by Bethany Spencer
Science teacher Audra Faber has made a few major changes to her biology curriculum this year. One such change is the addition of the “Face of Cancer” project. “I am being trained in Teaching for Transformation, and this project is a product of that training,” said Faber. One of her goals in creating this project is that students will grow in compassion and develop empathy for families and individuals suffering from cancer.
Sophomore biology students were assigned to interview a relative or acquaintance about their experience with cancer. After the interview they were asked to illustrate key parts of the interviewee’s journey by writing and drawing on a mask. This became their “Face of Cancer.”
Many students chose to use colors to symbolize different parts of the person’s personality and feelings. Included with each mask was a paragraph explaining the words and drawings the student had used.
With these steps of the project complete, Faber assigned another segment: a personal reflection. In only a few paragraphs students summarized what they learned and what impact the interview left in their minds.
Here are a few examples of the project:
Abigail Gosselink’s Reflection:
I would name my mask the Face of a Child. I name it this because not many children go through cancer, but those that do experience cancer in a much different way than an adult. Children cannot understand how and why it all works, so they go through cancer in a different way. Children with cancer can easily have a good day, or a bad day, because they go through things easier and more flexible. But children with cancer experience a lot more on the inside too, and have many fears and can get frustrated a lot easier. They don’t always find a way to see the good in things which can cause them to give up easier.
David Bernhagen’s Reflection:
I would name my face the “Face of Hope.” He never doubted God or his plans which really struck me a lot. Cancer can kill and yet he was positive and trusting. For me it would be hard to not blame God for this and lose hope. I found it difficult when he talked about being away from his family. It was rewarding when he talked about the victory of his fight with cancer. I know now that to be able to go through difficult circumstances faith in God is needed. I can’t just start praying when things get hard. I need to be doing that right now. I also need to be accepting of help which is humbling. No man is to healthy to become a victim of cancer or sin. It is a good reminder to read my Bible, and really seek a deep relationship with my creator.
Halie Vermillion’s Reflection:
This project has impacted me in many ways, but one big one would have to be the fact that cancer is taken so lightly in society it seems like. It is so easy to find someone who has had cancer to interview and that is scary because cancer is no small thing. As my family has experienced, cancer can bring death and loss. As Christians we can look forward to meeting our loved ones again, but we are all humans, so while we are still living on earth we still experience hurt and sadness from death. This project was difficult because it opened my eyes to the fact that people are very good at putting on masks while going through hard times, because I didn’t realize all that my uncle went through when his wife had cancer. This project was rewarding because it really helped me grow closer to my uncle and learn more about my aunt and even our walks with God. The project was enlightening because it gave me a new look at a “dawn” like with the quote on the top of my mask meaning that every morning God gives us is a new dawn, but that never means we will forget the heartache of loss. This project was meaningful because it allowed me to take time out of my schedule and just have a deep conversation with family that I normally wouldn’t have done. Finally my biggest takeaways were that God is willing to let us lose the daily battles because he knows he has won in the end, and second was how my aunt now helps others accept death from her research in the Bible through her own death and that is something that no lukewarm Christian could ever dream of doing.