Science

Where The Wild Things Are

By Sean Cavanagh — December 19, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Zoos, aquariums, and science centers have become major resources for science teachers over the years. Educators see those facilities as places where students can study the behavior of living things, or learn about them through visually appealing exhibits, rather than simply reading about them in a textbook or hearing about them in a lecture.

In reporting a story earlier this year, I learned that 90 percent of the nation’s zoos, aquariums, and museums said that they had at least one educational outreach program. That story was about Urban Advantage, a New York City program that offered middle school students access to the city’s big network of zoos and aquariums, and provided teachers with extensive professional development on how to shape lessons for their science classes around those exhibits.

I spent time with Mitch Goodkin, a science teacher at Russell Sage Middle School in Queens, who had all sorts of in-class activities for students that were connected to zoo and aquarium exhibits. Goodkin also trained other NYC teachers come up with their own zoo-to-classroom connections.

I’m sure that many teachers would like to make use of local museums and science centers in their classes, but aren’t sure how to do it, or whether their administrators will support it. I recently came across a resource that could help them. It’s a Web site run by the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education, which is supported by the National Science Foundation.

One of the resources on the site is a recent study that examined how the opinions of visitors to zoos and aquariums were influenced by those trips. The study, which was published in 2007 and supported by the NSF, found that visitors, perhaps not surprisingly, bring higher-than-expected knowledge about basic ecological concepts, and that more than half of them (54 percent) reconsidered their attitudes toward environmental problems and conservation action. The study focused on adults, not children, but teachers might still find it useful.

But the web site also includes a report on how to evaluate the effectiveness of informal education projects overall. That report examines issues such as how to design studies that tell whether these efforts are having the desired effect—and what that desired effect should be. Is an informal education project having a measurable impact on students knowledge of science? Or on their attitudes toward science, technology, engineering, and math topics (“STEM”) overall? The report is edited by Alan J. Freidman, former director of a major science center, the New York Hall of Science.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Science Opinion Four Good Science Teaching Strategies & How to Use Them
Three science educators share their "go-to" teaching strategies, including encouraging student talk & implementing project-based learning.
11 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Science Opinion The Three Most Effective Instructional Strategies for Science—According to Teachers
Three science educators share their favorite instructional strategies, including incorporating a sense of play in their classes.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Science Make Science Education Better, More Equitable, Says National Panel
States must take steps to ensure that all students get a fair shot at learning science, says the National Academies of Science report.
3 min read
Illustration of father and child working on computer.
Getty
Science Q&A Many Schools Don't Teach About the Science of Vaccines. Here's Why They Should
Schools play an important role in confronting misinformation and mistrust in vaccines by helping students understand how they work.
7 min read
Ainslee Bolejack, freshman at Shawnee Heights High School in Tecumseh, Kansas, prepares to receive her first COVID-19 vaccine on May 17, 2021, at Topeka High. Unified School District 501 held a clinic at all their high schools welcoming students now 12-years-old and up to receive their vaccination.
Freshman Ainslee Bolejack prepares to receive her first COVID-19 vaccine on May 17, 2021, at Topeka High School in Kansas. Unified School District 501 held a clinic at all its high schools for students 12 and older to receive their vaccinations.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP