Eco-Justice Ministries
   Eco-Justice: "the well-being of all humankind on a thriving Earth"
 

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Eco-Curriculum Review for the title
ReNew: The Green VBS

This is the full report format.

Short Description:   Grounded in Jesus´ Parable of the Sower, ReNew: The Green VBS brings together the Bible and environmental stewardship.
Long Description:   ReNew: The Green VBS brings together the Bible and environmental stewardship. From tiny towns to huge cities, kids grow in faith as they play, learn, sing, and work toward renewing their congregations and communities. By serving in the community and inviting the community into church, kids demonstrate that being green can be easy, faithful, and fun. Although current threats to our environment can seem scary, ReNew is about hope, opportunity, and service. Kids and congregations lead the way as stewards of the earth.
Reviewed by:   Melinda Campbell, religious educator, Denver, Colorado

Bibliographic & Purchasing Information
Publisher:   Sparkhouse
Publication date:   2010 Website for this resource:   www.wearesparkhouse.org/renew
We know of 1 source for purchasing this resource.
Address Sparkhouse
2800 Lyndale Ave South
Minneapolis, MN   55408  
Phone 800-328-4648   877.702.5551 Fax  
Website www.wearesparkhouse.org E-mail info@wearesparkhouse.org  
Price Starter Kit -- $149.99, Kid packs -- $3.90  Order # ED014675 for starter pack 

Target Audience & Course Sessions
Age levels  Preschool     Primary    Jr. High    Sr. High    Adult
NOTE: Our reviewer may have checked a wider age range than specified in the curriculum itself.
Optimum class size The reviewer did not comment - assume 10-20 
Normal number/length of sessions If the curriculum's normal lesson plan is followed, there will be 5 class sessions each lasting about 2.5 hours
Are suggestions included for expanding/contracting the series? This is a typical VBS in which small groups of children, either similar ages or multi-age groups, rotate through centers in which they explore the day´s topics.  
In the judgement of the reviewer:
 using these materials, or even just one session from them, a reasonable, coherent and self-contained class can be offered in a single session of about an hour.
 using these materials, a class can be offered that runs for at least two sessions.
Are learners expected to do homework? Homework involves family discussions of actions and questions raised re creation care suggested in the curriculum.  
Target audience:
 Interfaith - addressed people of many faiths
 Judeo-Christian - addressed to Jews & Christians
 Christian - addressed explicitly to Christians
 Not explicity faith-based - not much religious content
Note: The reviewer says that this curriculum is especially appropriate for members of the denomination or agency that developed it (dist by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). For example, it may explore a denominational policy statement. The reviewer also believes that it is possible for groups outside that tradition to make good use these materials.

Materials provided
Materials include:
 Leader's guide
 Student book
 Discussion questions
 Class activities - arts & crafts
 Class activities - group participation 
 Video
 Reading materials
 Presentation or lecture notes
 Prayer or worship resources
 

Other supportive materials provided: Copyable music CD, banner and posters.
Other materials required:Some seeds are provided, some others are required to be provided on-site. Also dirt, decorations, and mission/outreach materials.
Description of the Leader's Guide:The Leaderīs Guide provides sound theology re care of creation that is elementary age appropriate.

It also demonstrates awareness of the issues, i.e. encouraging the use of wildflower seeds that are indigenous to the area where the VBS is offered; the box used to mail curriculum materials is repurposed into reward badges for projects undertaken and completed.

Churches are encouraged to plug "mission" or "outreach" activities for this VBS into those already supported by the church.

Children will be provided solid scientific information and vocabulary, while at the same time being offered open-ended questions to discuss with family and friends.

Children will be encouraged to discover ways they can make a difference in Creation.

Description of the Student's Book:The Student´s book re-tells the Parable of the Sower and is meant to be cut up and used each day of the 5-day VBS. It comes with a carpenter´s apron that can function as a nametag with pockets for seeds (included) and a seed-planter made of recycled plastic.

Materials review & Assessment of usability
Are all necessary materials provided in an accessible format? Yes - materials are very well laid out and comprehensive  
Is the leader's guide comprehensive? Yes - materials are very well laid out and comprehensive  
Are class sessions clearly outlined? Yes - materials are very well laid out and comprehensive  
Will it be helpful to have a teacher with above-average expertise in the subject matter? Not Necessary to have teacher expertise  
Preparation time required by the leader:
Subjectively rated as heavy, medium or light
Depends on whether the leader is in charge of the entire VBS (heavy), just one center (medium), or is a shepherd supporting the leader (light). 

Content focus
Is this curriculum explicitly focused on environmental awareness or action? Yes, as one of several emphases  
Does this curriculum deal with a specific environmental issue or problem? It covers several issues, all presented as opportunities to express God´s love that is planted in, and growing in, God´s people.  
How is the scope of the environmental impact positioned?  Impact on specific human communities
 Impact on humans in general
 Impact on humans and non-human parts of creation
 Impact on non-human parts of creation only  
Does the curriculum address questions of social or economic justice in relation to environmental issues? No  
Does the curriculum provide detailed content in a particular academic area?   For example, is there significant content in biology, physics, sociology, economics, etc.?
Biblical & theological content are covered below
No  
Biblical/theological content
Does the curriculum have explicit biblical or theological content? Yes, as a major emphasis  
How are the Biblical materials used? Individual texts are presented as meaningful ('proof texts')
Several texts are developed to show a larger biblical theme
Texts are placed in a historical or cultural context
Texts are presented as authoritative
Students are invited to comment/reflect on the meaning or authority of texts
Biblical texts are of equal importance to other scriptures/readings  
The checked statements reflect how ethical guidelines are grounded The Bible tells us how we should live/act
A theological tradition or other authority tells us how we should live/act
We should make decisions about how to live/act based on defined ethical norms
Caring for creation is an assumed norm
Other: The focus is on Jesus as a story-teller and particularly the Parable of the Sower. Consideration is given to the sower as well as to the quality of the ground. For example, children are asked to consider if the sower is being generous or wasteful. The assumed norm is that the sower is generous, though more consideration could be given to the purposes of sowing on the hard ground (feeding the birds) that would bring complexity of ecology into focus. However, considering this is a 5-day elementary level curriculum, it does an excellent job of grounding Creation as central to God´s love and central to humans´ responsibility on Earth.  
The curriculum views humanity's role in creation as:
The checked lines are clearly affirmed
Domination - God created the Earth for human use; there are no real restrictions on what we can or should do.
Stewardship - "The Earth is the Lord's"" and humans are in a position of managing the creation according to God's will.
Partner - Humans are part of the web of creation, and participate in it as one species among many.
Intruder - Humans are separate from nature, and inherently destructive.
In evaluating changes to "solve" environmental problems, does the curriculum tend toward an approach that is: Confessional - I/we need to change
Confrontational - Some other person, policy or institutions needs to change
Combination - a mix of confessional and confrontational

Content approach
Which of these are a primary target outcome of the curriculum?  Increase awareness or concern about the environment in general
 Increase awareness of concern about a specific environmental issue
 Acquiring factual knowledge about an issue
 Changing or deepening personal beliefs
 Change in self-awareness or self-identity
 Changes in personal behaviors or lifestyle choices
 Influence on institutional (church or other) practices
 Increased political advocacy
 No change, or goal not clear
Range of perspectives offered:   A single perspective is offered
  Compares 2 or more perspectives
  A diversity of perspectives presented

Subjective Reviewer Feedback
In general, would you use this program with your congregation/organization? Why or why not?
Yes. It fits well with our congregation´s Whole Earth (environmental) stance, and encourages children to interact with their own beliefs, with other children, with their family, with their church, and with their community.
What specific feedback do you have after reviewing these materials? What did you like? What did you not like?
I could wish for more social justice focus, but considering the age group this is designed for I think it does a remarkable job of making a complex theological connection quite simple and natural. I think they did a good job with ideas for decorations and with forms and administrative support.
What questions did you have after reviewing the materials?
I wonder about support for exploring questions Leaders might have.
What, if any, concerns do you have about the use or implementation of this curriculum?
I think it is relatively simple to implement, though the outreach portion is left largely up to the VBS Director to create.
What content, if any, does this program seem to be missing? What would you like this program to cover which it does not?
The reviewer did not answer this question
Have you ever used this program in the past, or heard of others who have used it? What if any response was received?
No, I have not. It is new this year and I look forward to hearing feedback in future.


Eco-Justice Ministries   *   400 S Williams St, Denver, CO   80209   *   Home Page: www.eco-justice.org
Eco-Justice Ministries ended all programming on July 31, 2020. This site is an archive of writings and resources.
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