I have the privilege of being ‘auntie’ to a number of children, and I love reading to them and buying them books as presents. So when the Faraday Institute youth and schools team started publishing resources for children aged 2-12, I was in heaven.
Last month saw the release of a much-awaited, meticulously researched, beautifully written illustrated book on dinosaurs (SPCK, £12.99, 64 pages). I had a happy time familiarising myself with its contents before I passed it on to the nearest small child. Did you know that one flying reptiles (technically not a dinosaur, don’t make me roll my eyes at you like a precocious six-year-old) was called Quetzalcoatlus, had a wingspan of up to 11m and weighed up to half a tonne? Or did you know that before the dinosaurs were around, the world was dominated by relatively slow-moving eupelycosaurs – including the Dimetrodon (also not a dinosaur), which you might recognise from your childhood toybox by the enormous sail on its back?
God Made the Dinosaurs is not just scientifically accurate, but it also affirms that all these animals were part of God’s good creation. Throughout the book’s pages are scattered prayers, reflections, and snippets from the Bible about all of creation praising and being cared for by God. The writers are sensitive to the issues of suffering and extinction, and suggests ways to think about these topics. When I gave a copy to a young friend yesterday, it prompted an excited gasp and, several minutes later, the comment ‘It’s terrific!’
The other new book to look out for is 101 Great Big Questions About God and Science. I have yet to read this publication cover to cover, but I plan to do so because it contains some brilliant answers to the difficult questions that children (and adults) often ask. So if you’re wrestling with ‘Who made God?’, ‘What happens when we pray?’ or ‘Could a robot ever fall in love?’, look no further. There are some more light-hearted questions too, including ‘Could Jesus time-travel?’, or ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’
All the questions in this fantastic resource were asked by a young person at an event with our youth and schools team. For each one, an expert on the topic gives their own answer in 200 words or less. The writers include theologian Prof NT Wright, AI luminary Prof Rosalind Picard, Cambridge Philosophy Professor Hasok Chang, and science advisor to the US president Dr Francis Collins.
To top it off, two new websites have just been launched: Faraday Teens and Faraday Educators. Like Faraday Kids, which went live a couple of years ago, Faraday Teens gives age-appropriate answers to big questions, introduces young people to scientists who have a Christian faith, and provides activity ideas for hands-on science adventures. Faraday Educators is designed for parents, teachers, and church childrens’ or youth workers, providing ideas, resources and activities.
The Faraday Youth and Schools team run events both for children and young people and the adults who teach them. The topics for teacher training include the nature of science, and integrating RE and science in the primary classroom. For Youthworkers there is a training session called ‘Big World Big Questions: Exploring science and faith with young people’. For a taster of this, and an introduction to the Faraday youth and schools team’s vision and way of working, watch Lizzie Henderson and Cara Parrett’s talk at our recent course for local church leaders. You can also take a look at their section of the Faraday website, which gives more detail about their work with schools and churches, how to book an event, and links to all the resources they have developed.
I have greatly appreciated working alongside the Faraday Youth and Schools team over the last few years. They remind me how much fun everyone has with hands-on science, that everyone has big questions to ask that are worth listening to, and that visual presentation is always important. They are careful to teach what science is, and give people the space to explore what that looks like in practical terms. I have learned that no question is too silly to attempt to answer, and that it’s worth letting people explore the science in detail. In a context where questions about faith and science are not just ok but positively encouraged, and different viewpoints are handled sensitively, children and their teachers or parents experience all sorts of eureka moments.
All of the Faraday youth and children’s books can be bought at a discount from the Faraday online shop.
A book launch for all the family will be held in Cambridge on 12th April.