Three Questions with Maggie Reinbold, Director of Conservation Education at San Diego Zoo Global

July 6, 2016

What role do science-rich institutions play in engaging students - and STEM teachers themselves - in more active, authentic learning outside the classroom?
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Our next virtual “Steal This Session” delves into ways that our nation’s schools and universities can better embrace active STEM learning and professional development by collaborating with science-rich institutions. Steal This Sessions feature three 100Kin10 partner organizations sharing diverse approaches to addressing a shared challenge, followed by a vigorous conversation among participants about the challenge, the solutions, and where we, collectively, go from here.
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We’ve asked presenter Maggie Reinbold, Director of Conservation Education at San Diego Zoo Global to share a little bit about her work in advance of the session.

1. Tell us about your work in this area. What makes it unique?
The conservation work of San Diego Zoo Global is multifaceted and is actively happening at sites around the world (in addition to our two sanctuaries: the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park).

The Conservation Education Division, in particular, is committed to fostering ecological literacy and stewardship by building capacity within communities to support species conservation and coexistence between humans and nature.

Three aspects that I find particularly compelling about our organization’s work (admittedly from the perspective of a Conservation Educator) are:

  • Our work to engage science educators (and their students) with our conservation science and conservation inquiry through our Teacher Workshops in Conservation Science (primarily national middle school and high school science teachers)

  • Our work in the human dimensions of conservation, engaging human communities for sustainable conservation outcomes at global field sites (i.e. Kenya, Peru, Mexico, etc.)

  • Our work to engage local community members in the process of open inquiry and environmental stewardship through the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) Master’s degree

2. What advice do you have for partners looking to embrace active-STEM learning and PD in collaboration with science-rich institutions?
My advice for science-rich institutions would be to connect with local science teachers and do all that you can to support them by providing opportunities to engage with your research and the community.

This not only benefits teachers and their students, but if done thoughtfully, can greatly advance your organizational mission and vision. Teaching is already a challenging vocation, but the job of a science teacher, in particular, is markedly more difficult, especially in this age of advanced technology and data acquisition.

Scientists around the world now have the capacity to examine entire genomes of species and peer deeper into the universe than at any other time in human history. Because science teachers act as a direct liaison between the broader scientific community and the students they teach, they are charged with continually refining their knowledge and craft to provide relevant information about an ever-changing field of study.

Without this ongoing, sustained effort on the part of science teachers to deepen their comprehension as well as acquire new skills and expertise, students are put at a distinct disadvantage in a rapidly changing world.

Teacher at San Diego Zoo
At San Diego Zoo Global, we believe that science teachers represent an essential ally in the fight against extinction (our vision is to lead the fight against extinction). There are very few jobs in the world that allow for the kind of individual, sustained interaction with young people that teachers are afforded on a daily basis, especially as it pertains to introducing students to the wonders and importance of wildlife and nature. Every day, teachers work tirelessly in shaping the next generation of conservation scientists as well as future business leaders, philanthropists, politicians, educators, land managers, and perhaps most importantly, responsible consumers and voters. We are wholly dedicated to partnering with and supporting science teachers and their students for the benefit of wildlife and wild places.

3. Great work stands on the shoulders of giants. What individuals or organizations have you learned the most from when it comes to active STEM learning and professional development?
We have learned from so many different organizations since debuting the Conservation Education Division in 2006, but one HUGE contributor to our model and success is Project Dragonfly at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Project Dragonfly’s never-ending commitment to community voice and science inquiry has helped to shape and refine all of our conservation education programs here at the research arm of the San Diego Zoo. We also admire their dedication to elevating the role and importance of informal science institutions in enhancing science literacy in America.

Looking for more? Check out our 3Qs posts with Dr. Andi Fourlis from the Arizona Science Center to learn how she encourages active STEM learning and professional development in her work. If you are a partner interested in joining their “Steal This” session on July 14th, you can sign-up here.