Zoo Wins $78K Grant to Train Students about Conservation

Mon, 01/30/2012

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - January 30, 2012 - Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo is pleased to announce it has received a grant totaling $78,000 over three years from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support its Conservation Discovery Corps (CDC) teen program. The CDC is a year-round science program designed to provide environmentally aware students ages 14-17 years old with both conceptual and practical training in wildlife conservation. With this funding, the Zoo will be able to strengthen its ability to serve its public more effectively while also advancing its mission to educate and promote conservation.
"CDC teens serve as Zoo ambassadors, interacting with visitors and educating them about our animals and their habitats. It is a terrific program that enhances the visitor experience, enables our guests to have a greater appreciation for the Zoo and our conservation efforts, and encourages them to become environmentally responsible," states Gregg Dancho, Zoo director. "This funding is essential to educating the next generation of animal and wildlife conservationists."

Conservation-In-Action field expeditions are conducted four days a week in collaboration with Zoo partners, enabling students to engage with scientists in research and habitat restoration activities. These cumulative experiences educate young conservationists, who then serve as Zoo visitor guides. During summer months, CDC students serve as onsite Zoo interpreters and participate in Conservation-In-Action field work. When school begins in the fall, students work weekends at the Zoo until November. Through their interactions, CDC participants develop increased self-confidence and gain valuable skills in leadership, teamwork, and public speaking.

The individuals who participate in CDC are highly-motivated, racially and ethnically diverse high school students who have demonstrated an interest in conservation science. When the program launched in 2008, the Zoo targeted its recruitment exclusively to the high schools of Bridgeport, Connecticut's largest city, reaching a total of 14 students. Today the program has grown to include between 40-50 students.

Recruitment begins in November, with students accepted into the program in January. Training occurs in eight, six-hour sessions in February, March, and April, and students begin their weekend on-grounds rotation in April.

Now entering its fifth year, the CDC provides opportunities for teen involvement in field research, reflecting the CDC's emphasis on pre-college preparation. The training curriculum focuses on environmental issues and public speaking skills to prepare students to promote conservation behaviors as they interact with Zoo visitors. These collective experiences over multiple years, together with mentoring by CDC program staff, also benefit students by giving them a competitive edge as they submit college applications.

This program would not be possible without two primary partners, the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Audubon Society. People's United Community Foundation, Newman's Own Foundation, Irving Oil and Unilever also proudly support this project.

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