Local Conservation Science Education Reaches Beyond Lab
Our Conservation Education Program seeks to inspire community members to value and conserve biodiversity by enhancing basic scientific literacy. The majority of current program efforts are centered around the Conservation Education Laboratory at the Beckman Center, a full-service research lab where students, teachers, and community members learn firsthand about the techniques that scientists at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research use in conserving endangered species.
The Conservation Education Lab integrates scientific procedures and wildlife conservation scenarios into unique hands-on activities for students of all ages, kindergarten through university.
For example, efforts are currently underway to integrate aspects of the plight of Caribbean rock iguanas, Asia’s endangered leaf-eating monkeys, Hawaiian endangered birds, the native flora and fauna of San Diego County, and aspects of the bushmeat crisis in Africa into the working curricula of the Conservation Education Lab.
Additionally, the Lab acts as a valuable resource for the Zoo and Safari Park education departments, as well as keeper staff in efforts to train/engage staff, summer camp students, and interns in the methods of conservation research.
The Conservation Education Lab acts as a well-equipped center for visiting scientists to learn and practice invaluable skills and techniques in conservation research. It also acts as a center for teacher professional development with an established annual Summer Institute for High School Life Science Teachers, which draws classroom educators from around the country. These educators spend a week working alongside our researchers to learn about a multitude of scientific disciplines.
This professional development program provides teachers with innovative, hands-on learning experiences in conservation science, and also gives them the tools to frame curricula and state content standards in the context of wildlife conservation. The program has engaged local students and teachers off-campus, with classroom visits and attendance at regional teacher conferences and meetings.
The program also encompasses partnering efforts with the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians to assist students in using GIS mapping technologies to gain further appreciation for culturally significant sites around the county. Local field aspects and in-country efforts are just coming online, including plans to establish distance-learning capabilities in regions of Africa and Asia, as well as to provide research-oriented field excursions for students and teachers.