October 22, 2012

Teaching Environmental Theology

So today in Environmental Theology we were talking about something with the environment and theology, and I can't tell you anything about what we were talking about specifically, because I was thinking about the fact that these issues aren't really talked about in churches I've attended and then I was thinking about how they should be included in sunday school lessons and then I spent the rest of the class and the whole walk home dreaming up a sunday school curriculum on the topic. And I actually legitimately think it would be great fun so I'm writing it here.

This would probably work best for early elementary school age children. The basic idea is based on some sermons by St. Basil, but it would incorporate both theistic and atheistic views of the environment.

Take a group of kids to a local park and send them on a mission: Collect as many different variety of leaves as possible. Or, if you don't want them pulling leaves off trees, have them make rubbings of different kinds of bark with crayons. Gather these all together and count how many different kinds of plants they found.

All that diversity is pretty cool, right? It's certainly more interesting than if all of the plants were the same! Some people believe that God created the world this way specifically, to teach us about God through how amazing the world is. Other people believe that the world came to be this way all by itself across millions of years. (And a lot of people believe both!) What do you think, hypothetical children?

Now, let's talk about stewardship! I'm not sure quite what the best way to convey "but all this lovely biodiversity is under threat because we humans screw shit up" to small children is, but I'm sure someone somewhere has written a picture book about it or something that can get that across without traumatizing anyone.

If you believe in God, how do you think God feels about bad things that happen to the Earth? How do you feel about it? Some people think that God gave humans the special job of taking care of the Earth. But even if you don't think God said so, humans still are able to help protect the Earth more than other species can. (There could be clever comments here about can a tree stop you from cutting it down? Nope, but a person can!)

Brainstorm a list of ways humans can help protect other species. Some will be pretty obvious - don't cut down lots of trees or kill lots of animals! But do you use paper towels in your house? Paper towels are made out of trees! What could you do instead to help keep more trees from being cut down for paper towels? I'm sure you could get a pretty substantial list going on in that vein.

And that's how I imagine a fun day in the park could be spent talking to kids about environmental responsibility, what religion says about it, and what they can do. Obviously you could expand it a lot - talk more about appropriate Bible stories or appropriate other-faith/no-faith stories or both, for starters. But the debate is on now so I have to pay attention. Let me know if you'd send your kid to my hypothetical sunday school class! :D


Foxie said...

Pretty cool idea. It might be worth mentioning that all that biodiversity isn't just interesting, but necessary. God/random variation created the environment, and created us to live it. The environment is like a big machine that keeps us alive and well. If you take too many parts out of the machine, it won't work any more.

And, of course, God/statistics created a huge, huge world for us to live in. We only know about a small part of it. Wouldn't it be a shame if we lost bits of it before we'd ever found it? How would God feel about us missing out on some of the most interesting bits of His Creation?

So. When is the course starting? :)

Katie Casey said...

Both lovely points! Thanks :D

As soon as someone gives me access to a group of small children. :P