Conservation Programs Manager Katie Gillespie and Director of Student and Teacher Programs Leah Melber (right) pose with students in Niger.
As our partnership with the National Museum of Niger Boubou Hama for the Community of Conservation project comes to a close, we all finally have a moment to catch our breath and look back at what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past year.
Leah Melber and Katie Gillespie (center) post with students at Niger's Park W school as part of their outreach trip for the zoo's Community of Conservation partnership.
Leah and I were lucky to experience many wonderful things during our short time in Niger, like seeing hippos in the wild and meeting staff at the National Museum of Niger Boubou Hama. For me, one of the most memorable experiences was connecting with students at Park W's primary school, which serves students in the villages surrounding the park.
Smiles bridging miles: Brooke Leonard of the American Association of Museums and Boubacar Hassane Oumarou of the National Museum of Niger with Lincoln Park Zoo's Danielle Suits.
Danielle Suits, Lincoln Park Zoo’s education administrative coordinator, recounts her experience serving as liaison to colleagues from the National Museum of Niger Boubou Hama during their visit to Chicago in April. The visit was part of the Museums and Community Collaborations Abroad (MCAA) program funded by the American Association of Museums and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Colleagues from the National Museum of Niger are currently visiting Chicago through the Community of Conservation partnership linking students in Niger with peers at Chicago’s Francis W. Parker School.
During our travels to Niger for the Community of Conservation project, we were lucky enough to visit a few amazing national parks and see some incredible African animals! One of our first stops on the trip was W National Park. A protected reserve for native plants and animals of West Africa, this park spreads over three countries: Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso.
Here I am looking through an issue of Lincoln Park Zoo magazine with a student and staff member from the museum. The pictures in the magazine offered a great way to practice our English and French skills!
When you tell people you’re going to Africa the usual response is, “Wow, that’s great! Where are you going? South Africa? Tanzania? Kenya?” As I shared with my colleagues, friends and family that I wouldn’t be visiting any of those countries but instead was headed to Niger, the responses varied from, “Why?” to “Do you mean Nigeria?” to “Where is that?”
The Chicago educators—Rachel Bergren, Maryanne Kalin-Miller (Francis W. Parker school), Katie Hawkins and Chrissy Graszer—pose with peers from Niger's W National Park
As the zoo’s Manager of Student and Teacher Programs, I oversee student research projects and supporting activities for our exciting Community of Conservation project. A partnership with the National Museum of Niger Boubou Hama, this international effort brings together students from Niamey, Niger and Chicago’s Francis W. Parker School to learn about wildlife—and each other.
It was a great thrill and honor to receive a grant through the Museum and Community Collaborations Abroad program to work with the National Museum of Niger, Boubou Hama. We had seen the National Museum’s request for a partner back in spring and had been excited to see how, despite being more than 5,000 miles apart, we had similar interests in helping our communities better understand the wildlife around them. We were confident it would be a great partnership…and it has been!