Imagine a new generation of schoolteachers being trained in science techniques at the Bronx Zoo. That will soon be a reality due to a new joint degree program, the first of its kind, to be offered by Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education and the Zoo’s parent organization, the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The new degree offers a specialization in adolescent biology/conservation life science teacher education. It is the first graduate education degree that is an equal partnership between an informal science institution and a degree-granting institution. The result of two years of joint effort by Fordham and the WCS, the program received approval from the New York State Department of Education in December and will begin accepting applicants immediately for admission in summer 2008.
The program responds to widespread concern about the state of science education in the US. At least half of eighth graders that were tested in science in nine of ten major U.S. cities (including New York) failed to demonstrate even a basic understanding of the subject, according to a November 2006 report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
First announced in March, the 36-credit program leads to a Fordham master of science degree in teaching with an emphasis on conservation life science education. It also leads to initial New York state teacher certification in adolescent biology for grades seven through 12.
Students will take half of their classes at Fordham and half at the zoo. The core courses, taught at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, will cover pedagogy and the foundations of American education. The science courses taught at the Bronx Zoo will include field experiences that utilize the zoo’s world-class exhibits and internationally recognized scientists and educators.
Degree candidates will be able to take advantage of the Bronx Zoo as well as the other local WCS facilities: the Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens Zoos, and the New York Aquarium.
Application materials for Summer 2008 admission are available on the Graduate School of Education Web page.