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Lincoln Park Zoo recognized for significant achievement

Lincoln Park Zoo's Young Researchers Collaborative recognized for significant achievement

The AZA, The Association of Zoos and Aquariums announced today that Lincoln Park Zoo has been recognized for Significant Achievement in the AZA 2011 Educational Award for it's Young Researchers Collaborative

The AZA Education Award recognizes outstanding achievement in educational program design, judging programs on their ability to promote conservation knowledge, attitudes and behavior, show innovaton, and measure success.

Said Jim Maddy, AZA President and CEO, "The Lincoln Park Zoo is focused and effective at science education. This award provides well-deserved recognition for the hard-working professional educators at the zoo."

Zoos institutions play a critical role as informal science learning institutions in order to support science literacy. Studies indicate that many K-12 classroom teachers do not fully understand the true nature of the research process. Therefore LPZ created Young Researchers Collaborative, a nine-month program focused on supporting educators in making inquiry-based science a vital component of the classroom curriculum. The overall goal of the program is to promote science literacy amongst students and teachers.

The zoo's Education Department collaborated with eight Chicago public schools, focusing on grades 6th- 8th. Overall, eight teachers and approximately 800 students participated in Yound Researchers Collaborative for the 2010-2011 school year.

The program specifically focused on animal behavior studies, conducted both at the school site and at the zoo in order to teach students research skills advocated by the National Science Education Standards and the newly published Framework for K-12 Science Education. These skills include making observations, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating results. A sister website entitled EthoSearch, www.ethosearch.org, will serve as a resourse for teachers to continue ethogram studies after the completion of the program in addition to allowing students to conduct individual ethogram projects outside of school hours.

Explained Leah Melber, Ph.D., Lincoln Park Zoo's Director of Student and Teacher Programs, "Science literacy is more than just knowing the facts. Also critical is an understanding of how researchers reach their conclusions and the process of scientific inquiry. Young Researchers Collaborative is focused on helping students and teachers understand the process of research by putting them at the helm of their own investigations." Dr. Melber is also the author of the educational resourse book Informal Learning and Field Trips (2008), and co-author of Teaching Science to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Elementary Students (2011).

The Young Researchers Collaborative program comprised of two teacher professional development worshops, several zoo field trips to conduct animal observations, several visits by a zoo educator to the school site and lead explorations of the schoolyard as well as practice data analysis, and the opportunity to attend a conservation research lecture at the zoo. The final culminating event, called Science Celebration, was held at the zoo on April 28, 2011 to showcase the students work over the year, and provide them an opportunity to share their discoveries with the public. This program not only supports teachers in making quality connections between the classroom curriculum and the work of zoo researchers, but also provides students with first-hand experience as junior researchers, promoting a deeper appreciation for conservation and the environment.

Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, a historic landmark founded in 1868, is dedicated to connecting people with nature by providing a free, family-oriented wildlife experience. A leader in conservation science both globally and locally, the zoo exemplifies the highest quality animal care and educational research. The not-for-profit zoo, managed by The Lincoln Park Zoological Society, is a member-supported organization and one of the nation's only free, privately-managed zoos. For more information visit www.lpzoo.org, or call (312) 742-2000.

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