What makes us different from other creatures? We started our discussion by considering how Disney presents what it means to be human.
In The Little Mermaid, a quasi-human magical creature admires human artifacts from the outside, longing to join the human community.
In Pinocchio, the Blue Fairy tells a cricket and a magically animated toy that being truly human must be earned through moral action.
In Tarzan, an orphaned human boy is raised by gorillas. Longing to belong, but never quite fitting in with his animal companions, his human nature shows itself in creativity and invention. When he finally meets another human, he is filled with wonder--like Adam meeting Eve, declaring "this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!!" Tarzan discovers a whole new world of existence as he learns about the human community.
Though we ran out of time to watch more, I recommend also considering what Star Trek has to say about what it means to be human. Check out Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 2, Episode 9: The Measure of a Man (the full episode is available on Netflix). You can watch the essential bit is here.
We then took a look at what the Bible has to say about the nature of being human, as summarized in the Creation part of the Contemporary Testimony--Our World Belongs To God. We are made in God's image, but what does that mean? The Bible Project answers that question in this video. We are earthkeepers and creators, continuing God's work, on his behalf, in this world--developing and cultivating His good creation. The effects of sin taint this reflection, and as a result, our human work often exploits and destroys God's good creation.
We talked about the need for origin stories to understand our world--origin stories of superheroes and First Nations (Skywoman Falling) and human sin. We read through the story of the Fall in Genesis 3 and how the serpent planted in the woman's mind the seed of suspicion that God might not be entirely trustworthy. We learned about the effects of sin, like bacteria, infecting every part of the world and corrupting our relationship with God (unfaithfulness), others (exploitation), the whole creation (environmental destruction), and even our very selves (mental health). We paid particular attention to the way settlers have harmed indigenous peoples.
We learned about the background to Orange Shirt Day (thank you Phyllis!). Each of us had an oppotunity to express our take-aways of this learning by decorating our own orange shirt, which we then wore on our hike the next day.
We learned about suicide risk, the wide effects and heartbreak caused when someone ends their own life, and what to do if a friend talks about killing themselves. This was a tough subject and we may have ended with more questions than answers. You can see the handout each student received here.