UPDATE (January 7): Looking a little more at the website, I see that by clicking on the oval for “Home School Classes” on this page, you can read this:
At The Center of Discovery, your child will receive top qualityscience, journalism, and art and drama classes. We offer science classes in a variety of multi-age groupings from kindergarten through eighth grade. Our science curriculum is based on Montana Standards and is written from a biblical perspective. We offer a journalism class for seventh through twelfth grade students, and our art and drama classes are offered for all ages. (emphasis mine)
Again, in some places on the website it states that the science curriculum is based on Montana Standards whereas other places it is “loosely based.” Why is this statement buried within the website and not somewhere more visible, such as the specific page for home school classes or the center’s mission statement?
Last year I became aware of the new Center of Discovery in Bozeman, Montana (where I go to school) through their participation in the Sweet Pea Parade.
The Center of Discovery is a science education organization focusing on after school, home school, and summer camp programs. According to its mission statement, the center desires to:
Provide a brain-compatible learning environment for all students in Bozeman; Provide for students schooled at home science classes that meet Montana Standards and apply to real world experiences; Provide after school clubs that educate, inspire, and entertain all students; Provide summer programs spanning the curricular areas which keep student skills sharp and turn kids on to learning; Produce moral citizens who will become the leaders of tomorrow for our great nation.
The human brain is constantly learning; Brain-compatible instruction facilitates learning more effectively and with higher retention; Real life and real world experiences are essential to bridging the gap from knowledge to application; The success of America is rooted in the education of our children; the better that education, the greater our nation; Ignoring morality in education is equivalent to instilling immorality.
When I first visited the website, I noticed a few interesting things. The bio for the educator, Gus Nollmeyer, shared aspects of his religious life, and the website noted that the curriculum is “loosely based” (see here) on Montana State Standards for science education (note that the mission statement said “Provide for students schooled at home science classes that meet Montana Standards,” emphasis mine). I sent an email to Nollmeyer, and his response:
Yes, I am a bible believing Christian and believe in a literal 6 day creation. I will share that as the topic arises, but I am not opening a private Christian school. This means that our focus is on science, history, technology, and other topics as we study them. I have taught for the past ten years in public schools in Montana and Alaska and plan to continue to teach in the same manner (while being more open to discussions with the kids about my faith). When the website says that the curriculum is based on the Montana State Standards it means just that “based on” I will not be teaching evolution.
When I read your bio, I immediately thought, this is a creationist organization. Yet nothing in the text of the website led to that interpretation, except for a few hints like “Each class has a three year cycle of curriculum loosely based on Montana State Standards” and “The earth is a unique planet; we will be amazed as we uncover how perfect the habitat is here on planet Earth!” (which seems to suggest the idea that Earth was designed for life, rather than that life evolved in response to the conditions on Earth). I used the Google search bar on the website using “creation” and saw this:
Home School Classes
At The Center of Discovery we seek to show each child God’s love through the exploration of His creation. Science Classes for Home School Students …
Yet if you actually go to that link (page 011 – this link no longer works, as the website has been restructured since contacting Nollmeyer), that line does not exist, which suggests to me that the search is showing older text that has since been removed. I searched “God” and saw this:
Home School Classes
God created this earth and all that is in it. He gave us the capability to … At The Center of Discovery we seek to show each child God’s love through the …
Yet that line does not really exist on that page.
I want to suggest that your website should be more upfront with the religious/creationist program you offer. It could be misleading to parents if they go to sign their child/ren up for a class or something else and find out that it is not something they were seeking. I was excited to see another science-based educational organization in Bozeman [which is home to MOR and MOSS], but am saddened that it is not one I will be trying out with my son. That is fine. To each his own. But I am afraid that your website is too vague about the principles instilled in your program.
Those paragraphs have just been replaced with the more updated info on the curriculum itself. I did not intentionally remove them–never would. I’ll look into it and see how I can be clear. At the top of the page it says in a big bold box, “Science from a biblical perspective”. However, that said, the reason I am not “pushing” that side in the curriculum is because . . . I’m not. As I said, I am not opening a faith based organization or private Christian school. Yet, your point is well taken and I appreciate the concern. I do want people to understand that I am a bible believing Christian. I’ll look into it.
The website has been changed since I first saw this information on it. Notably, the Google Search tool is no longer on the website, nor is the line “Science from a biblical perspective.” If this is the approach to teaching science for the CoD, should that not be reflected in the mission statement? (Nollmeyer’s bio remains on the website.)
Personally, it is a little scary that in emails to me Nollmeyer shares that 1) he will teach about creationist ideas when they come up, 2) is willing to share his faith with students, and 3) notes the biblical perspective line on his website, but that website (now lacking that line) does not give any direct sense of the approach his curriculum is taking. If I were to send my child to a program at the Center of Discovery and found out this information after the fact, I would be less than pleased.