‘We don’t ask those questions anymore!’ – a new Routledge teachers’ guide to help students ask questions about science and religion

“There’s the science part of me that says ‘no it’s the big bang’, and then there’s the religious part of me that said ‘it was God’ so it was quite confusing,” said a student giving her perspective on whether science and religion fit together. According to the LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) research hub at Canterbury Christ Church University, expressions of confusion or conflict in the minds of students are not unusual. With parents and teachers often struggling to know what to say to their children about how science and religion relate – the experience for primary and secondary students is typically that there doesn’t seem to be anyone to ask. Students in secondary for example explain – “no-one really asks the science questions because you’d really more ask your science teacher about that instead of asking your RE teacher” and “we don’t ask science teachers questions any more at the moment, because we don’t think that they’d answer them …  they won’t answer that because it’s not on their topic.”


A new book A Teacher’s Guide to Science and Religion in the Classroom (Routledge, 2018; Editors: Berry Billingsley, Manzoorul Abedin & Keith Chappell) is designed to help primary and secondary school teachers provide opportunities for children to ask big questions that bridge subject boundaries. Big questions – such as, are you really unique and are you only unique for now – could you one day be simulated with technology and find yourself seeing the world through a robot’s eyes?  Has science has told us that free will is an illusion? If you believe in God, is it reasonable to pray or do scientific laws dictate what happens? Teachers, parents, carers and others who live, work and deal with children’s questions on science and religion will find ideas in the Teacher’s Guide to help them to develop students’ thinking about these issues, which can sometimes be sensitive or controversial. Parents or adults at home often back away from talking with children about questions of faith because that they do not want to tell children what to believe. But it is important that spaces are created for children to ask ‘big questions’ – so that they can get into the habit of speaking up when something does not seem to make sense. ‘Can all questions be answered scientifically?’, ‘How does science change over time?’, ‘Does science tell us that our personalities are dictated by factors beyond our control?’, ‘How does science fit (or not) with religion and mystery?’ are a few of the interesting questions that are explored in the Teacher’s Guide, with resources to facilitate classroom discussions. Biographical accounts of prominent scientists, namely Galileo, Newton and Mary Anning, are included to highlight storytelling as a pedagogic tool to develop students’ understanding about science. Chapters on empiricism and experimentation in science discuss challenges and strategies for teachers who are teaching the nature of science.


Another issue the book explores is that in secondary schools there are few if any lessons with two teachers from different subjects in a classroom together.  So what happens to the questions that don’t fit into a subject box? Ideas presented in this book emphasise the need for children to see the value and significance of asking questions that do not sit neatly in one subject and teachers need frameworks and bridges to enable their students move seamlessly between their subject compartments. Secondary schools are driven by the pressure to pass exams in individual subjects and the shortcuts in teaching to help children get through examinations mean that there is hardly any time for teachers to help children understand how science links with other subjects and a compartmentalised view of knowledge is thus presented to children. The Teacher’s Guide puts together a range of lesson plans and activities in its eighteen chapters, which are authored by experienced teachers, teacher trainers, mentors and researchers. The book offers clear pedagogic strategies to help students develop a nuanced theoretical approach to doing science and their ability to distinguish between (for example), biological, cultural and ethical issues. Science in movies, miracles and natural disasters are themes discussed in other chapters illustrating ways of nurturing students’ perceptions of the language used in science and discussing science in relation to other ways of knowing such as religion; thus helping students establish a deeper and broader appreciation of the scientific phenomena. The book is written primarily for teachers but its activities, thought experiments and themed discussions are also very suitable for classrooms and for homes, clubs and so on, and will be relevant to any adults working with children.


To order with Discount Code go to https://www.routledge.com/A-Teachers-Guide-to-Science-and-Religion-in-the-Classroom/Billingsley-Abedin-Chappell/p/book/9781138211827 and enter the following code: author227


Contact LASAR at LASAR@canterbury.ac.uk for any additional information and/or Berry Billingsley, berry.billingsley@canterbury.ac.uk

The book can also be ordered via the Amazon website using this link: