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Genesis Christian Academy
The Genesis Institute is comprised of Genesis Christian Academy (K-12), and Steward College, a junior college that will open in September 2019, using a Sustainability Studies Curriculum.
Genesis Christian Academy (GCA) is a year-round elementary through high school international Christian day and boarding academy founded in 1995 and operated by Gina Tillman-Young and Edward Young. For 21 years, our school has quietly, consistently educated young people from all over the world. We have equipped children—both gifted and those whom traditional schools have failed—with academic skills to compete and excel at the college level.
The Genesis Sustainability Studies Curriculum engages learners in an analytical process that begins with self-discovery and generates outward to encompass societal, global and environmental issues. Our teaching equips learners with the skills and knowledge to identify plausible solutions to problems, then challenges them to implement these solutions first on a personal level, through lifestyle choices.
Genesis alumni have graduated from and are matriculating in top colleges and universities in the US, Great Britain, the Caribbean and France. Although our graduates have pursued diverse professions, their obedience to God and devotion to serve humankind in seemingly small and large ways is the common bond that students and alumni of Genesis Christian Academy share.
We have introduced our students to music and art from around the world; we have created opportunities for our students to travel domestically and abroad. We have recruited accomplished mentors from all professions to inspire creativity, gentle boldness and excellence in our students. We have encouraged our students to train hard and compete in national and international sports competitions, including the Junior Olympics. Most importantly, we have challenged our students to discover and embrace the love of God, and to approach the world with a belief that the only possible responses to His love are service, joy, energy, compassion and the pursuit of justice and equality for all people.
For the last few years, we have operated as a small international boarding academy while developing our school’s land here in Texas into a ranch. While digging postholes and milking cows, we learned how to create a teaching curriculum that promotes sustainability, encourages commitment to social justice and provides the practical skills to live a self-sufficient life, surrendered to God.
Although there are still physical facilities to complete and faculty, staff and students to recruit, we are ready to begin the difficult, yet gratifying work of changing lives. As we have labored to build academic buildings, student residences, facilities for our animals and gardens, this ranch has been our classroom. As is the case in every aspect of life, we had to be learners first, in order to be good teachers later. Through trial and error, ignorance and Holy Spirit intervention, we have intellectual and experiential knowledge of the components of self-sufficiency and sustainability.
From the day we purchased this ranch, it has been open to consultants, ministry colleagues, missionaries and volunteers from all over the world. More than 100 people have worked and lived here over the last decade. We have access to information, experts, and qualified teachers. We have created a curriculum that informs each student’s understanding of his role as an agent of change under the directorship of God.
Sustainability Studies—Foundations and Teaching Methodology
Genesis Sustainability Studies curriculum teaches students to identify social and ecological challenges and to propose, test and implement sustainable solutions. Our curriculum uses the Bible as its primary reference and authority. It encourages understanding of and obedience to God, the Creator of this Earth we call home. It is designed to awaken a love for all people; an enlightened, culturally-transcendent appreciation for diverse cultures; and head-and-heart recognition of the equality and right to self-determination of all people.
Our unique Sustainability Studies curriculum is based on biblical principles, and tailored to the opportunities for project-based learning available through our two campuses and their surrounding communities. Our Sustainability Studies curriculum requires students to evaluate every aspect of human life, the life of all species, and the health of our planet in the context of biblical principles.
Orientation to Sustainability (OS) is the required first course for matriculants at every grade level. Students study the book of Genesis to determine who God is, why we were created, and what our role is in the universe. Problem-based study units are designed to help students critically engage in identifying problems and pose sustainable solutions -- tackling issues on a local and global scale. OS is a seminal course that uses the Bible, logic, debate, arts, and play to prepare each student for the extensive research, writing, analysis, physical labor and joy of discovery that lies ahead.
The fundamental fact of existence is [our] trust in God, [our] faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. (Hebrews 11:1, MSG)
There are two diametrically opposed motivations for achieving excellence in education:
One believes, “The world is broken; I want to fix it”; or, “the world is wonderful, I want to fit in.”
We believe the world is broken. Without a Hebrews 11 “trust in God...faith”, proclaiming the world to be broken can lead to a sense of overwhelming despair. But for the student who finds his identity in serving, the world is a playground s/he enjoys the privilege of having been chosen to play on God’s team, the winning team:
“...you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”
(1 Peter 2:9, 10 MSG)
As with any sport or challenge, being a top-notch player requires mastery of knowledge and repeated practice of its application. From kindergarten through college our curriculum and approach to teaching affirms and re-affirms each student’s lofty purpose, as well as the fact that s/he has been chosen by God, not based on merit, but by Grace alone:
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”(John 3:16, MSG)
Curriculum and Methodology
Our school uses a project-based approach to learning. Every course has a parallel project component to accompany the academic component. Students hold mock trials, construct communities, re-interpret artistic works, write and publish novellas, enter national competitions and apply science and math principles to invention and construction. We believe that a sustainable education must provide each student the opportunity—in groups and individually— to both enjoy success and gracefully learn from failure while maintianing self esteem.
By the time s/he graduates high school or college, each Genesis student can:
+ Research, analyze, write and orally expound on any topic presented
+ Write, produce, film and edit a video
+ Explain principles of physics and chemistry as applied to agriculture, food science and alternative energy
+ Write and converse in at least one foreign language
+ Embrace music as a second language; understand music theory, and play a musical instrument
+ Author a novella
+ Teach younger children
+ Lead a Bible study
+ Create a Business Plan
+ Execute managerial duties in a business setting
+ Hand-milk a cow
+ Ride a horse and drive a cart
+ Operate heavy equipment
+ Prepare an organic meal from harvest to table
+ Build a basic structure using hand or power tools
+ Perform basic maintenance and repair on gas and diesel engines
+ Design, construct and operate an aquaponics system
+ Build wind, steam and solar power generators
Although we have an established procedure for recruitment and admissions, prayer is the primary selection tool through which Genesis students are selected. We believe that God has already chosen the students who will come to our school, and has placed in them a measure of excitement about every minute of every day. These are young people whose daily attitudes, rather than episodic victories, reflect the scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
We push our students to absorb amazing amounts of information, adopt understandable accents, express themselves well in written form, and take notice and think deeply about the world around them. Our relationships with our students are classically tutorial. Students spend a significant part of their day working, playing, and eating alongside their teachers. The conversation, -- whether whimsical or serious -- always inspires critical thinking, synthesis, recall, and imagination. Because we are in an educational culture where language provides access to the expression of everything, including humor, our ESL students develop language fluency with phenomenal speed.
Almost all students immediately embrace a new identity as keepers of the planet according to God’s law. Learning to work hard and well: to build, cook, invent and repair, heightens students’ awareness of their own potential. Praise and acknowledgement, often tendered, is the result of tangible accomplishment, rather than unfulfilled effort.
All of our students participate in our Saturday Open House that brings visitors from all over the world. Students serve as ranch guides, supervise demontstrations, and pray for the guests at their tables in our restaurant. This responsibility encourages each student to be involved and invested in the the school. It is not unusual to encounter a group of students during free time discussing improved efficiency in the kitchen or new packaging for a product. Our students work because they care. This spirit of collective caring can’t be forced, feigned or learned in a textbook. It is preparation for ministry and life in community, where each person trusts God to take care of their needs as s/he channels full energies into kingdom building.
Students work with fun and laughter. We believe that the development of a good sense of humor and spontaneous, self-effacing wit is a mark of intelligence. Student daily life is characterized by a work-hard, play-hard approach to living. Above all, we inspire our students to strive for excellence, yet never allow the approval of others to become the basis of their identities.
Students at Genesis have a sense of being chosen, not because they deserve it, but because of God’s favor and his plan for their lives. The atmosphere of our campus is one in which there is the sense of a group of young people being groomed for greatness. In 20 years, we have had amazingly few serious discipline issues. A learning atmosphere of honesty and transparency, and routine reinforcement of each student’s creative, intellectual and spiritual potential motivates our students to respect and obey rules and authority.
Food is a major part of our curriculum, and an even larger part of campus culture. It would not be surprising if, two years from now, based on student decision a giant carrot, beet or sweet potato is chosen to be our junior college school mascot!
Our approach to teaching about food is based on the premise that today’s standard American diet of highly-processed, genetically engineered, fructose laden, hydrogenated fat-based food contributes to obesity, ADD/HD, childhood onset of Type2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Our solution to this problem focuses on making intentional choices, learning how to grow food, learning how to cook healthy food, and sharing these solutions with others.
Students engage in academic examination of food from all angles: food ethics, the role of food in history, politics, health, art, technology development, the economy, world religions, literature and, of course, nutrition. On the college level students engage in anthropological food studies, tracing the role of salt though history, the power of sugar in modern history and the significance of the banana in globalization, foreign labor movements, transportation and genetic engineering.
In addition to examining food from an academic perspective, every student at Genesis must learn to cook. This includes developing knife skills, learning how to make cheese and bread, learning how to harvest produce from the garden for a meal, planning plantings and menus and serving in our weekend café.
Food is examined in light of biblical teachings. The notion of our bodies being our temples creates a framework for decision-making in terms of food choices. The Bible also mandates that we feed the hungry, which causes us to ask, why are they hungry? What should we feed them?
Finally, food is the object of shared passion amongst faculty, staff and students. Several original recipes have come out of our school kitchen. Everyone participates in the feeding of ranch visitors and running our weekend café. Students have written about the ways in which God uses food to reunite friends and families, to heal the body, and to remind us, through bread and wine, of Christ’s sustainable gift for us. It stands to reason that every student educated under a Christian Sustainability Studies curriculum would have to cook well and enjoy using food to share love. Jesus shared his love through feeding multitudes (John 6:5-11 MSG). He even served food that He had prepared all by himself! (John 21:7-9 MSG).
Although Jesus was apparently a great cook, He was indisputably the best storyteller. Genesis students must learn to tell a story and tell it well using a variety of delivery systems, including the spoken word, music, art, nonfiction and fiction writing and—most importantly—film. Film is a medium that can reach, inform, inspire and enlighten the whole world young and old, educated or not, modern or traditional. Students learn every aspect of filmmaking: camera, sound, lighting, scriptwriting, editing, and promotion and distribution of their films. Over the course of their studies, they will produce several short films of various genres, and one full-length film. They will hold on-campus film festivals, but also create opportunities to screen their work before audiences at local universities, community organizations, public schools and church groups. Examples of student work can be viewed on our website YouTube infomercials: www.moojesus.com (the website was created by our fifth graders).
On both the pre-college and college levels, teaching students how to work, both academically and physically is a major part of our teaching methodology. We believe this prepares our students to engage in the physical tasks necessary to build a ministry, create a village, or design an international relief agency.
From elementary grades up, students not only do the work; they write about their work, submit ideas to improve efficiency, are responsible for creating an environment where work is fun (music, for example) and learn how to multitask by listening to books on tape, testing each other or memorizing information while working. Working to take care of the ranch naturally leads to the use of math, logic, organizational, communication and teamwork skills. It also naturally leads to self-governing regarding waste. A seven-year old is aware of the unit cost of plastic gloves and may, of her own volition, propose a way to use less; a nine-year old knows the dilution rate of a cleaning agent, and can express this proportionally, fractionally and in terms of percentage.
Students have the experience of managing work teams that are accountable for completion of tasks in specific time frames. They learn how to engage in self-criticism, as well as how to respectfully give and receive criticism to and from each other. In the context of ranch work, some students will have the experience of “being fired”, being removed for inefficient or unsafe performance of duties. On upper grade levels, students make decisions about products that are used based on prices, environmental safety and other factors. They negotiate in writing and by phone with companies for donations and discounts.
On the college level, students learn every aspect of entrepreneurship through ranch businesses: creating new products, manufacturing, procurements, sourcing suppliers, hiring and managing student and adult employees, soliciting donations and handling revenues and payroll.
Our students’ work experiences qualify them to participate intelligently in helping to make decisions about school and ranch. Even our elementary students are included in many meetings where philosophical, policy and procedural issues are discussed. Through observing the interaction amongst faculty and administration, and having opportunities to raise issues and propose solutions, they develop a sophisticated understanding of group dynamics and learn how to communicate effectively in a professional milieu.
Learning to do physical labor and developing practical skills has tremendous benefits. Students learn to operate under deadlines, work hard and succeed or fail without internalizing stress. They learn how to admit mistakes, learn from them, and face a new day with a resolve to achieve their best. They learn how to motivate each other, communicate effectively to supervisors, colleagues, and supervisees. Most importantly they have the security and confidence to make choices about their future, knowing that as “tentmakers” they are free to go anywhere and do anything, equipped with practical skills that are universally marketable.
Working on the school ranch inevitably leads students to feel a sense of ownership and concern about their community. This reinforces their academic training to take ownership and care about society and the planet. Education is not simply presenting students with the fruits of labor, but teaching them to understand the roots of labor.
In a school environment as active as Genesis, free time doesn’t just happen. Specific time must be set aside for play. Our class and work schedule runs from Tuesday to Friday. Most Saturdays are spent hosting visitors on the ranch, and many Sundays involve worship services involving significant student involvement. Accordingly, Mondays are designated as “Still”. Meals and other essential activities are simply organized. Students are encouraged to get extra rest and spend time as they wish. Students, faculty and staff play basketball, soccer, Frisbee, football, ride horses, swim, hold tubing races, work on their arts projects, or read, nap or just wander around the ranch. We have several horses and conduct supervised trail rides. Group recreational activities are usually scheduled for the afternoon. Many students use “Still” to work on musical arrangements or practice specific skills. Although “Still” is for students and faculty, it is not unusual for a student to request an extra music lesson, or a review of a draft on this day and find that teachers willingly comply. We believe that preparation for service and leadership requires learning how to stop, be still and relax with family and friends. Some of the best songs are written and the strongest relationships are forged when we are “Still”.
The history of human behavior as chronicled in the Old Testament makes it clear that rules cannot control the behavior of people. Our twenty years of conducting Genesis Christian Academy has proven this principle to have even greater applicability to young people. Without a desire to be governed, rules awaken a sense of rebellion in the human spirit and a desire to defy them.
What we have found, however, is that all people, especially young people, have a desire to come together in a community that shares common values. When values are openly discussed, joyfully lived out in community, and irrefutably validated by the Bible, there is a greater likelihood that students will embrace the values not as “rules”, but as Truth, and live by these values as a matter of self-governance and obedience to God, rather than as a result of human enforcement.
We believe that it is important for young men and women to spend time together in work, play and classroom environments. Every aspect of our community’s culture emphasizes brotherhood and sisterhood amongst our students and the duty of each student not to violate this relationship in any way. This is reinforced through intensive orientation exercises. We speak openly, from a biblical perspective, about sexual immorality. Activities and discussions regarding sexual morality, flirting, and drug and alcohol use are candid and specific. Soon after their arrival, our students commit to uphold the principles of morality and decency as outlined in our student handbook. Students are given specific guidelines about how to approach counselors to share concerns regarding inappropriate behavior.
We require all of our students to dress modestly, meaning loose fitting clothes, modestly cut shorts and shirts, no exposure of undergarments, appropriate swimwear, etc. Male and female students are housed one mile apart on campus. Responsible dormitory directors, faculty and staff are sensitive to and aware of the activities of students, while maintaining an atmosphere of freedom and trust. Profanity, lewd jokes, and vulgar conversation are prohibited. Students' access to public media is limited and monitored. Watching violence, pornography, profanity, or listening to vulgar music is prohibited. Violations of these guidelines are discussed and prayed about with faculty, staff and student representatives. The result is either fulfillment of a disciplinary sanction or expulsion.
On the elementary and secondary level, Genesis Christian Academy uses standardized, goal-oriented disciplinary measures infrequently, but as necessary. Our practice of reaching out to our students and engaging them in friendly, accountable relationships means that usually a single word of caution or a stern look will diffuse the desire to break the rules. Our policies invoke the biblical principal that corporal punishment is the exclusive right of a parent, and is accordingly forbidden as a means of discipline by administrators and teachers. Formal disciplinary action is taken at the discretion of each teacher in consultation with the head, after verbal and written warnings. Punishment is commensurate with the infraction. Penalties include additional work details, denial of privileges and writing of “lines”.
ABOUT OUR Campus
Visitors from rural areas of every continent in the world routinely comment that our Texas campus reminds them of their village at home, whether “home” is Russia, Kenya or Colombia. Our ranchlands are at the confluence of four geological areas, which means there is varied topography, a variety of soils and rock and several species of wild plants and trees, all of which attract a wide range of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. We are located in a part of Texas where we experience extreme fluctuations in temperature, droughts, hurricanes and floods, conditions that are common to so many traditional communities throughout the world.
The design of the ranch, its architecture and our approach to natural care of livestock and crops all reinforce a fundamental principle of our educational philosophy—that a person with a strong knowledge base and practical skills need not be dependent on vast economic resources, but her or his own inspiration, creativity, and the skill to turn visions into reality. The ranch lifestyle provides many natural lessons in the art of simple, elegant, environmentally friendly living. Our school ranch is like an on-going chess game with innumerable dynamic components. Meeting the daily challenges of the ranch is a continuing lesson in logic and strategy. Daily ranch activity—repairing fences, caring for livestock, maintaining and repairing equipment, planting and harvesting—develops advance planning skills and the flexibility to modify plans spontaneously. The challenge of caring for our school’s ranch campus develops the ability to take responsibility for the negative or positive consequences of decisions and actions; the humility to respond to the unexpected with humor; and the sensitivity and honesty to give God credit for his divine intervention and grace.
Our Texas campus provides family-style boarding in individual homes that accommodate a maximum of eight students. Each house has a director living on-site. All houses are single gender. Some houses are age-integrated to accommodate sibling groups. Students live in beautifully refurbished homes. Each is artfully renovated with hardwood floors, custom cabinets, ceramic tile and new fixtures, most of which were donations from commercial construction projects or materials manufacturers. We believe living family-style— playing games, watching movies, sharing prayer time, keeping a whole house clean, occasionally entertaining groups from other households—is preparation for healthy lifestyles when our students are married, with their own families.
Our Texas campus is a living, developing case study in self-sufficiency. About 70 percent of the food consumed by our students, faculty and staff is grown /raised on our school ranch. Our dairy cows provide milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, whey, and other derivative products. We raise chickens for meat and eggs, beef cattle, pigs, goats, fish and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
About half of our property is forested. Accordingly, our fallen and dead wood is used as a fuel source for many of our buildings that are heated by woodstoves. The property has an independent fresh water source (5 wells), independent sewage disposal, and we have just developed a system for responsibly composting all of our own garbage.
We employ simple methods of energy conservation, and look forward to being completely off the grid by 2025. Our students participate in the research, design and decision-making involved in creating and implementing practices related to self-sufficiency. Students have the authority to request committee meetings, make presentations, author position papers and implement approved changes in ranch policies and practices. Involvement in the making and execution of ranch policy develops a sense of proprietorship of the ranch in students and allows them to learn the etiquette and dynamics of group interaction and decision-making.
Our school operates a state-licensed raw milk dairy on the Texas campus, a weekend farm-to-table organic café, a campground and cottage retreat, a t-shirt factory and is a venue for school and professional concerts and theatrical performances, retreats and other events. The property enjoys one mile of frontage on the Guadalupe River, where visitors spend time tubing, swimming, fishing and kayaking. When our students are not hosting visitors, they have unrestricted use of all of the school’s recreational facilities. They call it research.
STEWARD COLLEGE : our vision for the future
In September 2019, we will open Steward College, a junior college of Sustainability Studies. Although Genesis Christian Academy and Steward College will each maintain individual identities, the two institutions, will form Genesis Institute, a consortium of schools that use a sustainability studies curriculum.
Steward College will award Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees in Sustainable Studies.
Vernacular Architecture and Construction;
Sustainable Elementary/Secondary Education
Community Organization and Development
Christian Sustainable Studies
Social Justice Filmmaking
Sustainability and the Law
The college will serve as a feeder school to colleges of international reputation, enabling our students to impact those campuses in ways that will inspire sustainability awareness in their transfer schools.
As with GCA, the college curriculum will use the Bible as its primary source and authority. Each course will encourage an understanding of and obedience to God, the Creator of this Earth we call home. The goal of the curriculum is to instill a desire to be a life-long servant-leader and peacemaker.
We believe that two years at Steward College will shape each student’s identity, equip them with a phenomenal skill set and seal their commitment to servant-leadership. After matriculating at our junior college, students will be prepared to use their new college setting as a testing ground in which they will hone leadership skills, lead their classmates and faculty members to Christ, and develop valuable lasting relationships with their classmates, tomorrow’s leaders.
Both GCA and Steward College are year-round institutions that provide sponsored, tuition-free education to socio-economically challenged students from the US and abroad. Any student who qualifies in terms of ability, potential and desire may matriculate as a tuition-sponsored student.