In This Episode << SLIDE LEFT TO SEE ADDITIONAL SEGMENTS

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 RAM.Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or higher. Download the free Adobe Acrobat reader here:
    http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.

Bookmarked sites and video resources:

Buddhist Tiger Temple
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week833/feature.html
In a Thailand monastery, Abbot Prha Achan has become the surprising guardian of forest creatures. He is among the monks who care for animals as they would for humans in part because of one of Buddhism’s basic principle — reincarnation.

Celtic Spirituality
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week335/feature.html
There has been a rediscovery of Celtic spirituality, a theology dating back to the fifth century that emphasizes love of nature, the natural landscape as an anchor of spiritual life, and the unending connections between mind, body, soul, God and the universe.

Cowboy Rabbi
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week239/cover.html
The story behind Rabbi Gershon Winkler’s decision to live in the New Mexico wilderness is the story of how a crisis of faith led to a personal transformation, which includes a newfound connection to the Earth.

Eco-faith
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week234/cover.htmlCall it the greening of religion. In recent years, because of shifts in thinking about the natural world, many faith communities have been taking up the cause of the environment.

Evangelicals and the Environment
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week920/cover.html More and more evangelical leaders are speaking out about what they see as a biblical obligation to protect all of creation. In fact, solid majorities of all major American religious groups back stronger measures to protect the environment.

Iowa Cougars
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week841/feature.htmlHow should human beings share the natural world with other creatures? As the wilderness becomes more and more urbanized, is there an ethical duty to protect even dangerous animals?

J. Michael Fay
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week453/feature.html
Radical conservationist J. Michael Fay is obsessed with preserving the last wild forest of central Africa. His experiences reflect his search for the spiritual: “I find it very difficult to kind of believe in the God that most people believe in. But certainly, for me, nature is kind of a miraculous thing.”

Native American Service
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week707/belief.html Hundreds of Native Americans gathered in 2003 in Terre Haute, Indiana, to pay homage to their ancestry at the eighth “Gathering of the People.” Twelve tribes from around the country celebrated their connections to the Earth and one another.

New Age Tour of Sedona (New Age Spirituality)
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week409/feature.html
Each year, more than six million people journey to scenic Sedona, Arizona, home of the Center for the New Age. Many of them are spiritual seekers who want to draw upon the Earth’s energy, seek out channeling techniques, participate in tarot card readings, and learn about psychic healing practices in their quest for spiritual fulfillment from what some regard as a sacred landscape.

Nine Mile Canyon Dilemma
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week740/cover.html
Nine Mile Canyon in central Utah is actually 40-plus miles of spectacular panels of petroglyphs and pictographs left behind by the Fremont and Ute Indians, making it the longest natural “art gallery” in the world. But the sanctity of Nine Mile Canyon and its ancient art are being threatened by a push for energy development that collides with the obligation to protect a sacred place.

Religions of New Mexico
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week921/cover.html
In northern New Mexico, many very diverse faith communities feel a connection to the spiritual power of the austere natural landscape and surrounding desert wilderness.

Spirituality and American Indian Art
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week824/belief.html“Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand” is an exhibition that features a wide collection of Native American art of the Midwest and South, some of it dating back to 5000 B.C. Among the religious themes illuminated by these ancient works of stone, ceramic, wood, shell and copper are spiritual concepts of the divine, the relationship of society to the natural world, and human empathy for nature.

Other sites:



Steps

Materials:

For teachers

Computer, projector and Power Point program or chart paper and markers/chalkboard and chalk Videos, photographs and/or slide shows of nature Recordings of the sounds of nature (from animals to flowing waterfalls; relaxation tapes/CDs tend to have nature recordings) Photos of damage to the natural world (pollution, destruction, etc.) Quotes on Nature

For students: Natural World Texts

Learning Activities:

Introductory Activity (Estimated time: 3 classroom periods) Option 1:

1. Create an ambiance of serenity in the classroom (lights dimmed or turned off, students sitting in a relaxed fashion, shades drawn, etc.). Present a slide show, video and/or photographs featuring scenes from the natural world. Play sounds of nature (relaxation tapes are a good source for these.)

Several online slideshows, videos and photographs can be found at The Nature Conservancy:

Do Fun Stuff
http://www.nature.org/fun_and_free/

Spaces for Nature
http://www.spacesfornature.org/slide_show.html

Ad Hoc Committee on Environmental Stewardship
http://www.environment.emory.edu/ecology/slideindex.shtml

Science & Nature: Animals
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/programmes/tv/blueplanet/

American Field Guide
http://www.pbs.org/americanfieldguide/

Nature
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/

Nature Photos Online
http://www.naturephotosonline.com/npo_main.htm

NOTE: You might set up several viewing/listening centers around the classroom that each focus on a different aspect of nature, e.g., animals, ocean life, forests, flowers, etc.

2. Invite students to jot down any thoughts and feelings that arise as they watch the presentations.

3. After students have watched the presentation, have students discuss their reactions. Discussion question prompts include:

  • How did you feel as you watched the slideshow/video?
  • What caught your attention?
  • Describe the impact the presentation had on you, if any.
  • Did you have any type of emotional, physical or even spiritual reaction to the presentation? Explain.
  • Did the presentation make you think about your relationship with the natural world and environment? Explain.

4. Show students a series of photographs illustrating how the natural world has been degraded and contaminated (pollution, trash, global warming, etc.) Have students reflect on these images, relating back to their reactions to the images they watched earlier. In seeing this second set of images, what do they believe their responsibility — or humanity’s responsibility — is to the natural world? Is humankind responsible for preserving the natural world? Is this a civic, spiritual, religious, humanistic responsibility?

Some photo sources include: Stuff in the Air
http://stuffintheair.com/water-pollution-pictures.html

Fotosearch
http://www.fotosearch.com/BDX245/bxp42132/

U.S. Environmental Response Agency
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/programs/er/resource/d2_17.htm

Marine Themes: Environmental Issues
http://www.marinethemes.com/aasearchfiles/Environment/index.html

5. Distribute or reproduce on chart paper or the chalkboard the Quotes on Nature (under materials for teachers). Students can work individually or in small groups to discuss the quotations’ meanings, particularly what they suggest about the link between humanity and nature. Discussion prompts include:

  • What is humanity’s relationship to nature? Are humanity and nature inextricably connected?
  • What is humanity’s spiritual connection to the natural world? Does humanity have a predetermined responsibility for the natural world?
  • Do these quotes reflect your relationship with the natural world? Explain. What is your relationship with the natural world?

Activity 1: A Sacred Perspective on the Natural World (Estimated timeframe: 2-4 classroom periods)

1. Divide students into small groups. Distribute the Natural World Texts and invite students to interpret what they suggest about humanity’s relationship to and responsibility for the natural world (or being stewards to nature). For each text, have students:

  • Identify the faith from which the text is derived
  • Interpret and discuss/debate its meaning
  • Compare the texts to determine what each faith says about the natural world (key concepts include: creation; God and spiritual leaders; the role of humanity; meaning of dominion and of stewardship; interaction between humanity and Earth/the natural world)

Each text has several discussion prompts.

2. Reconvene students to discuss group findings and conclusions. Chart and synthesize how religions/faiths/spiritual practices embrace and care for the natural world, noting in particular humanity’s place, role and value in nature.

3. Invite students to log on to the Forum on Religion and Ecology http://environment.harvard.edu/religion/information/index.html to further examine the role the religions noted above and other religions play in protecting, healing and being stewards of the natural world.

Activity 2: Humankind’s Relationship to Nature and the Environment (Estimated timeframe: 2-3 classroom periods)

1. Divide students into small groups. Distribute or have students each read the transcripts of two of the R&E NewsWeekly segments noted above. Be sure that each group has different themes.

2. Explain that each segment features how a particular faith, spiritual movement or individual interacts with the natural world. Have students examine these segments to determine in what ways this connection plays out and how it is mandated, whether by a religious/spiritual belief, personal spiritual pursuit, as part of an organized religious/spiritual institution or movement, as an approach to resolving the ecological crisis, etc.

3. Combine groups to share and discuss their respective features. Then, invite the class to create a profile of an individual who interacts with the natural world on multiple levels. What does this profile suggest about an ideal relationship between humankind and nature? For example, an ideal situation might be one in which the natural world is respected and protected by humanity and from which humanity derives spiritual satisfaction and a sense of the natural world meeting its basic life needs (in essence, one of mutual respect that ensures longevity of the world and humankind).

Culminating Activities

Students have several options. They can:

  • Design a personal spiritual landmark map featuring areas in their community that spark their emotional/spiritual connections to the natural world. They can support this map with spiritual/religious/faith-based texts that reflect these personal connections and how they act upon them. They might also create rituals for each marked site that demonstrate their connectedness to and respect for the natural world.
  • Undertake a project that supports or protects the natural world, building it on personal or spiritual beliefs and/or connections, or on religious/faith-based tenets/mandates, representative of their school and/or community demography. For example, students may develop an interfaith school or community garden, or a recycling program, which also serves to bring faiths together across a common environmental goal.
  • Develop an eco-spiritual community walking tour, highlighting sites of community environmentalism and areas that could benefit from volunteerism; tours can be led by spiritual leaders and students in an ecumenical fashion and be supported by a guidebook with relevant religious/spiritual texts and maps.
  • Interview community religious/spiritual leaders from one or various traditions about what attitudes and practices toward the natural world they profess and how they, as leaders, encourage members of this faith/tradition to carry out those mandates.


Extension Activities

Students can:

  • Research and compile a directory of eco-spirituality movements in which individuals draw their spirituality from the natural world. If possible, students can conduct e-mail interviews with organizational representatives or members to include narratives about the movement — what it does, why people subscribe to it, etc.
  • Log on to the Nature Conservancy’s Nature Stories Podcasts http://www.nature.org/podcasts/ and listen to podcasts that document people’s connections to the natural world. Students can then create podcasts of people in their school or community who have unique relationships with the natural world and environment.
  • Compile literary references to nature and spirituality/religion, such as works by Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben, Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, Annie Dillard, and others.
  • Write reviews of essays that underscore how various faiths interpret humanity’s responsibility to and interaction with the environment. Such essays can be found at the Forum on Religion and Ecology http://environment.harvard.edu/religion/information/index.html and Religion and the Environment http://daphne.palomar.edu/calenvironment/religion.htm.