Enriching the New Testament Narrative on Fishing Through Art and Science


By Raphael – Scan using old “Original & Fälschung”-Pictures from HörZu, 1986. 24 November 2008, Public Domain, Wikipedia

Supplemental activities set the scene for study of the Gospels

By Marianne Green

Gazing out from the deck of a boat on the Sea of Galilee, I could not help but think of how little I know about the art of fishing. Meditating on Matthew’s gospel “The Call of the First Disciples” (Matthew 4:18-22), I kept pondering the phrases “casting a net into the sea” and “mending their nets.”

Like most Catholic teachers, I value the grit and tenacity of the first disciples – the fishermen: Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Unlike other Catholic teachers who may know about fishing, I wonder about how I can enrich my students’ understanding of both fishing and these fishermen. Thankfully, both art and science offer this type of enrichment.

Any enrichment activities should begin with the foundational pieces. In this case, a selection of New Testament stories centering around Jesus, the Apostles, and the Sea of Galilee. You may wish to separate your class into gospel groups (Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John). Each group would read and discussion one of the following passages for a whole group comparison activity:

Classical artwork provides opportunities for students to explore how creatives interpret the biblical passages. Teachers may use Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), which according to the Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence “improves critical thinking skills through teacher-facilitated discussions of visual images.”

The three essential questions involved in VTS are the following:

  1. What is going on in this image?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. What more can we find?

Teachers may select artwork from their local churches and chapels to conduct this type of exercise. They may also choose to use the following selections from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC:

  1. The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew by Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1309)
  2. Christ at the Sea of Galilee by Lambert Sustris (c. 1570s)
  3. The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by Jacopo Bassano (c. 1545)

Teaming up with the Art Department for another hands-on enrichment activity would be another way to engage students. Ideas, videos, and lesson plans are available on the National Gallery of Art website as well as sites such as Red Ted Art’s “30 Art Projects for Kids – Exploring Great Artists.”

The New Testament narrative may also be enriched through studies in natural science. One branch of natural science, life science, can focus student learning about the Sea of Galilee (Encyclopedia Britannica). Depending on location, teachers may wish to use a T-chart to have students compare a local body of water to the Sea of Galilee. Another life science activity would be for students to look up the different species of fish in the Sea of Galilee and compare them.

The other branch of natural science, physical science, also provides enrichment opportunities. One small group activity could be for students to research regions and the types of fishing that occurs within them. These small groups would then present their findings either using an interactive Google Map (“Beginner’s Guide to Google Maps”), a Prezi (“Prezi for Education”), or PowerPoint presentation (“How to Create a PowerPoint Presentation”).

Additionally, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Take Me Fishing,  and Enchanted Learning sites are excellent teaching resources depending on your students’ grade level. Need more reference materials? Take a look at the EPA’s Planet Protectors: Activities for Kids, Eek! Environmental Education for Kids, and National Wildlife Federation Ranger Rick sites for more activities and interactive games.

Learning about the types of nets, hooks, and other fishing equipment may be topics for a Skype interview with your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or someone in your school’s community who is passionate about fishing.

If a Skype or an in-person interview is not possible, check out Graeme Pullen of Totally Awesome Fishing! videos. He presents a series on “How to tie Fishing Knots” on YouTube. You may wish to edit any of these videos for your classroom purposes using Safe YouTube Network.

Thankfully, art and science present pathways for both teachers and students to explore, enhance, and enrich their understanding of Jesus, his first Apostles, and the Galilean region. Go! Cast your net! And continue the tradition of being “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

Marianne T. Green, MA, a Golden Apple recipient and independent consultant for the Catholic Apostolate Center, is an adjunct faculty member of St. Joseph’s College. Her recent collaboration with Diocese of Reykjavik is featured on Instagram @Virtual_Disciple.

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