Procedures For Teachers

PrepPreparing for the lesson
StepsConducting the lesson
ExtensionAdditional Activities


Prep

Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAMMacintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM

Bookmarked Sites and Video Resources:

Note that at the bottom of the page of each Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly story, you will find many additional links, readings, and helpful resources to use with students.

Materials:

Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • A chalkboard, dry-erase board, or a flip chart
  • Chalk, dry-erase markers, or Sharpie markers
  • Internet access (If students cannot access the Internet from their classroom, then handouts of Web resources will suffice.)
  • Student Organizers 1, 2, and 3

Steps

Introductory Activity

Understanding the Argument
In this activity, students discuss the debate over whether intelligent design theory should be taught alongside evolution in public schools. They will consider whether this debate has inspired people to consider new possible theories of the creation and development of life, or if the argument has only managed to polarize opposing sides and exacerbate the culture wars.

  1. Ask students to visit http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week504/feature.html and read Feature: Evolution and Intelligent Design. If students do not have access to the Internet, provide them with printed copies of this transcript.
  2. Distribute Student Organizer 1 and ask students to form groups of four.
  3. Once students have divided into groups, ask them to discuss whether they believe intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution, or if evolution should be the sole theory taught in science classrooms. Instruct students to use the questions that appear on their Student Organizer as a guide as they complete their discussion.
  4. When students have finished talking, bring the class back together and form a discussion based on the following questions. Feel free to add or modify questions as you see fit.
    • Why do you think this is such a controversial issue?
    • What might be the results – positive and/or negative – of introducing alternate theories, such as intelligent design? Might students learn to become more accepting of new ideas, or to think more positively about new possibilities? Or, might students get confused by a greater number of ideas, or might some be offended, preferring to leave discussions that might be interpreted as religious or philosophical out of science classrooms? What other possibilities might you envision?
    • Do you think relationships have been harmed by this argument? If so, which relationships have been most affected? How can the issue be resolved so that relationships might be mended?
    • Do you feel there is one definitive resolution to the debate between evolution and intelligent design? If so, what is it?
  5. Ask questions and encourage further discussion where necessary, and record key points on a flip chart, chalkboard, or dry-erase board.

Activity 1 – Survey Says!

In this activity, students survey their peers to determine how their religious beliefs influence their opinion of whether intelligent design is appropriate for public school classrooms.

  1. Distribute Student Organizer 2.
  2. Explain to students that, in this activity, they will survey 5-10 of their peers to determine how or if their religious beliefs affect their opinion of whether intelligent design has a place in public schools. Review the questions that appear on the Student Organizer and encourage students to add any additional questions as they see fit.
  3. When students have completed their surveys, form a collaborative discussion with the entire class about their findings. Ask the following questions and any additional questions that you feel are appropriate:
    • Overall, do your peers have strong feelings either for or against the teaching of intelligent design in public schools?
    • What is the consensus among your peers regarding this debate? Do they think a discussion of intelligent design would enhance or undermine lessons on evolution?
    • If your peers hold strong opinions either for or against discussions of intelligent design in public schools, are they influenced by their religion? How so?
    • What similarities or differences did you identify among peers who come from different religious backgrounds regarding this debate?
  4. As you complete this discussion, record key points on a flip chart, chalkboard, or dry-erase board, and ask questions as necessary.

Activity 2 – A Religious Perspective

In this activity, students determine how the debate between evolution and intelligent design has affected religious communities.

  1. Distribute Student Organizer 3.
  2. Explain to students that, in this activity, they will interview a teacher or professor of religion, or a priest, deacon, minister, rabbi, or other religious leader to determine how the debate between evolution and intelligent design has affected their religious communities. Review the questions that appear on the Student Organizer and encourage students to add additional questions as they wish.
  3. Provide students with a list of possible interview candidates and their contact information. If students have a personal resource that they wish to interview, they may feel free to contact him or her for this assignment instead.
  4. When students have completed their interview, ask them to present a summary of their findings to the rest of the class.
  5. When students have completed their presentations, form a discussion based on the following points. Feel free to add discussion points as you see fit.
    • Can you identify any similarities or differences in the way teachers of religion or clergy members perceived the effects of the debate between evolution and intelligent design on religious communities? What are they?
    • Overall, did the interviewees feel that the argument is affecting religious communities in a negative way? If so, how?
    • Did you notice difference(s) in opinion between members of different religions? Describe.
    • Overall, how did the interviewees feel about intelligent design being taught in public schools?
  6. When the discussion is complete, ask students to write a letter of thanks to the person they interviewed.

Culminating Activity/Assessment

In this activity, students consider whether the two sides of the argument can be reconciled.

  1. Divide students into groups of four.
  2. Explain that, in this activity, they will consider the possibility of a third theory in the debate between evolution and intelligent design. They will discuss the possibility that the development of life does not belong entirely to either theory; rather, perhaps both theories are accurate. Ask students to discuss the possibility that a higher power (divine, transcendent being or some other force) is responsible for steering the process of evolution as it is currently taught in science classrooms.
  3. Allow 5-10 minutes for this discussion. Then, bring the class back together and ask volunteers to share their thoughts. Use the following questions, and any other questions that you deem appropriate, to guide your discussion:
    • Overall, what is your opinion of this approach? Does it sound reasonable to you? Why or why not?
    • Do you think this approach would resolve some of the controversy that currently surrounds the debate between evolution and intelligent design? If so, how?
    • Do you think this is an appropriate approach to teach in public schools? Why or why not?
    • What do you think would be the response among parents to using this approach in science courses? Why?
    • Do you think religious communities would accept this approach? Explain your answer.
    • Does this approach sit well with your religious beliefs?
    • In your opinion, would this approach be appropriate for religion and philosophy courses as well as science classes, or should discussion of transcendent or divine powers be left out of public schools entirely?
    • Do you think there will ever be reconciliation between the two sides of the evolution vs. intelligent design debate?
  4. Ask questions and encourage further discussion of ideas whenever necessary, and record key points on a flip chart, chalkboard, or dry-erase board.

Extension Activities:

  • Direct students to http://www.pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek/voices/200512/1209nat2.html and ask them to read the article titled, “Princeton Pres Criticizes Intelligent Design” by Matt Davis. (If students do not have access to the Internet, a printed copy of this article is fine.) When students have finished reading the article, ask them to break into groups of four and form a discussion regarding Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman’s criticism of teaching intelligent design in science classrooms. Students should focus their discussion around specific remarks President Tilghman made regarding intelligent design. For example, she has stated that teaching evolution and intelligent design in the same classroom undermines scientific education, and that discussions surrounding intelligent design should be reserved for social science and philosophy classes. She also argues that comparing evolution and intelligent design is much like comparing apples and oranges. Do students agree with her stance? Why or why not? By teaching intelligent design, are teachers truly undermining science, or are they simply offering an alternate theory? When students have finished their discussion, bring the class back together and discuss each group’s thoughts. Ask questions where necessary, and record key points on a flip chart, chalk board, or dry-erase board.
  • Ask students to visit the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center at www.ideacenter.org. Instruct them to go to the Articles column and select the article titled, “Is Intelligent Design Theory Really an Argument for God?” Allow time for students to read the article. Then ask them to debate whether intelligent design theory promotes God or a similar higher power. If students don’t feel that this theory promotes God, ask them to define who or what it does promote. If God is not the driving force behind intelligent design, then who or what is? Ask questions and encourage further discussion of key points as necessary.
  • The debate surrounding the creation and development of humans centers largely around evolution and intelligent design; but is it possible that there could be other theories? Form a discussion with your class about the possibility of other theories. Ask students to identify and define these theories, and to provide evidence the supports them. (Evidence can include religious beliefs, philosophical ideas, personal observations, or any other thoughts students would like to share.) Ask students if they think others would support their theories or if they would stir controversy. Ask questions and discuss key points as necessary.
  • In this exercise, students write a letter to the science coordinator of their school district either supporting or opposing the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution. Students should use persuasive language and should support their stance with facts, personal beliefs, and the benefits of either including or avoiding discussions supporting intelligent design in science classrooms.
  • Ask students to interview parents, adult family members, teachers, neighbors, or other trusted adults to determine how the creation and development of humans was taught when they were students. Was evolution taught most readily? Were other possible theories, such as creationism or intelligent design, ever discussed? If so, do the interviewees think this was beneficial? Why or why not? If not, do the interviewees think lessons on evolution would have been enhanced by a discussion of other possible theories? If so, how? Do the interviewees think evolution should be the only theory that is taught in science courses? Why or why not? When students have completed their interviews, ask them to summarize their findings and present them to the rest of the class. Note similarities and differences between the responses each student received, and encourage discussion where necessary.