Underneath the Stars

Religious Education Unit

The aim of this unit is to develop pupils’ curiosity and awareness of how the night sky influences religions.

Key Questions:

  1. How does looking at the sky make us feel?
  2. Why did people worship the sky?
  3. How did the sky encourage people to believe in God?
  4. Can the existence of the universe be used to argue that God exists?
  5. What does the Bible tell us about the night sky?
  6. What was the Christmas Star?
  7. What have I learned?

 

Developing Pupils’ Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities

Developing pupils’ Knowledge, Understanding and Skills (1st two points from Core Syllabus for RE)

Managing Information:

  • ask focused questions;
  • select, classify, compare and evaluate information;
  • communicate with a sense of audience and purpose.

Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making:

  • make links between cause and effect;
  • examine options and weigh up pros and cons.

Working with Others:

  • listen actively and share opinions.

Pupils should have opportunities to develop:

  • an awareness, knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the key Christian teachings about God;
  • a knowledge of two world religions other than Christianity;
  • reflect on and evaluate their own and others’ thoughts, feelings, experiences and beliefs on religious, spiritual and moral issues, using reasoned and balanced arguments, and consider how these might be applied to their lifestyle.

 

How does looking at the sky make us feel?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning…

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to express and explain their own feelings about the size of the universe

 

 

 

…to express their own feelings in a variety of ways
Being Creative

 

 

 

Using pictures or moving image show pupils the images that portray the vastness and complexity of the universe.

Ask pupils to choose 1 word to explain how the images have made them feel. Each pupil must choose a different word and explain their choice.

Pupils could then use the words to produce a class poster or collage explaining their feelings about the size of the universe.

Working in pairs pupils discuss how looking at the night sky makes them feel and how they could express this in a creative way. 
Individually pupils to use creative writing (poem, song, etc) to express how the vastness and complexity of space makes them feel.

As class discuss the following question:

Why are we looking at the universe in Religious Education?

Pupils discuss the question. The key points are collated and displayed for pupils.  They return to these key points at the end of the unit.

Why did people worship the sky?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning…

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…about the importance of the sky in ancient worship

Introduce the idea that people in the ancient world worshipped the sky – in particular the sun and moon as gods. 

In groups – pupils discuss the following questions:

  • Why would the sky have been important to people?
  • How would people have used the night sky?

(above questions link with activity in Science)

  • What did the sun and moon give people?
  • What powers would people have believed the sun/moon had?
  • Why would people have worshipped the sun/moon?

Having discussed the questions in groups pupils hold a class discussion centred round ancient worship of nature – especially sun/moon. As a class pupils discuss the following question:

  • How/why would this have developed into a belief in God who created everything?

Pupils could decide on the top three answers and display them in the class.
Opportunity to develop/assess Communication (Talking and Listening).

As an extension activity pupils could conduct some research into Newgrange Megalithic Passage Tomb which was built about 3200 BC using the following web-site:
Knowth.com

Pupils can find out about the importance of the winter solstice and what the site was built for. 

How did the sky encourage people to believe in God?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning…

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to evaluate how the sky/universe inspired people to believe in God

…to examine evidence and give reasons
Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making

 

 

 

…to explore the beliefs of world faiths other than Christianity
Managing Information

 

Group work - pupils read a text from the Bible and other sacred writings.  They discuss how the writer has been influenced to believe in God by thinking about the universe.

Questions:

  • What does the writer believe about the sky/universe? Why do you think this?
  • How has the sky/universe inspired the writer? What makes you think this?
  • What does the writer believe about God from looking at the sky/universe?
  • What is your evidence for this?
  • Does the text have relevance to people today? Give your reasons.

Possible texts:
Psalm 8, Psalm 19:1-4, Psalm 136:4-9.
Easy English Bible

Text from various sacred texts:
Qur’an – Surah 30:22-26
Noble Quran

Guru Granth Sahib:3
"You created the vast expanse of the Universe with One Word! Hundreds of thousands of rivers began to flow. How can Your Creative Potency be described?"

 

Extension - research activity;
Pupils may go on and explore how the about how the sky is used to set the dates of religious festivals.  Possible suggestions are: Passover, Easter, Ramadan, Diwali, Hanukkah, Hajj, Wasak.
Pupils could  to research and find out:

  • the date of the festival over a three year period;
  • the type of calendar used to calculate the date;
  • how the calendar has been influenced by the lunar or/and solar cycle;
  • other relevant and interesting information;
  • which sources of information were the most useful and why?

Web sites
BBC Religion
Wikipedia - Lunisolar_Calendar
Wikipedia - Lunar Calendar
Wikipedia - Islamic_Calendar
Wikipedia -Hebrew_Calendar 
Wikipedia - Hindu_Calendar
Ramadan-Islam.org
Pupils can present their findings to the class using an agreed or choice of formats, for example an oral presentation.
Opportunity to develop/assess Communication

Can the existence of the universe be used to argue that God exists?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning…

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to explain an analogy, comparing familiar scenarios with abstract concepts
Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

 

 

…to link cause and effect

The following activities outline ways to get pupils to look at the Cosmological argument for the existence of God at a level that is appropriate though discussion and questioning.

Possible use of part of an episode of “The Simpsons” as a way into looking at arguments for the existence of God.  “The House of Horror vii – The Genesis Tub”.  In the episode Lisa conducts an experiment and creates a world in a tub. She becomes the god of the world as she has created it.  The episode could be used to get pupils to think about creation. Think about how everything that humans create has been created by someone out of something.

Pupils work individually.  Give a statement such as ‘the dog barked’, ‘the car crashed’, ‘the river flooded’.  Ask pupils to work backwards asking the question ‘why’.  They can use their own thoughts to gather a chain of events as to ‘why’ the event occurred. (may be useful to work one through as a class first). Pupils see how far back the chain of events could go. 

Discuss activity as a class getting pupils to explain their own chain of events. Discuss whether the chain stops at any stage – can they add any further links to the chain? Is there a first cause of things?

…to define the cosmological argument for the existence of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explain the Cosmological argument for the existence of God– the first cause. 
Web sites for teacher research:
Wikipedia.org Cosmological_argument
Philosophy of Religion
Each pupil selects, from the list of statements below (1-6) the one that s/he thinks best summarises the Cosmological Argument. The most popular statement is identified and class offer reasons for this choice.

  1. Nothing exists unless it has been created by something else.
  2. There must be something that started everything.  A starting point which has existed forever.  A first cause of everything.
  3. Because the universe exists there must be a creator, a first cause. This is God.
  4. There is order in the universe.  This order means that there must be a creator to have made things the way they are.
  5. Things only move when they have been moved by something.
  6. The universe moves because God has made it this way.

…to develop questions about the cosmological argument for the existence of God
Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Group discussion.  Pupils discuss the following questions to develop their understanding of the Cosmological argument.  In discussion pupils work through what they understand/don’t understand about the argument and they questions that they still have. 

  • What do we/don’t we understand about this argument for the existence of God?
  • What questions do we still have about this argument?
  • Are there any different suggestions or explanations for the existence of the universe?
  • What reasons do people have for believing that God exists because of the universe?
  • What reasons do people have for not believing in this argument?
  • What conclusions can be drawn from the Cosmological argument?

Lead into a class discussion about the Cosmological argument.  Ask pupils to present the main findings from the group discussion to the class.  As a class decide on three important points that come out of the discussion and display them. 

As an extension activity pupils work individually on an article for a teenage magazine about the Cosmological argument for the existence of God – they state their opinion, giving evidence and address counter arguments. They think about the best way to present their article.
Opportunity to develop/assess Communication (Writing)

What does the Bible tell us about the night sky?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning…

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to analyse the information given about the Christmas star in Matthew
Managing Information

Explain to pupils that they are going to look at one example from the Bible about the night sky.
Useful programmes that could be used as intro. to topic:
The Nativity – film of nativity with story of Wise men’s visit to Bethlehem;
The Son of God – BBC documentary.

Pupils provided with story from Matthew and asked to highlight the information about the star.  What does it tell us about the star? What does it not tell us? How does the biblical text compare to the portrayal of the star on screen?
Soon.org.uk
Easy English Bible 

What was the Christmas Star?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning…

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to explore and assess the possible explanations for the star
Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paired/group discussion – what do we not know about the star? What do we need to find out?

Pupils work in pairs/groups to research one of the possible explanations to the star – using relevant websites. 

BBC - The Christmas Star
Crystalinks (information may need to be adapted to suit level of pupil)

Star of Bethlehem (information may need to be adapted to suit level of pupil)

Present findings to the class in a short talk about the star.  Pupils discuss all the possible explanations and consider a range of factors on which to judge them (in relation to, for example, Authority –who wrote it and why? Conviction – how convincing is it and why? Recency- when was it written and for whom?
Pupils could sort or prioritise the various explanations using card ranking or ranking pyramid (see Active Learning and Teaching Methods).

  • Is it right that we always want proof and explanation of events?

Use paintings/cards to show how star has traditionally been depicted ask pupils to create their own image of the Christmas star following their research.

What have I learned?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning…

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to reflect what they have learnt from the unit
Self-Management

Pupils return to key points from the question at the beginning of the unit:
‘Why are we looking at the universe in Religious Education?’

Pupils discuss the activities that they have been involved in during this unit. They can record their reflections on the points they made at the beginning of the unit.  They could do this in a number of ways.

For example, they could use the following prompt statements:

  • An important thing I have learnt is……
  • I’ve enjoyed ……………………
  • I think …………… about the sky.
  • Looking at the universe makes me feel ……………
  • I believe ………………

 

Development of Learning Outcomes

  • research and manage information effectively to investigate religious, moral and ethical issues, including Using Mathematics and Using ICT where appropriate;
  • show deeper understanding by thinking critically and flexibly, solving problems and making informed decisions, demonstrating Using Mathematics and Using ICT where appropriate;
  • demonstrate creativity and initiative when developing ideas and following them through;
  • work effectively with others;
  • demonstrate self-management by working systematically, persisting with tasks, evaluating and improving own performance;
  • communicate effectively in oral, visual, written and ICT formats, showing clear awareness of audience and purpose.

 

Links with Key Elements

Learning for Life and Work

Spiritual Awareness
Explore and respond to the key questions that arise through discussions on the purpose of life.

Personal Development
Self Awareness – explore and express a sense of self.