You might not know it yet, but last year, a pilot program was introduced here at the Oakland Zoo that promises to “usher the Zoo into the 21st Century.” In a three-year sponsored partnership in collaboration with University of Phoenix, the Oakland Zoo recently announced the launch of the ZooSchool Explorer’s Club, an educational experience that combines the virtual world of the internet with the real world of the Zoo. As part of the new Life Science and Conservation Initiative, this program marks the first time that the prestigious University of Phoenix has sought to serve students in the elementary grade levels.
University of Phoenix isn’t your average institution of higher learning. Created in 1976 by Cambridge-educated
economist and professor, Dr. John Sperling, the University aspired to a novel goal: to cater specifically to working students by offering a variety of services largely unavailable at the time. These included such student-friendly conveniences as evening classes, flexible scheduling, continuous enrollment, a digital library and, most notably, online classes. Today, with 20 years of experience in online education, University of Phoenix has risen from modest beginnings to become the largest private university in North America, with 200 campuses nationwide, as well as online services in most countries of the world.
Now, as it partners with the Oakland Zoo, University of Phoenix enters into a new era with the Explorer’s Club, educating and inspiring school students from grades one through five.
The Explorer’s Club was created to improve the experience of school visitors, to address the needs of the Zoo in terms of animal treatment, and to foster conservation, community service and activism. The program is structured around a trio of elements: the Oakland Zoo’s CA Science Standards-based ZooSchool curriculum, a fun and informative Passport pamphlet for Zoo visitors to use on self-guided tours, and an exciting interactive website with supporting activities correlated to the in-class curriculum. By facilitating curriculum online, the program can promote science literacy for those who can’t come to the Zoo in person.
The Explorer’s Club was designed, ultimately, to serve an extensive and diverse audience of teachers and students. Toward this goal, the Oakland Zoo’s Zoo-To-Community scholarship program benefits from University of Phoenix support with bus transportation, Zoo admission, and educational programs for Oakland Unified School District and West Contra Costa Unified School District Title One schools.
The Explorer’s Club website is now up and running. Simplified reservation procedures, descriptive programming, along with supplemental activities, serve as the foundation for an outstanding experience. At this time, grades one, three, and five offer fun interactive learning opportunities with an emphasis on conservation. A kindergarten module is in development, as that grade has been re-implemented after a yearlong hiatus. The Passport is also ready to go, having been put together by the Oakland Zoo’s Marketing Department. Designed with the same dimensions of a real passport, it contains several fun activities that inspire investigative learning and drawing, as well as guidelines for your Zoo safari and a complete map of the Oakland Zoo.
The Explorer’s Club launched officially on November 15. You can find it on the Oakland Zoo website at www.oaklandzoo.org by clicking on “Education” and then “Featured Programs.” So don’t miss out on the fun and learning. Bring your class to the Oakland Zoo and experience your own self-guided safari with the new Explorers’ Club!