With the closing of NJ lakes due to toxic bacteria, the lack of adequate access to safe drinking water in Newark and fires in the Amazon, we are concerned for our planet and its future.
The Vacation Bible School hosted this summer by Church of the Messiah, Chester and House of Prayer, Newark focused on the theme of creation and addressed biodiversity and the importance of maintaining a healthy water cycle.
This especially hit home because House of Prayer is in one of the neighborhoods impacted by lead contamination. When we did a watershed study in the VBS science program, kids shared that prior to the media coverage, they had not had access to water in some of their schools.
Media exposure, the skillful application of technology and churches serving as locations for water access have set in motion solutions for this urban crisis. Likewise, due to coverage of the toxic algal bloom issue in our lakes, and the actions of groups like the Highlands Commission and the Lake Hopatcong Commission, residents are joining together to find ways to restore a balance of harmony with the Earth. The ways in which we manage our storm drains and runoff, and the use of rain gardens to filter pollutants from water, are also worth immediate attention.
Here is where our VBS science program comes in.
Reflecting on the Book of Genesis, we discussed how on the first three days God focused on dividing the universe into separate parts, and then on the next three days God filled those parts with complex details to celebrate life. First God created light and dark which sounds simple; however, complexity exists in all creations – a complexity which can be discovered in our search for solutions to the needs of others. When we focused on the concept of light and dark, I had the kids use refracting gratings and prisms. They discovered that white light is a rainbow in disguise. I shared with them that more and more scientists are experimenting with different light recipes to make vegetables and fruit more nutritious and/or to enhance growth rates. God gives us the opportunity to use technology to help grow better produce.
On the second day, God focused on the separation of water – visible water that we can see in the oceans, lakes, and rivers, and invisible water in the atmosphere. We explored maps and diagrams of watersheds and then constructed model watersheds. For the models, we added water soluble inks to simulate runoff when the kids flooded their models. I have always found that kids are fascinated by maps and models of nature.
For Day 3, we did a study of comparative anatomy and explored the skeletons of fish, frogs, lizards, birds, and humans. This led to a variety of discussions based on the age groups (4-5, 6-10 and 11-12) but the focus was on how by learning about our bodies we can take better care of ourselves and in turn be stronger stewards for God and God’s world. We also reviewed food chains and webs to discover how we are all connected, and that God did intend to provide for all creatures.
For Day 4, we constructed ecosystems and planted seeds of dried peas, kidney beans, and popcorn. We added worms as decomposers, important organisms in a healthy ecosystem.
And on Day 5 we created birds, to serve as a symbol of creatures that can see all as they soar from above. This was a reminder to look from above as God would and to set high goals and push through lows – understanding that God has a unique plan for each and every one of us.
One additional take away for the kids to remember the importance of God in their lives was a tiny skeleton kneeling in prayer. It was a connection to the surprise gift package that House of Prayer gave to Messiah’s VBS leaders – cards with a special prayer for Newark:
Heavenly Father, behold and visit our city of Newark. Renew the ties of mutual regard that form our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate crime, violence, poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with order, that men and women from different cultures and with differing talents may find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity. Amen.