If religion and STEM subjects were placed in a Venn diagram, there would be a huge overlap!in the 'in common' area. This blog focuses on one area: both require imagination. To make hypotheses/to exercise the 'sixth' sense; to posit that not everything that exists is visible (black holes being one such illustration).
Rob Hopkins' book, 'From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want' (2019) is an argument sustained across many walks of life, that what people need now is the ability and the will to re-Imagine a positive future. Starting with our families, then communities, and ultimately the world - like ripples in a pond. It is an uplifting and compelling manifesto for imaginative action. We need, Hopkins argues, the ability and readiness to ask the right, the most pertinent and life-transforming questions. About school, health, the natural world, story-telling within the community, the local economy, political action. For every scenario, he cites places in the world where people have imagined, and translated ideas into radical, successful action.
For Hopkins, childhood itself needs to be reimagined, with more opportunities for imaginative, unstructured, 'semi-supervised' play. If children are to grow into adults who can empathise, show resilience, self-reliance, entrepreneurial skills and the ability to take risks, they need fewer toys, access to the natural world, and the space to choose materials and create.
His chapter on education is entitled 'What is School nurtured young imaginations?', and is a strong indictment of the current stress-inducing educational model of testing, cramming, rote learning and standardisation. Basic manual dexterity is being lost, which impacts upon ability to perform practical tasks, like stitching or sewing up patients, as just one example.
If STEM subjects need to include a design element in order to create balanced human beings, also capable of providing the workforce of the future, then with current educational constraints, the caring and socially conscious teacher might want to think broadly, even 'outside of the box'.
A very innovative teaching programme is offered by STREAM Connection, which combines RMEP with STEM. My son remembers that one of the most exciting lessons of his time in school was offered in Design and Technology. He and his peers were invited to design a commodity that would be useful to the community. All aspects of community needs were pondered, and each student would focus on at least one aspect/interest group, and design then create a helpful tool.
This program does something similar, with a program, of lessons available online at Sadlier School. One such example focuses on buildings. This lesson considers firstly how the way a city is designed can impact upon a community, and how engineers, architects and others who work to construct buildings can serve the common good by creating safe, beautiful places in which people can live or work. Students study and discuss blueprints, then construct their own.
Other learning ideas include learning about saints as scientists, engineers, artists and mathematicians and how their work impacted the world for the better (examples include Blessed Carlo Acutis, amateur computer programmer, St Luke 'the beloved physician', St Hubert, mathematician). Faith illuminated in Art provides opportunities to explore the science behind stained glass, how and why stained glass windows are designed, made and installed. Students might then run a project designing and engineering their own windows using mathematical concepts and art materials, or digital tools.
Engineers have enormous potential to engineer social justice, for example in planning and building wells in countries without water. It is creative, mining a rich vein of imagination, but also develops and utilizes technological tools and mathematical concepts, when students learn about the vision and choices (functional, artistic or stylistic) that are open to builders and engineers of churches and homes.
Making and sharing music (both sacred and secular) can use machinery or audio technology to compose, record, remix.
I recommend both the book and the program to you.