Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium offer stellar interactive learning programs for kids at the Zoo—and brings a taste of the Zoo experience to classrooms throughout the city.
Columbus Zoo Excels in Student Outreach
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a place of adventure and wide-eyed wonder for visiting children and their families. But some children in the region have difficulty accessing that adventure—so the Zoo is bringing it to them through its Chase Classroom Safari initiative. Through it, the Zoo extends into seventeen area schools. Trained Chase Classroom Safari instructors bring live animals, a SMART board, and many hands-on activities into the schools so students can interact and see firsthand the science concepts that they are learning about. Conservation education is also an important aspect of the curriculum.
Evaluator/researcher Dr. Howard Walters of Ashland University worked with Zoo education staff to develop an empirical evaluation system to review the Zoo’s education programs. Dr. Walters utilized a broad literature review to devise a rubric to assess the effectiveness of the Zoo’s Chase Classroom Safari program. The eight constructs supported in the rubric include:
1) Provide opportunities to observe and interact with Zoo animals.
2) Relate live animal observation to bigger issues such as other non-observable species, human/animal interactions, etc.
3) Engage emotions of participants.
4) Connect prior knowledge and experience.
5) Use a variety of communication modalities to address a range of learning styles.
6) Explicitly state conservation goals and behaviors.
7) Encourage further engagement with the topic.
8) Incorporate scientific inquiry and constructivism methods.
Each of the above eight constructs includes a broad set of references to empirical research studies that describe and support best-practices for effective Zoo education and outreach programs.
When school children can visit the Zoo, staff desire to capitalize as much as possible on the teaching opportunity. With its Battelle Zoo Science Quest program, Zoo staff have created a highly engaging and fun learning program for students in grades 5-12. Youth are challenged to solve a “quest” during their visit at the Zoo. They become detectives immersed in the experience as they explore the Zoo and solve a variety of challenges utilizing handheld computers. The students team up in the classroom, explore the Zoo with the computers while discovering an array of biodiversity, and reconvene in the classroom to go over what they have learned. Science then becomes a fun venture worth exploring, a game utilizing modern technologies with which the kids are already adept. The Zoo has found a way to integrate nature and technology through a novel approach that today’s children are able to fully engage.