Celebrating Science

A big part of Lincoln Park Zoo’s mission is connecting kids with science. But that exchange can go both ways, as I saw this week at the zoo’s ninth annual Science Celebration.

Students share their research projects with Vice President of Conservation & Science Lisa Faust, Ph.D.

Students share their research projects with Vice President of Conservation & Science Lisa Faust, Ph.D.

The culmination of nine months of research with our Young Researchers Collaborative, the Science Celebration shared plenty of fascinating projects on animal behavior. The students harnessed creative props, presentations and poster board to compare and contrast everything from sand cats to squirrels, domestic dogs to servals.

Hosted by the Women’s Board of Lincoln Park Zoo, the event gathered nearly 200 middle schoolers from 11 schools throughout the city. All the kids spent the school year learning hands-on scientific research methods from zoo educators. This is no one-time exchange. It includes four classroom visits, two trips to the zoo, two professional development workshops for teachers and Tuesday’s wrap-up at Café Brauer.

We added a new wrinkle this year, giving three student groups the opportunity to present their research to the group, much as professional scientists do. They held forth on work analyzing activity patterns in gorillas, guinea pigs, masked lovebirds, squirrels and more, honing their public-speaking skills and getting recognition for work well done.

One of the nearly 200 attendees shares her project.

One of the nearly 200 attendees shares her project.

In addition to presenting their work—and answering questions from curious visitors—the young scientists also heard from one of the zoo’s hardier researchers. Anna Czupryna, a research coordinator in the Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology, spends four months each year in Africa, studying domestic dogs in the area around Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.

Anna offered inspiration to these young scientists…and plenty of fun stories from the field. It was a treat to have her reach out to the next generation. Thanks also to the Women’s Board, Polk Bros. Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase and Co., Bank of America Foundation, UBS and the Albert Pick Jr. Fund for supporting this special event.

Of course, the Science Celebration isn’t the only festivity taking place this week. On Saturday, the Main Mall will conjure up ancient Rome as it hosts the Auxiliary Board’s main fundraiser, Zoo-ologie 2013: Sumus Animalia. I’m looking forward to a fun evening of drinks, dining and dancing. But the best part is that all proceeds will help keep the zoo free and open 365 days a year. I hope you can join us.

Kevin Bell

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