Posts Tagged ‘science education’

New Captain Steering the Zoo’s Ship of Science Education

by | May 4th, 2012

Dr. Bo De Long-Cotty

Did you know that as of this past December the Oakland Zoo has a new Education Director? But you’re unlikely to meet this person on your average visit to the Zoo, so I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you something about her. Her name is Bo De Long-Cotty. Overseeing a professional staff of more than a dozen spirited individuals, Bo is responsible for shaping and guiding the science and conservation education vision of the Oakland Zoo through its many community outreach and curriculum-based science programs.  I recently had the chance to sit down with her for a most enjoyable and informative chat. I already knew much about her extensive qualifications (nearly two decades in not-for-profit fields such as health and human development, science program and curriculum development, non-formal science education—even a ten year stint as an EMT as well as earning an MA from Columbia and a PhD from UC Berkeley.) Wanting to learn what lies ahead, I asked Bo about her passions and dreams for the department.

Learning about Reptiles

I was curious how the transition to her new job was progressing. “It’s going well,” she said, adding that she finds the process fascinating. When I asked Bo what attracted her to the Oakland Zoo, she replied, “It’s a fun place, with a family atmosphere and huge opportunities for creativity in science education—in fields as diverse as art, crafts, music, drama, writing, even poetry.”  Yet it was also the timing that attracted her, as she sees the Oakland Zoo “on the verge of expanding in so many ways, especially in how we partner with schools in science education.”

I asked her what makes her a good fit for this important position here at the Oakland Zoo.  With her background in developmental psychology, Bo realizes that every child sees the world differently, based on their background, age and other factors. They also learn about the world differently.  Knowing how kids learn, play, socialize, and even develop a sense of humor aids her in structuring science programming for the department. “If I were five years old,” she queried, “what things would be important to me? What am I capable of learning?” This insight is invaluable in getting through to a youngster who may be here at the Zoo for only a short period of time, and Bo believes that everyone should leave here with something learned.

Making a Connection

Bo’s a big believer in the value of informal (fun-based) education which has been shown to reach children in ways that are often not part of formal education. Describing her approach as holistic, Bo also strives to infuse socialization into the learning environment: “Not just teaching the facts, but also promoting empathy for other living things.”

In her personal life, Bo and her husband enjoy such diverse cultural pursuits as opera, local theater, poetry slams, monster truck rallies and stock car races, even roller derby. As an avid birder, Bo truly appreciates the privilege of seeing wild animals—even if it’s something as ordinary as an opossum wandering through her back yard at home. And she wants to instill that same appreciation in everyone who visits the Zoo.

Speaking of animals, I asked Bo what her favorite was. Without hesitation, she

North American River Otter

said a river otter—one of our most popular residents here at the Zoo. “It’s their mixture of playfulness and industriousness that I admire. They’re very social but always busy working. It’s a well-balanced community.”

Well, she’s got to get back to work; another busload of eager school kids just pulled in. Come by sometime and see what’s new at the Oakland Zoo!

 

 

Flight of the Phoenix

by | January 10th, 2011

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

Donor Reception w UOP Display

UOP Display at Zoo Donor Reception

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 Passport

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.

Passport Games and Map

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!