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
Ever-Expanding Circles: A Stewardship Video Curriculum for Youth

This is the full report format.

Short Description:   A stewardship video/DVD curriculum for youth in five parts. Explores the relationship between people as friends and neighbors and extends to the individual’s relationship with other people and the earth.
Long Description:   Ever Expanding Circles is a 5 part video/DVD that is the center piece of this curriculum. It is segmented into 5 minute units designed to “help young people between the ages of 10 and 14 discover how the bible concept of stewardship relates to their everyday lives.” The video is accompanied by a curriculum, also segmented into 5 units.

The video follows a group of seven young people who come together from different communities to spend a weekend of activities focused around ecology, and mission. The video has been crafted from the point of view of these young people as they express in word and action how stewardship relates to their day-to-day lives.

The video seeks to capture some of the humor and exuberance of young people who are moving into adolescence. By design the curriculum is an inquisitive and open-ended study whose theological and social implication have relevance for an ecumenical audience.

Using the video segments as a starting point, each of the five sessions contains a Video Summary, a section called Biblical Reflections with related scriptural passages and a brief Bible Study, and a section called Teaching Approach & Alternative to assist group leaders in planning appropriate follow-up activities after viewing the tape.

Reviewed by:   David Blumenkrantz, a United Church of Christ layman from Connecticut

Bibliographic & Purchasing Information
Author:   Rev. Robert Chase, Stewardship Education Congregational Ministries Division, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Publication date:   circa 2004 Website for this resource:   none known
We know of 1 source for purchasing this resource.
Address Presbyterian Distribution Service
Presbyterian Church (USA)
100 Witherspoon St.
Louisville, KY   40202-1396  
Phone 800-524-2612   Fax  
Website www.pcusa.org/marketplace/index.jsp E-mail    
Price $19.95  Order # 7037097502 - F006 

Target Audience & Course Sessions
Age levels Preschool     Primary     Jr. High    Sr. High    Adult
The reviewer specifies:   The guide reports ages of 10 to 14
NOTE: Our reviewer may have checked a wider age range than specified in the curriculum itself.
Optimum class size No class size is reported, although there are comments in the technical section about the size of the TV screen for groups, i.e. 21” for 20 people and advises if the group “is much larger” other viewing options are considered. 
Normal number/length of sessions If the curriculum's normal lesson plan is followed, there will be 5 class sessions
Are suggestions included for expanding/contracting the series? The trigger video is 5 minutes – discussion could go on for an hour or so, depending upon the size of the group. The video features a group of 7 youth engaging in activities that are part of the curriculum. They are at a weekend retreat. It makes one wonder what the impact of the curriculum would be in a non-retreat setting. The program offers an opportunity for a group ecology field trip and follow-up action offering stewardship – helping to some group or individuals in need.  
In the judgement of the reviewer:
 it is not reasonable to plan for a single, self-contained class session from these materials.
 using these materials, a class can be offered that runs for at least two sessions.
Are learners expected to do homework? None  
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 (Presbyterian Church). 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: Has recommendations for reading and videos along with follow-up activities of some kind of stewardship activity selected by the group.
Other materials required:The facilitator(s) would be wise to have a “bag of activities” related to group building, i.e. initiatives, experiential learning, etc.
Description of the Leader's Guide:Each session is laid out with a summary of the video section, related Scripture and group discussion questions and related activities. Guide has introduction and good tips for leaders. There is much room for facilitator input. Videos offer loose material for topic which is mostly spoken with modest to limited action. This could present challenges to capturing student attention
Description of the Student's Book:None included

Materials review & Assessment of usability
Are all necessary materials provided in an accessible format? Adequate - all necessary information is present  
Is the leader's guide comprehensive? Adequate - all necessary information is present  
Are class sessions clearly outlined? Adequate - all necessary information is present  
Will it be helpful to have a teacher with above-average expertise in the subject matter? Definitely helpful to have teacher expertise  
Preparation time required by the leader:
Subjectively rated as heavy, medium or light
Recommended that leader be fluent in subject matter as well as good capacity to facilitate youth groups. Be able to refer to Scripture and/or relevant literature and experiences to amplify major points  

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? No, but the final session invites the participants to consider if there are any environmental issues they are aware of and encourages “action”.  
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? Yes - as part of the topic  
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  
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?
No. It does not present substantial resources given present materials available. It is clearly Christian oriented, although, could be a part of a larger more developed program. It seems dated. But, does give the idea that a “retreat” setting is a powerful way to transmit information
What specific feedback do you have after reviewing these materials? What did you like? What did you not like?
I thought the video, which comprises the primary part of the curriculum, was about students going through the curriculum. It would probably be a struggle for many students to engage in discussion from the trigger films. Some of the activities described were helpful and the references to Scripture and other materials could be very useful.

For example in one of the sessions the students are invited to play a game, i.e. “Building Blocks and Power Pennies” then the students watch the video, session 3, where the youth in the video are playing the game and talking about it.

Some of the messages in the video are very important and conveyed very well. It is mostly a talking, narrated work. This could be challenging to engage youth.

What questions did you have after reviewing the materials?
The reviewer did not answer this question
What, if any, concerns do you have about the use or implementation of this curriculum?
I think someone could use it if they had the group facilitation skills. The references to Scripture put an important context into the program.
What content, if any, does this program seem to be missing? What would you like this program to cover which it does not?
If there is a video I would like to see the video be more moving and impacting. That is the benefit of video. The video mostly showed people sitting in groups and talking.
Have you ever used this program in the past, or heard of others who have used it? What if any response was received?
Never heard of or used the program


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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