Religious Education Focus Area for the Green Sanctuary Program
Environmental Learning and Faith Formation
- The connection between people and the natural world is complex. What are age-appropriate strategies to guide Unitarian Universalists (UUs) to understand these complexities, and to experience themselves as connected to each other and the natural world?
- Does being UU affect how we do environmental work? If so, how? If not, how might it make a difference?
- Does environmental work change the experience of being UU, personally and as a group?
- In addition to connection to our environment, how can our UU community prepare us to be good partners with people whose lives we may have little known connection to, but whose lives are impacted by the way we live?
Religious education’ can be designed to prepare all of us to live sustainably and with integrity. People of all ages need to understand that we are part of nature, not separate and outside of it. Religious education can help us understand the complexity of Earth's systems, how our lifestyles and institutionalized oppressions affect those systems, how we can change to move toward Beloved Community, and know the sacredness of all. It is important that we explore how acting in collaboration and good relationship with Earth and people across all boundaries relates to our Unitarian Universalist faith. We can discover that it truly makes a difference being a Unitarian Universalist people of faith.
Religious education programs can bring children, youth, and adults to a deeper appreciation of the complexities of Earth’s systems and the sacredness of all life. They can also provide an understanding of how experiencing and caring for the natural world relates to our spiritual development and Unitarian Universalist faith. Religious education activities can include classroom learning, direct experience of nature, and hands-on projects focused on caring for the environment.
In your action plan, include at least one religious education project for children and/or youth and one for adults. Consider intergenerational activities that allow children, youth, and adults to reinforce each other’s learning and have fun together. An intergenerational activity counts as only one project, but it can satisfy the requirement for either an adult project or one for children and youth.
- Adopt an Earth-centered curriculum for the children’s religious education program, teaching that we are all a part of nature, not separate and outside of it.
- Invite each class of children to adopt a small section of the congregation’s property. Encour- age them to become familiar with its seasonal cycles and to learn about its inhabitants, from plants and animals to soil microbes and fungi.
- After children have learned about the ecosystem of an area, have them lead adults on a guided nature walk.
- Design an intergenerational project to learn about your local landscape’s biological and cultural history and any dangers that threaten it.
- Offer at least one environmentally themed Tapestry of Faith programs
- Offer at least one Northwest Earth Institute discussion course each semester for adults and youth.
- Start an ongoing discussion group on voluntary simplicity.
- Hold a series of classes to study global warming or another environmental issue.
- Develop an adult course on eco-spirituality.
- Sponsor a community film festival of environmental films.
- Organize a book group focused on environmental topics.
- Collaborate with other congregations or environmental groups to design an educational series on an is- sue of significance in your area. Follow up with action to respond to what you learned.
- Invite local experts on environmental issues to give presentations or hold a panel discussion.
- Organize an intergenerational field trip-a visit to a bird sanctuary, for example.
- Teach children and adults to plant and care for a garden.
- Offer a workshop on canning and/or freezing fruits and vegetables from the garden.
- Hold an “Eat Your Values” food event, including programs, educational materials, and cooking classes that promote locally grown, organic, and fair trade food choices.
- Organize a summer day camp with an environmental theme.