Objects of Grace: Lesson Plans Using Movies in Religion Class

Article excerpt

Showing a film in a religion class is done thousands of times everyday. But there is a difference between just "showing" a movie and utilizing its potential. These lesson plans were created for teachers who want to incorporate the power of film into their classes. For best results, select the projects suggested here that best introduce students to the movie and then follow up with others that enrich and bring the topic to a conclusion. For example, the class could research the Mass and Eucharistie devotions in other cultures prior to viewing "Babette's Feast." Benediction would be a wonderful follow-up.

Be sure the students have a sense of plot and characters once the film has been shown. Students tend to take the movie more seriously when they have an outline or list of ideas to look for. Consider asking the students for their ideas for other projects.

With these lesson plans, you can help give your students what they are hungering for: a more lively faith and understanding of God.

Red Planet (rating: FG-13)

Themes: ecology, the Search for God

Questions for Discussion

(Each set of questions could be helpful as the teacher previews the movie.)

1. Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek: For they will inherit the earth." (Mt 5:5) Meekness is the use of true power rather than brute strength. Who were the models of meekness in the movie? Who are models of meekness in society? How do they compare?

2. Dr. Bud Chantilas comments early in the film, "What about religion? Do we give up on God? I realized science couldn't answer any of the really interesting questions. So I turned to philosophy and I've been searching for God ever since." What were some of the questions in the movie-those asked and those unasked? In what way did Dr. Chantilas finally discover his God?

3. As the film unfolds, within each major problem lies the solution. How could that idea be applied to both ecology and spirituality?

4. The movie includes several crude scenes that could have been omitted. Yet when combined with other scenes of bravery and compassion the movie reveals the paradox of our humanity. What could this say about us being made in "the image and likeness of God"? What do these scenes say about our dignity and what we are willing to settle for? How can ecology be a search for God? Sometimes we, too, must pursue God like the Hound of Heaven (see below). However, so many people think God is not worth the effort. How and why did they come to this conclusion?

Suggested Projects

1. Throughout the film the robot Amee pursues the men. Compare the action to Francis Thompson's poem, "The Hound of Heaven."

2. The crew went to Mars because of a dying earth. Take part in Earth Day on April 22.

3. Look up the history of Earth Day. Do a prayer service to honor the earth and include St. Francis of Assisi, who is the patron saint of ecology.

4. Research Native American nature poetry. For example, "Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North American," edited by Jermone Rothenberg. Students could illustrate this poetry.

5. Read the landmark book on ecology: Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring." Dr. Seuss wrote "The Lorax" (There is also a video.) about pollution. Have students use this book for a presentation for an elementary class. Read "Soaring Spirits: Conversations with Native American Teens" by Karen Gravelle or "Our Global Greenhouse" by April Koral.

6. Research biographies of John Burroughs, Teddy Roosevelt or John Mui.

7. Choose a topic in ecology and locate back issues of major magazines: i.e., acid rain in Newsweek during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Compare and contrast the decades.

8. Report on the Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, article, "God's Beloved Creation," in American, April 16, 2001.

Theology Background

Look for Old Testament figures-those who are the least but are still chosen by God. …