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
Let There Be ... Stuff?

This is the full report format.

Short Description:   A six-session curriculum that helps Christian teenagers explore the relationship between their consumption, their faith, and the health of the planet.
Long Description:   The curriculum is based on The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute web film that takes viewers on a provocative and eye-opening tour of the environmental and human costs of US consumer culture - tracking where our stuff comes from and where it goes when we throw it away. Over 10 million people worldwide have viewed the film, making it one of the most widely viewed environmental-themed short films ever. Let There Be ... Stuff? is designed for confirmation classes, bar and bat mitzvah classes, and ongoing youth group and teen programs at churches and synagogues. The six sessions are each designed to last an hour, with extensive resources and guidance for adult leaders.
Reviewed by:   Rev. Susan Gilpin, from Falmouth, Maine, with an MA in teaching

Bibliographic & Purchasing Information
Author:   GreenFaith
Publisher:   GreenFaith and Story of Stuff Project
Publication date:   2010 Website for this resource:

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 Designed for a class of 6-15 students 
Normal number/length of sessions If the curriculum's normal lesson plan is followed, there will be 6 class sessions each lasting about 1 hour
Are suggestions included for expanding/contracting the series? The materials do not provide specific suggestions.  
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? Students choose actions to be completed during the week between the sessions.  
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 (GreenFaith). 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 
 Reading materials
 Presentation or lecture notes
 Prayer or worship resources
Other materials required:The video of The Story of Stuff must be obtained separately, and equipment must be available to show the DVD.
Description of the Leader's Guide:The Introduction to The Story of Stuff contains tips on how to teach and suggestions on how to promote the curriculum with parents and teenagers.
Description of the Student's Book:The students create murals and little notebooks with stories, personal notes and commitments as they go through the class.

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
Download the DVD Story of Stuff video on line. Assemble some arts and crafts materials. Prepare some games. All simple, but essential. 

Content focus
Is this curriculum explicitly focused on environmental awareness or action? Yes, as a primary focus  
Does this curriculum deal with a specific environmental issue or problem? The curriculum focuses on the Stuff we consume, and the environmental impact of producing and disposing of this stuff -- especially T-shirts, jewelry, cosmetics, cell phones. It goes into externalizing costs and exporting pollution, as well as producing toxic waste here in the U.S.A.  
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 a major theme  
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
The curriculum is organized generally around the processes of extraction, production, consumption, and disposal of consumer goods.  
Biblical/theological content
Does the curriculum have explicit biblical or theological content? Yes, as one theme among several  
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?
After reading this curriculum, I volunteered to teach it to teenagers at the church where I worship. It addresses kids as consumers, which is something they/we all do, so it is relevant to their everyday lives. It tries to expand their consciousness about the hidden costs of the things they use every day. It uses a film, Scripture, and stories about role models as bases of discussion. It goes global, and talks about the costs of production which are hidden overseas. It is not too serious -- it includes games with physical activity, which younger teens especially need.
What specific feedback do you have after reviewing these materials? What did you like? What did you not like?
This curriculum is planned to appeal to what Howard Gardner calls multiple intelligences -- logical, visual, verbal, kinesthetic, and naturalist, as well as interpersonal and intrapersonal. So thereīs a way for every kid to get involved. It aims to get kids to examine the assumptions behind their behavior. Does more stuff make us happier? Are advertisements really true? Does $4.50 represent the total cost of a radio? Students will enjoy and learn many things about themselves, their peers, our society, and the rest of the world.
What questions did you have after reviewing the materials?
I am wondering about the capacity of younger teens for abstract moral reasoning. Can they challenge their own assumptions? And those of the society around them? At what age do teens develop this ability?
What, if any, concerns do you have about the use or implementation of this curriculum?
There is at least 90 minutes of material for every 60 minute session, so teachers donīt need to worry about running out of material. But they will have to make some choices along the way in order to reach the conclusion of each session. The sessions can be slanted towards physical activity, art, discussion, or action, depending on the nature of the class.
What content, if any, does this program seem to be missing? What would you like this program to cover which it does not?
The film Story of Stuff is sweeping in its generalizations. It covers a lot of ground in 20 minutes. Producer Annie Leonard oversimplifies sometimes, which is unfortunate, because her case is basically sound. The teacher would want to be prepared to answer some hard questions, especially from parents. This seems to bother me more than most other people, as most reviews of the film are positive.
Have you ever used this program in the past, or heard of others who have used it? What if any response was received?
No previous use, it is new.

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Eco-Justice Ministries ended all programming on July 31, 2020. This site is an archive of writings and resources.
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