in science class. Maybe we could show information about his theory." Callie nodded and said, "Yes, but I don't really understand how that works." Mr. Steinhaus moved over to his tall bookshelf and pulled down a science book. He opened it to a page on evolutionary theory and told Aiden to take some notes. As he read, Aiden listed the following facts:
- There are different species, or kinds of living things. Even though each group or species are the same as a group, each member of a species might be different.
- Species or groups make new members, and make a lot of extra members so that they can count on the group surviving. Not every member of a group will live long enough to make more members, so having extra members helps to keep the species going over time.
- There is limited food and space for living things.
- Living things compete for food and space, and need to change or adapt to the world in order to keep competing for food and space.
- Adaptations are how living things change according to their outside world. This is like a bear hibernating in the cold weather or a lizard staying asleep in the hot desert sun during the day. Each one adapts to the outside world, or environment, so they can stay alive and make more members of their species.
- Living things that adapt better than others survive and pass on their abilities, or what is known as favored traits, to their offspring.
- Living things that can't adapt die and after awhile their group or species becomes extinct.
- People call this competing for food and space "survival of the fittest."2
"I see," said Hannah, "if something doesn't change or adapt then it doesn't stay in the game." Mr. Steinhaus smiled, "Yes, Hannah, you could think about it like that, a game where living things compete with each other." Callie remembered the maple tree out in Mr. Steinhaus's yard and suddenly felt sad. She thought it was unfair that things had to die just because they couldn't play the game. But she remembered Mr. Steinhaus saying that things have to die to make room for new life. She wondered how God decided which things would live and which ones would die.
Aiden looked at the list about evolutionary theory and said, "So I think we need to list these facts on our display, but we would still have room for dinosaur pictures, right?" Callie made a face at Aiden, "You are so crazy about dinosaurs! Evolution is about more than just a group of dinosaurs, it's about all of the living things and how they have changed or become extinct in history." Mr. Steinhaus looked at Aiden and said, "Well, I think you could get at least one picture of a dinosaur to fit on the display. But you might want to add a timeline of history, as Callie noted." As the friends finished their meeting with Mr. Steinhaus, they walked out the front door and said goodbye. Callie couldn't help but notice the maple tree again, and it gave her a funny feeling in her stomach as she walked by it.
The next day, Callie was at her Sunday school class and the teacher announced that they would be talking about the story of Noah and the flood. Callie had heard that story so many times, she was bored with it by now. She didn't know why they had to keep learning the same old stories over and over again. As Ms. Newman talked about the story, she reminded the class about the creation stories they read the week before.
Callie remembered her telling them that God created everything good, but people turned away from God. Now the story of the flood tells about God making everything new again. She also reminded them that the stories of creation and the flood aren't like a history lesson but instead tell us about God's love for us. The rainbow that appears in the sky at the end of the story is a sign that God will keep the promise to never destroy all living things again. As Ms. Newman talked, Callie thought about the evolutionary theory. She wondered if God loves us so much, why do things die and become extinct? If creation is so good, why do bad things happen? Doesn't evolution prove that all living things get destroyed? Doesn't that break God's promise?
Callie was confused about all of this and decided that maybe she could ask Mr. Steinhaus to explain it after Sunday school. On her way out of class, she saw Mr. Steinhaus in the hallway, but he seemed to be busy talking to the other adults. "Oh well, I'll talk to him tomorrow on my way home from school," she thought to herself.
That night as Callie was getting ready for bed, a storm was starting outside. The wind was howling really loud, and Callie's mom told her that there they were under a tornado warning and needed to watch the weather report on television. As they went to turn on the television, suddenly the tornado sirens began to start. The noise always scared Callie and she grabbed for her mother's hand. Callie's mom got a blanket for her and they quickly headed to the basement. As Callie and her mom huddled in the basement, the rain beat really hard on the windows and it felt like the house was shaking. Then, just as suddenly as the storm had started, it stopped and so did the tornado siren. Finally everything was quiet and Callie let go of her mom. But the quiet didn't last for long as Callie began to hear a different siren. This time it was the siren of a fire truck and ambulance and they seemed to be getting closer to her neighborhood. Callie looked up at her mom and saw that she was saying a prayer. Callie knew that someone must have been hurt very badly in the tornado.
The next morning it was still raining as Callie's mom called her down for breakfast. She didn't feel hungry and didn't see why she had to get up since school was called off for the day. The tornado had damaged the school roof and they had to make repairs before they could open the school again. She also didn't want to get up and think about what had happened in her neighborhood. The tornado hit the houses on Mr. Steinhaus's street and an oak tree came crashing through his kitchen. Mr. Steinhaus had been killed as he was trying to get down the stairs to his basement. It was so hard to believe that he was gone. She wanted to go over to his house just to see if he might still be alive.
Callie got up, got dressed, and her mom gave her a piece of toast to eat. She asked her mom if she could go and see his house, and she agreed to go with her. As they walked down the street, she could see the yellow police tape around one side of his house. Two men were using chain saws to cut the oak tree apart. Lots of neighbors were watching the workmen with sad faces. Callie looked at his house and saw the maple tree. It was still standing, but had a few branches broken off and looked nearly dead. Callie wished that the maple tree had died instead of Mr. Steinhaus. She thought about the evolutionary theory and what Mr. Steinhaus had said. Why did things have to die to make room for new life? As she stood thinking, the rain stopped and the sky began to clear.
Callie's mom held her hand, and then suddenly looked up in the sky. She let go of Callie's hand and pointed to the sky. There was a rainbow that was now spreading across the sky above them. Callie looked up and saw all of the adults smiling at the rainbow, but Callie didn't feel like smiling. If the rainbow was a sign of God's promise, why did Mr. Steinhaus have to die to make room for new life? Callie turned and ran home to her bedroom. She threw herself onto her bed and started to cry. Callie cried herself to sleep and woke up later to the sound of her mother's voice.
"Callie, why did the rainbow make you so sad?" her mother asked. "Because it's a lie," cried Callie. "The rainbow means God promised not to destroy everything! But Mr. Steinhaus died anyway. The evolutionary theory is right, things just die and end so new things can be alive. It's all part of the game, like Hannah said."
Callie's mom was quiet for a little while and then softly said, "Callie, the story of evolution doesn't make God's promise a lie. God does keep the promise to not destroy everything or to end all life, but to keep it going for future generations. The story of the rainbow reminds us of this promise and that life will continue, but when someone dies it's not the end of the story. We have new life because of God's Son, Jesus. Jesus died for us so that we would have everlasting life."
|Questions for discussion
- Do you think it is hard to believe in creation and evolution? Why?
- What games do you play that end with only one person winning? How does God's love make everyone a winner?
- What might be the prize that Callie received at the end of the story?
It was Callie's turn to be quiet now. She thought about evolution and how things change in future generations to stay alive. She also remembered Mr. Steinhaus saying that there is a time for everything. "But how does God decide when things die? Is that what evolution is, God deciding?" Callie's mom smiled at her and said, "No Callie, evolution is a science. It tells us how things happen. God doesn't use evolution to hurt people or creation. We don't ask science to tell us why God works in the world. We know why God works in the world by knowing about his love for us. His love is real because of Jesus."
The next week Callie worked on her project with her friends at the library. It was almost time for the science fair and the school roof had finally been repaired from the tornado. As Callie walked to school on the day of the fair, she passed by Mr. Steinhaus's yard. She could see the maple tree and noticed it looked different. She walked up to the tree and could see small buds all over the branches. She realized that it was time for it to stay alive, but that it was also time for Mr. Steinhaus to have new life too. She thought it was strange that he was the one to tell her about evolutionary theory. She never got to ask him about how the different stories work together. As she looked up at the tree, she thought she understood. Suddenly she didn't care if her team won the science fair or not; she had been given an even bigger prize.
As she looked at the empty house, she thought about how she would miss talking to Mr. Steinhaus and wouldn't see him at church anymore. She also wondered why he went to Sunday school every week. Didn't he get tired of hearing the same stories over and over again? As she thought about everything that had happened, she realized that why we need to hear the same Bible stories over and over again, so we can always remember God's love and promise of new life.
Kimberlee Eighmy, from Verona, Wisconsin, is an associate in ministry working in the area of Christian education. Recently, she has been on study leave at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. Part of her studies included the development of a sample curriculum integrating evolution and theology for children. A portion of this curriculum can be found here. (ADD LINK ADD LINK ADD LINK) Copyright © 2009 Kim Eighmy. All rights reserved.
- Mark J. Handwerker, Science Essentials Middle School Level: Lessons and Activities for Test Preparation (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005), 355. Summary of information on the theory of evolution.
- Ibid., 355.
This article appeared in the November / December 2009 issue of Lutheran Partners Online.