The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), headquarters for the Bronx Zoo, and the Fordham University Graduate School of Education (GSE) will offer a joint program leading to a Master of Science degree in education and New York state initial teacher certification in adolescent science education (biology grades 7-12), the first degree-granting program of its kind in the United States.
The partnership was announced on March 23 at Thirteen/WNET and WLIW21’s second annual Celebration of Teaching and Learning at Pier 94 in New York City. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University; James Hennessy, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Education at Fordham; and John F. Calvelli, senior vice president for public affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society announced the program.
“I’m pleased to announce today the partnership of two great Bronx institutions — two great global institutions — Fordham University and the Wildlife Conservation Society,” said Father McShane. “Fordham’s Graduate School of Education and the WCS’s Bronx Zoo are teaming up to offer a Master of Science degree in Conservation Biology Education, a cutting-edge science education curriculum that is second to none. The program will tap the Zoo’s incomparable scientific and educational resources, and the Graduate School of Education’s deep store of teaching expertise.”
Steven E. Sanderson, Ph.D., WCS president and CEO, reinforced the relationship between these two institutions, saying, “This is truly a historic collaboration. We believe this partnership can be a model for others to ensure a greater understanding and appreciation for the sciences, while sparking the imagination of teachers who will influence young minds of future generations. The Wildlife Conservation Society is delighted to be associated with Fordham University in this important endeavor.”
The two institutions will fill a need for well-trained science educators through the partnership that will serve as a national model for pairing universities and informal science institutions such as zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and science museums. The Bronx Zoo/Fordham University Graduate School of Education program will provide scores of graduate-level education students with increased knowledge in the sciences, better teaching skills, confidence in science teaching and an understanding of the value of informal science institutions as resources for teaching science. The program is set to begin in September 2008.
“The new joint program brings together the strengths of both institutions,” said Hennessy. “The WCS is the best ‘zoo education’ organization in the world, and GSE has a long and distinguished history as a provider of highly qualified teachers to the schools of the metropolitan area. Bringing together these two areas of expertise responds to the serious criticisms of most major science organizations regarding the low quality of most science education programs that focus only on pedagogy. This program will incorporate world-class science instruction into a nationally recognized teacher education program.”
Courses offered by the Bronx Zoo will focus on science content (including such topics as conservation biology, habitat ecology, environmental science, natural resource use, ecosystem function, wildlife conservation and population biology) and the effective use of informal science resources in classroom instruction. Courses offered by Fordham University will focus on teaching methods, the psychology of adolescent development and learning, learning environments for adolescents, and teaching linguistically and culturally diverse adolescents, among other areas. The program involves field experience based on an existing teaching fellowship model at the Bronx Zoo and on a variation of the New York City Department of Education’s Teaching Fellows Program.
“Amid the growing distress about the low achievement in sciences on the part of American middle and high school students, there is a new appreciation for the fact that science instruction needs to be exciting and relevant to the lives of today’s students,” said Tom Naiman, WCS director of curriculum development and international education. “Together, Fordham and WCS are creating a new model for how universities and informal science education institutions, such as the Bronx Zoo, together can provide urban science teachers with content, tools and venues to bring science inquiry alive for their students,”
Field experiences will enable participants in the master’s degree program to work side-by-side with experienced Bronx Zoo instructors and science teaching specialists, gaining valuable teaching and curriculum development practice, both at WCS’s New York City facilities (the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park, Queens and Prospect Park Zoos,) and in the school classroom.