Congratulations to Dr. Marc Tumeinski for having a short article published in the journal Teaching Theology and Religion. Below is some information about the article:
The context: This activity was used in a required undergraduate introductory theology course at a Catholic college. I tried this exercise a month into class, at the start of a section on creation in Genesis.
The pedagogical purpose: The activity encourages students to deepen the skill of reading and understanding the Bible. It also invites students to use their imagination in recognizing the goodness and variety of creation described in Genesis 1. It takes place mostly outdoors, in a natural setting that mirrors the richness of the text, and encourages students to observe their surroundings in light of the text. Doing this as a group creates a positive learning environment; for example, the more active students act as role models of paying attention to detail, observing closely, and taking photos. The exercise mirrors the typical proclamation of Scripture within a communal context.
Description of the strategy: We went on a 40-minute gentle hike. I advised students to dress appropriately and to bring a smart phone. Our campus is wooded with groomed trails; this exercise could be adapted for other outdoor settings and for students of different abilities. We stopped seven times during the hike, reading aloud from Genesis 1:1-2:3, corresponding to the seven days of creation. I emphasized the repeated statement “and God saw that is was good” both vocally and with gesture, engaging student attention. Students were instructed to take lots of pictures (not of people or buildings) that had meaning for them in terms of the Genesis text – did they observe something mentioned in the text, what did they see that was good, and so on. We set a slow pace, allowing time to look, notice, and take photos. Returning to the classroom, students chose three photos and wrote a paragraph on each, describing: the photo, why they chose that image, and how they related it to Genesis. These were turned in, and students emailed the photos to me. I later shared all the photos with students. I tried the assignment twice in back-to-back classes, with different students. For future classes, I am considering possible variations, such as turning the questions into a class discussion, displaying photos in class immediately, adapting the written portion as an assignment.
Why it is effective: Students actively learn outside the classroom, rather than only listening to or reading a text, with the hope that later Bible readings will be more fruitful. They take photographs as a basis for writing, draw on multiple ways of learning, and make creative decisions. In the writing portion, students practice using course vocabulary. At least some were hearing Genesis for the first time, or the first time in a long time, which is a powerful pedagogical technique.