Faith & Learning: What it Looks Like

Amy Barnard
Teaching for Transformation is the school-wide initiative that helps teachers integrate faith with learning that happens across all subject types. In this post, a follow up to the Fall 2021 Minnehaha Magazine's strategic plan article, we take a closer look at what integrating faith can look like for Advanced Chemistry students.

 

What could it look like for students to apply their faith to a unit on chemical reaction types, balancing reactions and stoichiometry (applying math to chemical reactions like following a recipe to know how many cookies you can make from your ingredients)?

For Dr. Carmella Whaley's Advanced Chemistry students, it looks like asking: how can I use this knowledge for good?

Dr. Whaley's students explored combustion reaction types, one of which was the type involved with the burning of fossil fuels. Dr. Whaley called on students to explore their own carbon footprints and then create a poster, a plan, and reflection on what they learned.

Here we share how one student processed Dr. Whaley's challenge. As you read Grace's work, remember that Teaching for Transformation involves a Deep Hope (what lifetime mindset will my students carry away from this class), Throughlines (aspects of being a disciple that the entire school community is working on together), Storylines (ways to help students connect their learning to their part in God's greater story) and FLEx Projects (practical projects where students must address real problems affecting real people in practical ways). We've annotated these aspects of her project below.

A highschool student holds out two posters, one with pictures depicting changes that can improve carbon footprint

 

After taking into account my coal, natural gas, and gasoline consumption, I calculated my carbon footprint to be 37,923 pounds or 17.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.1 According to Our World in Data, the average high school student living in the United States puts out 16.56 metric tons of carbon emissions each year, this would make my carbon footprint around half a metric ton or 3.9% bigger than average for America. However, my carbon footprint is only 45% that of the average high school student in Qatar, the country with the biggest carbon footprint per capita: 37.97 metric tons per year (ourworldindata.org). The Democratic Republic of Congo has the smallest carbon footprint of any country with each person putting out 0.02 metric tons of carbon or 0.014% of my carbon footprint per year (ourworldindata.org). Australia’s yearly carbon emissions of 16.88 metric tons per capita each year (ourworldindata.org) is the most similar to my carbon footprint out of any country. Additionally, Australia is ranked 13th highest for carbon emissions per capita by country (ourworldindata.org).2

A steward of the Lord is someone who utilizes and takes care of the resources God has entrusted humanity with both for His glory and the good of His creation. The environment is one of God’s greatest masterpieces, which means taking care of the world is part of being a good steward of the Lord. An additional facet of caring for the environment is seeking justice or speaking up for the well-being of the environment, which cannot speak for itself. We should always put forth an effort to facilitate right-action towards our surroundings. Micah 6:8 states,

“...And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Acting justly includes cultivating the environment, one of God’s wonderful creations, rather than slowly destroying it with carbon emissions. Loving mercy involves educating and encouraging all to seek justice in order to end environmental issues. Overall, if everyone were to be good stewards of the environment, environmental concerns might not be a problem.3,4

My household is altogether responsible for 153,969 pounds or 69.8 metric tons of carbon emissions. This makes the household average 38,492 pounds or 17.4 metric tons per person. Working together, our family has come up with a plan to reduce our impact on the environment which would limit our gasoline, coal, and natural gas consumption. Our ideas involve buying an electric car or another fuel-efficient car to replace our current low gas mileage SUVs, which would drastically reduce our gasoline usage. Additionally, we plan on limiting our meat and dairy consumption, because according to Columbia University livestock is culpable for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. We intend to do this by incorporating more vegan and vegetarian recipes into our meals. Finally, by always turning lights off when we leave rooms and unplugging devices when not in use, we could lessen our electricity and fossil fuel usage.5

All in all, planning these steps and putting them into action in order to greatly decrease our families’ carbon footprint makes us better stewards of the environment.

What is the Bigger Thing Happening?

It could be easy to glaze past this as a simple project about carbon emissions. But there is something bigger happening here, that demonstrates some of the deeper faith-thinking teachers are calling students to do in response to each subject matter.

1.Before she can formulate a Christ-honoring response to a current problem, Grace explores her own complicity in adding to the problem.

2. Here we see evidence of Dr. Whaley's Deep Hope being worked out: That we grow as wonder-filled lifelong learners, we seek to understand God's creation, and we use our knowledge for good. Grace took time to explore the bigger picture, taking that into account as she considered her own response.

3. Grace contemplates how environmental stewardship actually goes along with one of the year's ThroughlinesJustice Seeker.

4. We can also see evidence of Grace working out Dr. Whaley's Storyline for her students, which is: Use our knowledge for good.

5. Ultimately, Grace's project led her to practically work out her belief that part of her call as a Christ-follower is to be a good steward of the environment.

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