The Chicago Zoological Society’s Conservation Scholars Program is an engaging way for teens to learn more about animals and conservation, network with others and make a difference in their communities while preparing for college and future careers. Through interactive workshops, activities, interpretation, research opportunities and community action projects, Scholars gain knowledge along with college readiness, leadership, and career skills. With the support of Zoo professionals and community partners, participants will be encouraged to pursue their chosen careers with a conservation mindset. The program will recruit students to the programs twice a year, in the fall and spring.
Students fulfill the program’s 120 volunteer hours annually by choosing workshops and other opportunities that fit their schedules and interests (full Program Requirements can be found HERE). Workshops and activities will take place both in Chicago (specific locations to be determined) and at Brookfield Zoo. A series of Foundation Courses are required in the first year including topics like: Diversity Awareness, Introduction to Conservation and Customer Service. After that, students can select from a variety of workshops to attend within the categories of Science, Environmental Education, College Prep and Career Readiness (some examples are below).
After at least one year of successful participation, Scholars are invited to apply for college scholarships and paid positions at Brookfield Zoo, which will be available only to program participants. All these experiences culminate to prepare students for college, to apply for jobs, develop their own action projects, and to become leaders in their communities.
Possible Workshop Topics
(Availability of workshops will vary year to year)
Animal Behavior Observation: Students will identify methods for systematically collecting data on animal behavior utilizing video clips to practice observations. During the second portion of the course, students will practice observations on animals in the Zoo.
Zoo Horticulture: Students are introduced to science and art of maintaining plants at the zoo for beautification, exhibit design, conservation, animal diet and enrichment. Students take a tour of the zoo’s greenhouses, gardens and compost facility.
NatureStart Training: Students learn best techniques for working with and interpreting to small children, particularly as it related to nature-related content and play behavior.
College Applications: Students review sample college applications, learn about the process, deadlines and rolling admissions, exploring schools of interest to them.
What Does Your Resume Say About You?: Students will review samples and types of resumes and learn about the descriptive words that can help them communicate their skills effectively to potential employers. They will choose a resume type and create a draft resume.
Aside from participating in workshops, all Scholars will also be actively involved at the Zoo and in their communities. For example, all participants will be exposed to environmental education opportunities. With interpretation training from Zoo professionals, participants will become “interpreters” or informal educators. By using games, crafts, and their own personal creativity, Scholars will teach guests and program participants about animals, their habitats, nature, and Brookfield Zoo’s work in conservation.
Some students may choose to take part in research opportunities here at the Zoo. After training on Animal Behavior Observations and Data Collection, Scholars may take part in independent research projects that develop their skills while helping staff gain valuable insight on animal behavior.
Scholars may decide to take part in their own Community Action Projects by helping to restore natural areas, creating green spaces for a local community center, launching environmental awareness campaigns at their schools...the possibilities are endless!
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