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Neumann teachers training to bring faith and reason to science class

On the relationship of faith and reason Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1998 encyclical, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to contemplate truth.”

Saint John Neumann Regional Academy teachers will continue to build their STEM teaching skills by working once again with educators and scholars from Notre Dame University on STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) principles, which adds religion and arts to STEM “to enhance the dialogue between science and religion in Catholic education,” according to the McGrath Institute for Church Life.

The Institute notes the teaching methods are designed to challenge “the notion that the disciplines of science and religion are in conflict.”

From an initial group of 90 applicant teams around the world, the SJNRA team this year was one of 30 schools offered the choice of training at South Bend, Indiana or New Orleans, Louisiana, said Shawn Moore, director of religious formation, teacher and 2020 team member.

Chemistry and AP Science teacher Kevin Nickolaus spearheaded the application process this year, said Moore, and the team chose New Orleans for its less theoretical, more hands-on approach to learning.

In addition to Moore, who teaches AP human geography, AP government and politics and upper-level theology, and Nickolaus, the team at this time also includes middle school STEM science teacher Bill Lundy and biology teacher Kelsey Swift.

After intensive preparatory lessons, the new team will head to the Notre Dame campus and Seminary in New Orleans at the end of June.

The diocese of Scranton, Moore noted, has been leaning toward the STREAM principles as those are “obviously a vital component of what we do here.” Moore is looking forward to learning how he and other Neumann teachers can apply STREAM principles in their classrooms.

“How do we get the theology department and the science department to work together in a curriculum that makes sense and holds true to the spirit of STREAM education?” he asked. The McGrath Institute “will help us bridge that gap,” Moore believes.

The teacher also believes that the integration of faith and science is not limited to just a few curricular areas and foresees that all subject areas can incorporate the elements, although he admitted with a laugh that he wasn’t quite sure yet what the connections might be in physical education class.

The teachers who travel to New Orleans will be tasked with sharing their learning through in-services for their fellow teachers when they return to the new school year. Moore cited the 1998 encyclical of Pope John Paul II on the importance of both faith and reason, explaining that the Holy Father said to abandon one or the other would be a “tragic mistake.”

“We need faith to make sense of reason and we need reason to make sense of faith,” Moore said. “We often hear of the abuse of Galileo and Copernicus but we forget that some of the great scientific minds have been religious people themselves.”

George Maitre, the Belgian Catholic priest who was a mathematician, astronomer, professor of physics and a contemporary of Albert Einstein, who first proposed the Big Bang Theory, which is widely accepted in the scientific community, Moore said.

“This theory came from a religious person who certainly had God at the center of all his thoughts and processes,” Moore pointed out. “It’s nice to think that science doesn’t have to be absent of religion and religion doesn’t have to be absent of science.”

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