Professional Learning at Zoo Atlanta
If you’ve ever explored the suite of educational programs Zoo Atlanta offers, you know we have tons to offer your students such as Zoo Challenges, ZooMobiles, Guided Tours, NightCrawlers, and more! But did you know we also have Professional Learning for teachers too? We believe it is just as important to provide learning opportunities for teachers as it is for students. Zoo Atlanta has many different resources including curriculum, pre-and post-Zoo visit activities, teacher workshops, and more to help teachers in their quest to inspire their students.
Throughout the year, Zoo Atlanta offers various Professional Learning opportunities for educators. This past year we offered four workshops on science inquiry in the fall and again in the spring. These workshops were tailored to specific grade levels, including K-2nd grade, 3rd – 5th grade, 6th – 8th grade, and 9th – 12th grade. For the younger grades, teachers learn different tactics to encourage their students to observe and question their surroundings. One of my favorite ways to do this is to break students into groups and give each group an animal skull. Without much direction, ask the students to look at their skull and see if they can figure out what animal it came from. Being able to touch and investigate the skulls up-close engages the students (and teachers!) and naturally starts the process of inquiry. In the workshop, we strengthen observation skills through animal behavior research. This includes having teachers design and conduct their own observational research on one of the animals in the Zoo. For the older grades, we take these activities one step further as well as also exploring sampling and population estimation. At the end of each workshop, teachers take home all activities and lessons to implement in their own classroom. Zoo staff also remain in contact with teachers to answer questions and provide assistance with implementing curriculum. Zoo Atlanta’s Professional Learning workshops are a great way for educators to get more experience with hands-on, science-based inquiry, collaborate with other educators, and learn more about the Zoo and how we can complement classroom curriculum.
Another resource we offer for teachers is our Cases for Conservation. These are boxes packed with curriculum, biofacts such as skulls and pelts, books and DVDs, and hands-on activities. While teachers may agree using skulls and other biofacts are great for accelerating student learning, very few teachers have the resources to buy their own biofacts. With our Cases for Conservation, teachers can check a case out, similarly to how one checks out a book from the library. There are cases available for Pre-K through 7th grade; however, any educator can check out any case regardless of the grade level they teach. Also, did I mention these cases are free for educators?
This article only covers a small portion of what Zoo Atlanta offers in terms of Professional Learning. The best way to keep up with us and what we have to offer is by visiting zooatlanta.org. We are constantly working to provide more resources and opportunities to assist teachers in their classrooms as well as in their own growth as professionals. Educators are always encouraged to reach out to us to see how we can assist in facilitating exciting and unique experiences for you and your students! One easy way to reach us is through our new Professional Learning email address, ProfessionalLearning@zooatlanta.org. We look forward to continuing to work with all of you amazing educators!