Need the right activity? You could try doing scientific experiments on your students.

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Close up of human eye and face stylized dgital illustration

by Ralph Yeager Roberts

Sometimes I  will start planning a lesson with a great idea for some activity.  Other times I have the subject or content of the lesson clearly in mind and try as I might I struggle to come up with an activity let alone a few activities which will provide students with a meaningful encounter with the intended content.  I mayeven  have some perfectly good ideas about discussion questions or a craft project.  But I want to push for something else, sometthing beyond discussion and arts and crafts which are great but so frequently utalized in R.E.  However dispite my desire for a novel activity to help present the information in an engaged and interactive way I keep comming up dry.

One slightly mercinary tactic I suggest is to take some interesting and relevent studies on social dynamics, or human psychology, and paying close attention to the way the researchers constructed and conducted their experiments.  Some of these experiments can serve well as a group activity.  You may need to tweek things and the results in class may not match those of the actual study but even so it will often be an effective and fresh way of introducing and entering into ideas and concepts which might normally be almost prohibitively abstract for a spiritually and religiously accessible lesson especially when confined to the Sunday morning 45 miniute hour.

You may need to poke around but if you are wanting to deal with concepts like recial bias, conflict resolution, altuism, and so on it might work well to find a study about your larger theme and then plunder the research for a cool activity. Remember that these experiments are conducted according to stringent standards which are intended to help insure the integrity and validity of the results but also to safe gaurd the people involved, the research subjects and insure that they have been treated in an ethcal and respectful manner.  If you tweek an experiment you don’t have to wory so much about preserving the validity of your results since you arent really doing a scientific study.  The ethical considerations however may be quite relevent and in fact there may be a need when working with young people in a church setting to  employ precautions in excess of the original research design.   For example a study with college students may manipulate a situation unfairly but so long as this is explained at the end there is no isssue whereas with a group of 3rd graders it might not be sufficient to explain the point of your unfair treatment of some students at the end of the class.  Instead you would probably want to give the group a heads up about what will be going on to avoid someone feeling hurt and defenseless.

Also I found that there are some good resources aimed at helping instructors in the social and behavioral sciences ntroduce their course information in fun and interactive ways which are also often easily adapted and applied to a number of likely class topics in an R.E. class at church.  Below is a link to a site that presents a number of these activities for use in Psych, cources or sociology courses, or anthropology, and so on.  It also links to a fuller description of a number of activities.  Some of them could be used well in a youthh group meeting, adult ed, or even upper elementry session.  The site also helpfully organizes the activities according to the sort of activity and the topic it could help to introduce or explore.

Teaching Social Sciences: Activities and Resources

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