Nicodemus and Jesus: Born from Above
Summary of Lesson Activities:
This science lessons consists of reading the scripture story of Jesus and Nicodemus and then uses 5 air experiments/demonstrations (with one extra/alternative) to (hopefully!) illustrate the shared properties of aerodynamics and the Holy Spirit.
For the full lesson, download the attached Word .doc at the bottom of this post. The first three pages of the document are "background" and the actual lesson starts on page 4 (which is also where you will find the supply list).
Note: The best set-up for this lesson, I've found, is to set the experiments up around the classroom and then move to each "station" and invite a new volunteer or two to help with the demonstration. Also, be sure to really play up the guessing of what will happen - hypothesizing is the basis of the scientific method and seems like a fine thing to encourage in a classroom entitled, "Science."
From the attached lesson, here are the first three science experiments with some of the teaching comments (in first person) included:
Opening - Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Greet the children and introduce yourself.
Open with a prayer.
Dig - Main Content and Reflection:
Read the scripture story then...
Ask (answers in parentheses)
- What did Jesus say the Holy Spirit acts like? (the wind)
- Do you by any chance know what the Hebrew word for wind is? (Ruach. Pronounced “RUU-awk” Have the class say it with you)
- Do you by any chance know what the Hebrew word for breath is? (same thing: Ruach)
- Do you by any chance know what the Hebrew word for Spirit is? (again, same thing: Ruach)
- Does the idea of letting the wind blow you around sound at all scary to you? Like if it was a windy day, and you're trying to walk home, but then the wind keeps blowing you the wrong way?
- For those of us who do think the wind blowing us around is a scary thing, that’s why Jesus ends with the last two verses: To let Nicodemus (and the rest of us) know that God’s Holy Spirit will not be destructive to him, me, you or the world. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that God’s Holy Spirit is a gift of love meant to save the world, not destroy it.
- One thing that helps us be less afraid of something is to learn about it.
- Since both Jesus and the Hebrew language think the wind and God’s Holy Spirit share traits (meaning: are similar), let’s do some wind demonstrations and experiments to compare how the wind is like God’s Holy Spirit.
Explain First Experiment
- I am holding two empty soda cans (or two tennis balls).
- I am putting them on this table top, which is a smooth and level surface.
- What do you think will happen if I take this straw and blow gently between the two cans. What will the cans do?
- Can I have a volunteer? (choose volunteer)
- Don’t blow so hard that the cans tip over and remember to blow between the cans
- [when doing this experiment, the wind needs to pass/catch on the curvature of the cans/tennis balls. The lowered air pressure (the more air moves the less pressure it has) “pulls” the curved items in, not out].
- [When this experiment is done, the cans should come together.]
- This surprising result is because faster moving air exerts less pressure than slower moving air . Thus, the air pressure is greater on the far side of the cans (where the air is moving slower) so they are pushed together when air moves by them.
- God’s Holy Spirit is like the wind because when two or more people are paying attention to God, then God’s Holy Spirit brings those people closer together.
Explain Second Experiment
- For our next experiment, I am taking a large can and placing it near the edge of the table top.
- I am now taking a tea light candle and lighting it.
- I am now putting the lighted candle behind the can of soup, so that the can of soup is between the edge of the table and the lighted candle.
- I am going to try and blow the candle out from the edge of the table that has the can of soup between me and the candle. I can’t even see the candle right now.
- What do you think, do you think I can blow it out? Or will the wind go right past the candle?
- [Take guesses]
- I need a volunteer to do this for me.
- Stand right here with the can between you and the candle. Make sure you can’t see the candle. Blow straight at the can.
- [Do it! The candle flame should go out]
- What happened?
- When wind comes into contact with a round surface, it speeds up to go around the curved surface and “hugs” the curve.
- God’s Holy Spirit is like the wind because when we are presented with an obstacle, like the soup can, and we ask God for help, God will lead us around the obstacle.
Explain Third Experiment
- For our third experiment, I am taking a hair dryer and plugging it in and turning it on high (and cool if available).
- I’m holding the hair dryer so that it is blowing the air straight up.
- I am now taking a ping pong ball and I am placing it in the flow of air from the hair dryer.
- I am planning on letting go of the ball. When I do let go of the ping pong ball, what do you think is going to happen? (turn dryer off to hear answers)
- Ok, we’ve shared our ideas about what’s going to happen, so now I’m going to actually let go of the ping pong ball in the hair dryer air stream.
- [Note: Practice this ahead of time with the dryer you’ll be using since it takes a little patience finding the right distance of where to let go of the ball from the mouth of the dryer. But when you find the right distance, the ping pong ball will stay floating in the air.]
- What happened?!?
- What do you think will happen if I tip the hair dryer a few degrees to the side? Do you think the ball will fall out?
- Let’s find out!
- Ok, I’ve turned the hair dryer off. Would someone like to try next? (let a number of the kids try it – after a few give it a shot, tell the rest of the class they can try it after class, but that the class has to keep going).
- Since the air stream from the hair dryer moves faster around the side of the ball (and thus exerts less pressure) than the still air on top of the ball, the heavier air pressure on top of the ball holds it firmly in place.
- When we seek God, God’s Holy Spirit will lift us up and hold us when we’re feeling low and sad and discouraged, just like the wind lifted up and held the ping pong ball.