Along with a number of Anglican and Presbyterian schools across New Zealand, the Religious Studies Department at Woodford House has been piloting a brand new theology curriculum for Year 7-10 students.
The Middle School Theology Course (MSTC) has been designed specifically for Anglican and Presbyterian Schools in New Zealand. The course is based around questions asked by middle school students.
Although the core aim of each unit is to grapple with a particular theological issue or question, students engage critically with the Bible, literature, church history, secular culture, stories and beliefs of other religions, films, and ethical theory. Strategies are drawn from the Philosophy for Children movement in the UK, which encourages students to make a decision, defend that decision, listen to the reasons behind others’ decisions, and then reconsider their own position. This process develops critical thinking, listening, evaluative and summative skills. It also develops our students’ ability to weigh up and justify their beliefs confidently, while maintaining an attitude of genuine openness to the views of others.
The course is continually expanding as more units are offered for staff to choose from. At present students may discuss: How do I know what is true? Why does bad stuff happen? What makes me “me”? What do I do with failure? What is evil? Is it anything? Is death the end? Is God male? Is there a purpose to my life? Do I know anything or just believe? Is there anyone out there? How do I listen to God?
Religious Education is not part of the New Zealand Curriculum below Year 10. In order to ensure the MSTC has academic credibility, therefore, Woodford House has worked with the School of Theology at Otago University in the course’s development. Each unit is sent to the School for checking, and university staff have been involved in professional development for teachers of the course.
Year 7 and 8 students have recently enjoyed completing their project on the question ‘Is anyone out there?’
Reverend Dr Deborah Wilson, School Chaplain