Innovators in Education
What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned at the zoo? It could be that giraffes have the same number of vertebrae as humans: seven. (Theirs are much larger, of course.) Maybe you’ve seen chimpanzees using tools at their termite mound or read how tiny red knots migrate 9,000 miles from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America every year.
Zoos exist to share these amazing facts of life with visitors. And Lincoln Park Zoo’s Education Department has long led the way in connecting guests to the natural world. Daily programs offer hands-on opportunities to Meet an Animal, even as Chicago kids use Chicago’s free zoo to launch year-long research projects through our Young Researchers Collaborative.
Today I’m proud to announce a new milestone in the zoo’s status as a learning leader. With a generous $3 million gift from the Hurvis Charitable Foundation, we’ve created the Hurvis Center for Learning Innovation and Collaboration.
Led by Senior Director Leah Melber, Ph.D., this innovative center will use cutting-edge research and programs to explore how zoos, aquariums and museums can most effectively engage their audiences. The Hurvis Center will partner with schools down the street and institutions a world away…all to find the best ways to learn about science.
The Hurvis Center launches with an exciting slate of programs. Our Career Explorers and Research Apprenticeship Program offerings will give Chicago-area students the chance to explore careers in zoos and research. Our upcoming Partnerships in Fieldwork program will enlist students and teachers to collect wildlife data from monitoring stations set up on school grounds as part of the zoo’s Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Project.
Finally, our new Observe to Learn initiative will connect kids around the world with nature through self-guided animal observations. The project includes a free iPad app developed by Hurvis Center educators. It will enable users to explore animal behavior in their backyard, local zoo or nature area, just as the zoo’s scientists do. Partners including San Francisco Zoo and Colombia’s Zoologico Santa Cruz will share the app—and offer feedback on how to make it better.
It’s all an exciting opportunity, one that’s rare in zoos and aquariums. I appreciate the support of the Hurvis Charitable Foundation in giving us the freedom to try new things. Their support also makes it possible to evaluate what works—and share these findings with partners around the globe.