Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm responds to British Humanists and Prof. Alice Roberts
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol was recently re-awarded a ‘Quality Badge’ from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom in recognition of our education provision for visiting schools. This week the British Humanist Association, in conjunction with Professor Alice Roberts of Birmingham University, has criticised the decision and claimed that we teach creationism or pseudo-science to school children during their visit. Noah’s Ark has a full national-curriculum led Education Programme for schools from KS1 to A Level which provides workshops, outreach sessions and teaching resources for schools.
As a popular tourist attraction, we welcome 170,000 visitors a year including 15,000 school children on organised field trips from Bristol, Somerset and south Wales. Religious education, discussion of Christian views or creation is not part of our educational package for schools unless specifically requested by teachers and parents. The Quality Badge is a nationally-recognised benchmark that brings together all existing safety and quality badges into one easily identifiable mark, demonstrating the institution holding it has met several stringent indicators for education. The Quality Badge from the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) scheme celebrates the excellent education visiting school groups receive at the Wraxall zoo.
The LOtC Manifesto was launched in 2006 and aims to improve student achievement by championing an experience-based approach to learning. There appears to be some deliberate misrepresentation of Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm by Prof. Alice Roberts and the BHA, implying the zoo teaches creationism and pseudo-science to school children as part of their organised visit. This is simply not the case. Prof. Roberts has not seen or been part of a school visit to Noah’s Ark and has not spoken to our Education Officers about the content of their workshops or teaching, although she was invited for an official visit by Directors last year and did not respond. This raises serious questions about the validity of her comments.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is a privately owned park run by Christian proprietors which provides some displays and information boards at the zoo discussing creation, evolution, recolonisation theory and the biblical story of Noah and the Ark. These are in areas of the zoo where interested visitors may choose to read them if they wish to and are designed to encourage people to consider whether there is evidence for a Creator in a natural world clearly shaped by evolution.
We encourage people to consider the different views and the scientific theories that shape our thinking and reach their own conclusions. The ‘Noah’s Ark’ theme at the zoo has novel value for families enjoying our animal park and we tie in a light Christian message for visitors to explore should they wish as part of their day out. We have had no complaints from visiting schools, indeed much the opposite: glowing reports from teachers after a visit are common and we have seen a significant yearly increase in school group bookings.
We host a wide range of schools and age groups, including state, private, atheist groups and faith schools. Noah’s Ark has won awards at national and regional level, including ‘Access for All’ in the Bristol Tourism and Hospitality Awards in recognition of our provision for people of all ages, gender, physical health and beliefs. The level of animosity directed at Noah’s Ark by followers of Prof. Roberts and the BHA based on the confusing information they have given out is unfair for staff and Keepers who work tirelessly to provide a safe, enjoyable and educational day out for visitors of all beliefs and none. We thank the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom for their balanced and fair response to the comments received.