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Approved for school visits

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 30 July, 2010 | By: David Marley

The Christian zoo accused of backing creationism

A kitemark devised to help teachers find suitable school trip destinations has been awarded to a Christian zoo accused of promoting creationism.

Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxall, near Bristol, is among the latest organisations to receive the Learning Outside the Classroom “quality badge”, developed by the last Government.

The zoo already runs sessions for more than 15,000 pupils a year from key stage 1 to A-level.

But it has attracted controversy for its views on evolution and creation, arguing that science has tried to “remove any notion of God from our understanding of life”.

“This is unjustified and we look to put the case for a Creator across to those who wish to investigate,” the zoo’s website says.

It argues that while evolution has taken place, it cannot explain the origins of life. Elsewhere, the website challenges fossil evidence and quotes widely from the Bible.

The quality badge is designed to help teachers plan trips. Organisations have to demonstrate that they offer high-quality learning experiences and manage risk effectively.

James Gray, education officer at the British Humanist Association (BHA), criticised the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC), the educational charity that awards the badges, for its decision.

“It is entirely inappropriate that it should support an establishment that advances creationism and seeks to discredit a wide variety of established scientific facts that challenge their religious views,” said Mr Gray.

“Teachers and parents look to the council for assurance that children will experience high-quality educational visits that meet the relevant government guidelines. Awarding this zoo a quality badge risks exposing hundreds of children to anti-scientific dogma.”

The argument is the latest instalment in a long-running debate about the place of religion in science and what pupils should be taught about conflicting views.

But a zoo spokesman strongly denied that its religious beliefs form any part of its educational sessions.

“Our religious element is not forced on or taught to children in workshops, and thus we believe the BHA are misguided in their criticism,” he said.

“We do not teach religious ideology in school workshops; these are purely based on accepted national curriculum teaching.”

He said that the zoo accepts evolution as scientific fact, but looks to “open up discussion as to the extent of evolution and whether indeed everything can be traced back into a singular ancestral tree of life”.

He denied that the organisation subscribed to a concept of creationism that excludes the role of evolution. He added that the sessions for pupils focus on biology, covering topics such as life cycles and habitats.

The Learning Outside the Classroom campaign was developed by the previous Government after the Commons education select committee investigated school trips in 2005.

The CLOtC, which was set up in April 2009, has awarded about 670 quality badges and counts Mick Brookes, general secretary of heads’ union the NAHT, among its trustees.

Elaine Skates, its deputy chief executive, said that all places are carefully assessed before approval.

“We believe that an important aim of learning outside the classroom is allowing children and young people access to education that challenges assumptions and allows them to experience a range of viewpoints,” she said.

  • Original headline: Approved for school visits: the Christian zoo accused of backing creationism

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Comment (13)

  • Jesus is Lord - God created the heaven and earth. EVOLUTION is a myth.WAKE UP ENGLAND- REPENT AND TURN BACK TO GOD !!

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    31 July, 2010


  • I would be more concerned about the lack of animal ethics that the zoo farm are accused of by the BBC, than the fact that they are creationists. A good teacher can use the zoo as an example of why science ideas are called THEORIES and are not always facts.

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    31 July, 2010


  • Why do we in this "Christian" country get so upset by someone putting across Christian views. I applaud Noah Ark Farm for daring to say that evolution is actually only a theory, not fact, as is widely reported. If people don't like the Christian message then don't go but I for one am not afraid of my pupils seeing that there is more than one theory. Surely, as teachers, we should be leading our children to make judgements for themselves and not making them agree with all of our views.

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    31 July, 2010


  • The zoo's website clearly promotes a creationist view at odds with normal scientific standards of enquiry.
    Their education packages seem (as advertised) to comply with scientific standards.
    How can we trust educators who don't seem to believe in what they (claim to be) teaching?

    Their particular belief in a literal understanding of the Flood seems bizarre and at odds with any mainstrream historical, scientific and religious traditions...

    @kryvo: evolution is a theory, yes. So is gravity. They are scientific theories. Creation is a theory, as is justification by faith, and the immaculate conception. The latter are religious theories. Different ballparks!!!

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    1 August, 2010

    poor tom

  • This is the Zoo farm that:

    Shows a donkey to children and explains the cross on its back is a result of carrying Jesus to the cross

    Has a poster up that says all men on earth are either brown, white, or yellow, and are descended from Noah's brown, white and yellow sons.

    Has a poster up that dispute the age of the Earth, saying it is only one hundred thousand years old rather than 4.54 billion years old.

    Has a poster up that says man is not an ape, and nor was he descended from apes.

    Has this very bizarre poster that explains the differences between man and apes (but man IS an ape):

    Was expelled from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums for bringing the association into disrepute

    Breached DEFRA rules by burying a tiger carcass in the zoo grounds

    Chopped off the head and paws of a tiger that had died, and kept the head in a freezer on the farm, next to someone's frozen food.

    All of the above make the place entirely unsuitable for school trips, but apart from that, it is a really boring place to go to compared to the excellent Bristol Zoo only 20 minutes away.

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    2 August, 2010


  • Sideshow & kryvo:

    I really hope you two aren't teachers. Having the chutzpah to scribble your ignorant twaddle in an internet forum is one thing, lying to kids and exposing them faulty reasoning from a position of authority is another.

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    2 August, 2010


  • Only a theory? I really hope you never set foot in a classroom let alone get the chance to poison children with your BS.
    A theory is the highest level of "proof" than can be achieved in science.
    Do not confuse theory with hypothesis or 'something I just pulled out of my ass'.

    Oh dear, just looked at sideshow's profile...he teaches science :( How can you teach a subject without understanding the core methodology behind it? :(

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    6 August, 2010


  • I find it extremely worrying that a number of people (please let them not be teachers- please!) taking part commenting on a TES article are not entirely against such an abhorrent idea as this embarrassing zoo having government approval. I'm composing a letter to my MP to ask that they remove this Blairite idiocy.

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    6 August, 2010


  • Again I say why are you all so worried about exposing children to christian views?

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    6 August, 2010


  • Because religious views, Christian or otherwise, have no place in a science classroom -- or on an out-of-class trip when it is organised by the school.

    People are worried for the same reason they would be worried about pupils being taught alchemy as if it was a viable alternative to chemistry, astrology as if it was a viable alternative to astronomy, or magic as if it was a viable alternative to physics.

    This isn't about exposure to Christian views (especially as something like 90% of Christian denominations dismiss Creationism for the nonsense it is), it's about exposure to fundamentally incorrect beliefs that seek to undermine what the curriculum demands be taught about science; critical thinking, evidence-based reason and the scientific method.

    If you really are a science teacher I find it terrifying that you do not know the distinction between the scientific and lay definitions of theory and fact.

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    9 August, 2010


  • "The theory of evolution lies at the heart of biology and should be taught at key stage 4 and in GCE advanced level biology. Creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories and do not form part of the science National Curriculum or the GCSE and GCE A level subject criteria." - that's the official government guidelines.
    So whatever one's personal beliefs, it is very clearly not appropriate to give an educational "award" to an organisation that includes signs, presented as fact (*not* as 'debate') that state: "ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD COME FROM NOAH'S SONS SHEM, HAM, JAPHETH. Caucasian from Japhet, Semitic from Shem, and Negroid/Mongoloid/Redskin from Ham", and that man is clearly not related to apes, since, among other things "there is added fat on the breasts and buttocks for beauty".
    Bush's views are contrary to every scientific, religious, and even creationist orthodoxy.
    The Council's statement that it checks venues thoroughly is misleading - except for health and safety checks where required, no visits are carried out by them before giving an "award". Organisations simply fill in a questionnaire. The Council's response - "We believe that an important aim of learning outside the classroom is allowing children and young people access to education that challenges assumptions and allows them to experience a range of viewpoints" is surprising and ludicrous on many levels. It admits children will be exposed to such views, invalidating Bush's assurances that visits are limited to the curriculum. It also calls the entire foundation of modern biology and geology "assumptions" – which is not something anyone with the least understanding of how science works could believe.
    I'd encourage every concerned parent and teacher to contact the council to express any displeasure. [ ] I've also put together a Facebook group []. Do join if you're interested.

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    13 August, 2010


  • There is far too much naivety in this world - the creation according to genesis is never a scientific explanation of the world, since it cannot conform to scientific requirements of being observable or repeatable. Creation is a historical account of how God created this world from nothing, how he spoke and it was done. Evolution is a "scientific theory" that does not conform to scientific requirements and is in itself a religion based on the "wisdom and speculation" of man. STOP trying to force feed the unprovable and false "science" of evolution as fact, it is not!
    With regard to the Christian zoo, I haven't been, but as long as it sticks closely to the Word of God, I fully support its work.

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    6 January, 2012


  • I guess that this is the best alternative and we should do it like you said in this article. <a href="">best man speeches</a>

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    12 February, 2013


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