Teaching our children about science is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give to them. Science helps us to understand how our natural world works. Not only does science help children understand cause and effect, but it also helps develop critical thinking skills and imagination. Science helps with reasoning. And perhaps most importantly, science teaches children that knowledge is a process. The first part of this process is the acceptance of our ignorance. We do not know everything. But, we want to learn! We make a hypothesis. We test. We challenge and question the results in an attempt to understand them.
We also seek to understand why the universe was created. As people of faith, we want to teach our children about the love of God and how they can establish a personal relationship with [God]. We teach them the power of prayer, how they are never alone, and how every one of them was created with intention and love. The challenge is how to allow both of these lines of thinking to flourish within our souls. We need to wrestle to align our “hows” with our “whys”. While it’s tempting to believe that this type of thinking is reserved for adults, it’s important to address these issues early in life.
So many college students show up in introductory physics, astronomy, biology, or chemistry classes without having considered these ideas before. Suddenly, they are bombarded with a plethora of new ideas and viewpoints, without ever having a chance to develop their own. It’s a gift to help our children develop their knowledge, to work out their critical thinking and analytical “muscles”. They thirst for knowledge and already have some big questions. Children are sponges and we, as parents and educators, are their first teachers.
So here’s a letter I wrote to my kids, Jude and Marielle, 1The names of the author’s children have been changed for this article. who are just starting elementary school. Perhaps you may find it useful for the children in your life. Or perhaps it will inspire you to write your own letter to your kids or start having faith and science conversations with them.
Let me start this letter off by telling you how awesome you are. We just got back from the science museum, and you both just loved it. Jude, you loved the section that described how astronomers find planets around other stars. And Marielle, you were entranced by the video of baby cockroaches hatching. I admit, I was a bit more interested myself in the former rather than the latter, but I’m so proud that you both love learning!
A Cosmic Creation
I love learning too. Particularly about astronomy and where we come from. Do you know that when I was in graduate school, I studied when “God made light”? We know that God created the universe, and on the first day, God made light. Have you ever wondered what that means? Well, very early in the history of the Universe, light couldn’t travel very far. It was like light in a fog, bouncing around like an incessant ball in a pinball machine. The Universe was literally filled with light! Eventually, all that light broke free and traveled to us. We have a baby picture of our universe at this stage—it’s called the Cosmic Microwave Background. After that, the universe was dark for a long time, but then God made light again! Those were the first stars—lighting up the darkness around them and changing the Universe forever. Those were the ones that I learned so much about in graduate school.
Of course, God created the Earth too. Jude, you’re right. [God] made it with [God’s]“materials,” sort of like your box of art supplies. God’s art supplies were what’s called a proto-planetary disk—a swirling circle of rocks, dust, and gas around the baby Sun. [God’s] artistic method was a bit unconventional—crashing giant rocks into one another—but it worked! [God] made all the planets, asteroids, moons, comets, and the beautiful world in which we live…
|↑1||The names of the author’s children have been changed for this article.|