Photo Credit: Ann Van Zee
August 21, 2014

2, 4, 6, 8, Who Do We Appreciate? Teachers!

CBI to support teachers with spatial ecology excercises using Data Basin

Maggie Reinbold, Associate Director of Conservation Education at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, opened up a recent Teacher Training workshop by firmly declaring that her staff believe teachers are the hardest working people in America. This set the tone for three days of hands on learning experiences and sample classroom exercises focused on the value of biodiversity, recovery of species, reproductive physiology, genetics, and global conservation issues.

Teachers prepare for a jeep caravan safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

In early July my colleague Tosha and I were graciously invited to attend a 2014 Summer Teacher Training workshop at the Beckman Center for Conservation Research. Committed teachers from across California and the nation gathered to learn from San Diego Zoo Global scientists and staff and obtain conservation based activities and lessons to bring back to the classroom. We covered topics like climate change, the bushmeat crisis, global amphibian decline, and the recovery of the California Condor. There were behind the scenes tours of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, up close and personal animal encounters and special lectures by staff including Dr. Oliver Ryder, the Director of Genetics and head of San Diego Zoo Global’s Frozen Zoo. We also experienced the incredible hospitality of the Conservation Education Team. They value teachers and know how to show it. There was great food, amazing accommodations (think deluxe tents next to roaring lions!),and even a jeep caravan safari.

Friendly giraffes from the jeep caravan safari

The Conservation Education Team also spent some time educating teachers about the value of spatial ecology. Thanks to a generous donation from the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation, San Diego Zoo Global now has a spatial ecology lab at the Beckman Center for Conservation Research. Using this lab, researchers can study and track how plants and animals, like the California condor, the cactus wren and the burrowing owl, interact with their environment over space and time. To introduce the concept of spatial ecology, Conservation Education staff demonstrated Google earth and led teachers through a few simple exercises. They also provided a tour of the Conservation Biology Institute’s (CBI) free web-based mapping platform Data Basin. Data Basin is inquiry based and perfect for the classroom. Students and teachers can search data and investigate geospatial relationships in an easy to use platform to guide research and learning. They also have the opportunity to engage with the larger conservation community using Data Basin’s social networks. Data Basin aims to connect science, mapping and people and encourages collaboration, whether it’s working within a group on a specific geography or topic of interest or contacting Data Basin members directly about their research and data.Tosha and I being very clever. The heat had fried our brains. Also, we love teachers!

Based on our experience with teachers and their interest in using spatial ecology in the classroom, CBI will be leading a series of webinars called Data Basin for Teachers. These webinars will be designed to give teachers a quick introduction to Data Basin. They will also provide several examples of how Data Basin can be used to supplement curriculum with conservation based spatial ecology exercises. Webinar dates will be announced soon via facebook, twitter, and the events page on CBI's website so please keep checking back in. And if you know a teacher, please let them know about this opportunity!

A big thank you to the Conservation Education Staff at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research for the opportunity to attend the 2014 Teacher workshop. Maggie, Kirstie, Josie, Kimberly, and Samantha of the Conservation Education Team are true leaders in conservation education (and they really know how to rock a workshop!). Another big thanks to teachers for all your hard work and dedication!

About the author:
Ann Van Zee, M.S.
Communications Strategist
Ann is a Communications Advisor at CBI pursuing collaborative relationships for the Institute and assisting with outreach and education initiatives.
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