Inspiring Future Conservationists: Engaging Teenagers in Conservation at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Inspiring Future Conservationists: Engaging Teenagers in Conservation at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Author: Amanda Revak - Biography

At the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, I coordinate two long-term conservation education programs for teenagers, KidScience and Zoo U. My Master Plan focuses on capturing the teens' optimism, enthusiasm, and passion for conservation through the Zoo courses and fostering it as they grow into adults. While this document will describe my Master Plan accomplishments and goals to date, I anticipate carrying out many of my Master Plan goals long after completing the Global Field Program.

Young people who make environmental connections in their lives generally continue to be conservation-minded in their attitudes and habits in adulthood (Swanagan, 2010). However, though many teenagers are informed and aware of environmental issues facing the world, they are not empowered to make a difference; they do not feel confident in being able to address such large, complex issues (Connell, et al., 1999). The goal of my Master Plan is to engage students in conservation efforts, while empowering them to recognize that all individuals have the capacity to make a positive impact locally, in the Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania region, and worldwide, beyond our immediate region. I want the students to grow into environmentally aware and active adults, by not only understanding the problems facing the world, but also by having practical solutions for addressing those problems. The students should not only make personal commitments to conservation, but they should become leaders in their community, as well.

This ePortfolio is designed to describe the ways in which I have incorporated my Master Plan goals with my professional and personal goals. I primarily focused on improving courses and opportunities for my students. Next, I tailored my education and experiences toward topics that could directly benefit my programs, students, department, and institution. Finally, I shared many of my efforts and my students' efforts with the wider community.

The Global Field Program directly inspired many Zoo U. courses, which were written to educate, engage, and inspire students to actively participate in conservation. Courses and lessons for Zoo U. focus on ways teens can make simple changes in their lives to have a positive impact on the world. In this way, I hope my students will form conservation-minded attitudes and develop environmentally-friendly habits that will last into adulthood.

Student environmental attitudes and actions were assessed throughout my Master's journey, and as a result, several opportunities were created to increase my students' conservation involvement. A hand-on conservation course was designed to make conservation actions more approachable to a teen audience. A community-based conservation scholarship fund was created to reward leadership. Global conservation connections were fostered with the Cheetah Conservation Fund through a data analysis program.

I tailored my education to increase my knowledge and experience in a way that could directly benefit my students. I chose to investigate topics that could be adapted for use in the classroom, and I selected a variety of Earth Expeditions courses to challenge and expand my horizons. Ultimately, my education and experiences can serve as an inspiration for the teens. I, also, wrote articles and presented lectures and posters to the general public to share my work and my students' work with a wider audience. Each person can only do so much on their own, but if we all serve as individual leaders and role models, we can do much more. Together we can make a greater, lasting impact on our communities and on our world.

There is always more that can be done toward these goals. While the programs, courses, and artifacts that I present in this ePortfolio represent completed efforts throughout my journey in the Global Field Program, I intend to continue to educate, engage, and inspire my students long after I finish the program. As long as there are teenagers who are passionate about animals and the environment, there will always be more I can do to foster their interests as they grow into the next generation of conservationists.

Zoo U. Courses Directly Inspired by the Global Field Program

As coordinator for Zoo U., a long-term science enrichment program for high school students, I design in-depth courses that challenge and inspire my students. My Master Plan goals are directly tied with Zoo U. courses because students in the program are highly motivated, and they are dedicated to conservation and making a difference in the world (Revak, 2011).

One of my largest goals for my Master Plan is to use what I have learned and experienced through the Global Field Program (GFP) and through Earth Expeditions to educate and inspire my students. Students, if properly educated and motivated, can become powerful leaders for environmental change, by inspiring their parents, peers, and community (Ballantyne, Connell, & Fein, 2006). I primarily address this goal through designing and creating courses based on themes and topics that I thoroughly examined in my GFP courses.

All Zoo U. courses are 6 class sessions long, and each session runs for two-hours at a time. Each course contains many lessons, activities, and materials to fill in-depth, 12-hour program for highly motivated high school students. Therefore, I attached only the syllabus for each course to demonstrate content. Also, except for the "Hands-On Conservation" Course, which I formally evaluated for my 2012 Inquiry Action Project, most of the Zoo U. courses did not culminate with formal evaluation. The students completed an informal course evaluation survey at the end of each course. The feedback received on those evaluation forms serves as a tool for updating the courses in the future. The informal surveys also collected student opinions of the course materials and teaching methods. The course evaluations are attached below.

Inquiry is incorporated into the lesson plans of many Zoo U. courses. Inquiry is a participatory education model, through which students are fully engaged in the course material and responsible for their own learning outcomes (Myers & Myers, 2009). For Zoo U. courses, students use inquiry methods to learn more about a topic presented in class on their own, either through group work or individual investigation. Ideally, through inquiry, teachers do not present all of the information about a topic to the students for passive consumption. Students take control of their own learning. At times, inquiry is completed in the class, and at other times, students complete inquiry outside of normal class times.

Overall, the courses were wonderful successes. The enrollment in the courses ranged from 18 students in summer courses to 37 students in fall and spring courses. In addition, the students gave positive feedback, continued with future courses, and performed many out-of-class projects and community conservation efforts. The courses demonstrated that teenagers are willing to give up their free time on weekends and in the summer to learn, grow, and better themselves and their local and global community.

Tropical Ecology

Offered in Fall 2009, after Earth Expedition to Belize.

In this course, students learned about tropical ecosystems, such as rainforests, mangroves, grasslands, and deserts. While the entire course did not focus on Belize or ecosystems found in Belize, much of what I learned on the Earth Expedition was incorporated into the rainforest and mangrove lessons. Looking back, this course did not directly incorporate enough about conservation issues facing these ecosystems and what the students can do to make an impact on them from Pittsburgh. When we offer this course again in the future, I plan to update it to include these topics and suggestions for students to take action for conservation. The course was very popular, and we received a lot of positive feedback regarding the material presented in the course. However, because I did not incorporate student projects into the course requirements, I would like to have more student participation, action, and inquiry in the future course.

Invasive Ecology

Offered in Fall 2010, after spring 2010 Issues in Biodiversity course.

This course was offered during the semester of my maternity leave and most of the course was designed by a colleague. However, the idea for the course came about after I wrote a review paper focusing on teaching high school students about invasive species. Scientists cite invasive introduced species as one of the largest environmental issues of today, and yet, very few people have ever heard of invasive species or are able to identify them (Boorse, 2004). I wanted my students to have a strong understanding of what invasive species are, why they are a problem, and how they can address them in their neighborhood. Through the course, students investigated invasives in their own backyard, and they learned how to address them within their community. Though I was not involved in planning or teaching this course, I am thrilled that the course was still offered in my absence to educate the Zoo U. students about such an important environmental issue. The course was well-received, and I intend to offer the course again in the future.

Species in Peril: Conservation Programs at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Offered in Spring 2011, after examining community-based conservation efforts in Belize and Namibia.

The goal for this course was to give the students a first-hand view of the ways in which people who work at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are directly involved in global conservation efforts. Throughout the six week course, students met with keepers, veterinarians, curators, photographers, and aquarists who were all personally involved in conservation programs throughout the world. While this course was not inquiry-based, the students were able to get a personal glimpse of how being involved with the Pittsburgh Zoo directly benefits conservation efforts worldwide. The guest speakers all engaged the students in thoughtful conversations. They each challenged the students to find a cause that is close to their hearts and to go out and make a difference for that cause, whether it be for polar bears or cancer.

Students designed and staffed educational tables throughout the Zoo on Earth Day, to share their knowledge about the Pittsburgh Zoo's conservation efforts and to encourage others to take action. The description for each of the student Earth Day tables is included below. At the end of the course, students were challenged to design their own conservation project for their local community, such as their neighborhood, their school, or their local park. While it was not a course requirement, many students did, in fact, do small conservation projects as a result of the course. Some students raised money for Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe. Some students did a clean-up in their local park. Overall, the course was an excellent way to inspire the students to go out and make a difference, because they were able to see the ways in which real people at the Zoo were making a real difference in the world.

Amazing Africa

Offered in Fall 2011, after Earth Expedition to Namibia.

As in the Tropical Ecology course, the layout of the African Ecology course focused on the primary ecosystems of the African continent and the species that can be found in each of those ecosystems. In addition to in-class lessons, students were asked to investigate an Africa-related topic in-depth on their own. Some students conducted behavioral studies of animals housed at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Some students conducted internet research on a favorite African animal species or ecosystem. Some students were even able to participate in data analysis that was actually used by scientists in Africa to investigate wild populations of African animals. Student volunteers helped analyze camera trap data obtained in and around property owned by the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia (described in more detail below). Regardless of whether they conducted behavioral studies, internet research, or participated in data analysis, all students presented their findings at the end of the course. Again, the class was very popular and received glowing student feedback. I believe it was more successful at incorporating student-led inquiry into a course that was based around teacher-led lessons than the earlier Tropical Ecology course.

Impact Your World: Hands-On Conservation

Offered in Spring 2012, after Inquiry Action Project (IAP), which investigated student environmental attitudes and actions over a two-year period.

Zoo U. students are highly motivated, environmentally-conscious teenagers. However, though the older teenagers are more educated and passionate about the environment, they did not score much higher than younger teenagers on measurements of conservation commitment and action (Revak, 2011). Connell, et al. (2009) suggested that many teenagers feel pessimistic about being able to make a difference in the world, as they see the problems as far larger than one individual or a small group of individuals could ever address. The goal for this course was to allow students to see that though the challenges are big, a small group of individuals truly can make an impact on the world. The course was designed to be evaluated for my third IAP, to be completed in the fall of 2012. More details can be found about the course below and in the final 2012 IAP report below. Overall, though the pre- and post-test scores were not significantly different, the students did report feeling more confident about their ability to address conservation issues. They also reported being more optimistic about the future of the environment, if they could convince others to make a change for the better. Several students also designed and carried out community conservation projects after the completion of the course.

Big Cats

Offered in Summer 2012, after Earth Expedition to Namibia.

Though originally designed and offered prior to my 2011 Earth Expedition, the Big Cats class was updated and modified in the summer of 2012 to include information gained in Namibia. Additionally, the update of the course incorporated hands-on learning opportunities, as the students not only investigated and reported on individual cat species for the course, but they also worked together as a class to design and build a large cardboard and paper mache giraffe as enrichment for the Zoo's young male lions. The keepers reported the lion enrichment as the most realistic and effective enrichment the lions had ever received, and the students reported the completion of that project as one of their most proud and memorable Zoo U. moments. Through the project, they were able to see that by working together as a team, they could accomplish something large and exciting. They completed a goal they once thought was impossible. It may have been a localized project, only directly benefiting the Zoo's lions, but it created excitement within their group, within the Zoo community, and within the Pittsburgh region. Perhaps students may even extrapolate the accomplishments from the enrichment project to inspire them toward something bigger, like working together to address a global issue on a local level.

Student Conservation Attitudes and Actions

Because I have a long-term relationship with my students, I have been able to assess their conservation attitudes and actions over time. Each Inquiry Action Project (IAP) has built upon this assessment, and the projects have also led to several student-designed conservation actions.

The first IAP in 2009 compared the conservation attitudes and actions of KidScience students to the conservation attitudes and actions of Zoo U. students. Because Zoo U. students were in high school, and many of them started taking KidScience classes while in middle school, I was pleased to find out that Zoo U. students did score higher in all measurements of the study. Additionally, the students were challenged to come up with a conservation project at the Zoo, and they planned a conservation day during which they set up tables around the Zoo to educate visitors about conservation issues. The outcome of the project was better than I had hoped. The assessment results turned out as I had hypothesized, and the students were enthusiastic about educating Zoo visitors about conservation.

In 2011, I compared the results of the original survey in 2009 to the results of the same survey given to Zoo U. students in 2011. Because it was two years later, many of the students in the original survey were in Zoo U., either as recently having moved up from KidScience or as upper class Zoo U. students. The 2011 scores had slightly increased from the KidScience and Zoo U. scores in 2009. However, I was initially discouraged because the results did not increase by a statistically significant amount. I was concerned that though the students were learning more about the environment and conservation issues, they were not acting on their knowledge. In fact, I discovered evidence that there may not be a positive correlation between knowledge about the environment and positive attitudes and actions for the environment (DeChano, 2006). This finding was distressing to me. Therefore, I designed a Zoo U. course as an action project, to create an opportunity for my students to use their knowledge, while increasing their environmental actions and attitudes. The Zoo U. course, "Impact Your World: Hands-On Conservation" was offered in the spring of 2012. The course directly encouraged the students to feel more optimistic about the environment, and it empowered the students to take conservation actions in their daily lives. The course is described in more detail below.

The 2012 IAP assessed the pre- and post-test survey administered to the students of the Hands-On Conservation course. I hoped to show that by giving teenagers small, feasible actions to take in their daily lives and in their community, they will be more positive about conservation efforts and more likely to become leaders in conservation. As a result of the Hands-On Conservation course, I had several students design and conduct community conservation projects, some of which were submitted for the Pittsburgh Zoo Conservation Leadership Award, which is described in more detail below.

Impact Your World: Hands-On Conservation

Because I wanted to encourage my students to recognize that even teenagers can make a difference in the world, I designed the Zoo U. course "Impact Your World: Hands-On Conservation" for the spring of 2012. In the course, students focused on three different conservation issues: palm oil, sustainable seafood, and conscious consumerism. Students learned about each issue, and they were encouraged to brainstorm ways to make small changes to their lives that might positively influence each of the issues. They also met with people who work to address these issues on a daily basis, and they designed and completed an action either at the Pittsburgh Zoo or in the community to teach more people about an issue that was meaningful to them.

The course was designed around the idea that people are more likely to work toward conservation goals if they feel they have control over the outcome, have hope for making a real difference, and can see a positive change after their efforts are completed. People are especially likely to participate in conservation if the actions they take to not require drastic changes to their lifestyle (Swaisgood & Sheppard, 2010; Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). Students were introduced to only three different conservation issues throughout the six weeks of the course, with two consecutive weeks devoted to each topic. The layout of the course was designed to prevent students from feeling overwhelmed by the many challenges facing the world. Additionally, while one week was spent introducing the issue, the next week was devoted to discovering practical solutions to the problem or small changes everyone can make to address the issue on a local level.

When students discussed the concept of local and global conservation, we defined "local" as issues facing Pittsburgh and our immediate Western Pennsylvania region, while we defined "global" as issues facing more distant communities, in addition to our own. We also discussed the idea that though some global issues seem distant, such as palm oil being grown in Borneo and Sumatra, they can directly affect us on a local level. We can purchase products made with palm oil in any local store and find palm oil currently in any of our homes. A lack of biodiversity in the oceans caused by overfishing can directly affect our lives in Pittsburgh by collapsing entire ecosystems and impacting fisheries. We looked at the issues from an environmental point of view, which is the primary point of view of most of the students, but also with an eye toward economic, financial, and/or health viewpoints. Students used the variety of information and views to better reach their peers, families, and communities. Students met the challenge issued in the course to encourage others to change their daily actions to make a positive outcome.

We had excellent class discussions about how to turn global issues into local issues. For example, the students proposed that perhaps not everyone in Pittsburgh would be interested in using less palm oil to protect orangutans and rainforests, but they may, perhaps, be more open to using less palm oil if they knew it was an unhealthy oil to consume. These class talks, witnessed by an orangutan keeper, even led to discussions about how the Pittsburgh Zoo itself can make a stand against unsustainable palm oil. To date, a small committee has been formed, comprised of myself, the orangutan keeper, and a few other representatives from the Education and Development Departments, to explore the possibility of creating a formal stance on sustainable palm oil for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Overall, the course was a great success. At the end of the course, half of the class set up informational tables in the Pittsburgh Zoo's Tropical Forest Complex to talk about palm oil in front of the orangutan exhibit. The other half of the class set up tables in the PPG Aquarium to discuss overfishing and sustainable seafood, and they passed out Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch cards. One student even set up a meeting with the Zoo's food service managers to discuss the possibility of not using any palm oil or palm oil-based products on Zoo grounds. More details regarding the positive outcomes of the course can also be found in my 2012 IAP document (coming soon).

Engaging Students in Local Community Conservation Projects

There are many complicated factors affecting whether or not a person performs environmentally-friendly actions and forms conservation-minded habits. Often, however, people who harbor a sense of responsibility toward the planet and a belief that their actions will make a significant difference are more likely to perform such behaviors (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). I was able to demonstrate through IAP evaluations that my students are extremely conservation-minded and well-educated about animals and the environment (Revak, 2009; Revak, 2011). The next step was to directly engage the teenagers in conservation projects that could give them a sense of responsibility and control. These community conservation projects would allow students to positively affect an important local or global issue that is meaningful to the individual student. This, hopefully, could lead to increased optimism about the environment and their individual abilities, while bettering the community and building environmentally-friendly habits that could last a lifetime.

In 2011, I designed and implemented the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium Conservation Leadership Award as my Leadership Challenge Project. It is a $500 scholarship awarded to one Zoo U. student who completes an exemplary community conservation project. In 2011, though we only had one submission for the award, it was an excellent project focusing on collecting cell phones for recycling and educating students in a local high school about coltan and the importance of cell phone recycling.

In 2012, possibly as a result of the Hands-On Conservation Zoo U. course, interest increased in the scholarship, and 5 projects were submitted for consideration. The projects this year focused on setting up Eastern Bluebird nesting boxes in a local community, working with avian researchers at a local nature reserve, creating a website to educate people about palm oil, planting a native plant garden in a local state park, and creating an educational stuffed animal that could be used in education programs at the Pittsburgh Zoo. A panel of evaluators convened to choose the 2012 scholarship winner. The 2012 winner, Alissa Buck, set up and monitored Eastern Bluebird nest boxes in a local cemetery. The evaluation team chose her project as the winner because it most directly involved community engagement, as she had to address local officials to obtain the permits to place the nesting boxes. Alissa also had an on-going component to her project by indicating that she will continue to monitor the boxes throughout the next year to determine if her boxes become successful nesting locations. The team also felt that it was a project that could address an important conservation issue, while still being attainable, and thus inspirational, to the average teenager. The evaluation team was made up of volunteers from departments around the Zoo, including primate keepers, aquarium keepers, conservation educators, and curators.

The Conservation Leadership Award is a growing, but thriving, addition to our Conservation Education Department. I have received extremely positive feedback from the project evaluators both regarding the students' projects and the Conservation Leadership Award in general. The input that the evaluators provided on the post-evaluation survey has been extremely valuable in refining and growing the scholarship for the future. The recent group of evaluators indicated that they would have liked to see the students have more time to design and complete a project. Based on this input, I have already confirmed and secured funding for the 2013 Award, and I will be officially announcing it in January 2013. This will allow the participants to carry out a project throughout the spring and summer, rather than in less than 2 months, as they had for the past two years.

Connecting with a Worldwide Community

In 2011, I sought volunteers to help analyze camera trap photos from the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia. Student volunteers were able to help out in an actual study being conducted by CCF, and they were part of a project that could directly benefit wild cheetahs and other African wildlife. The attached document below was sent to me by CCF staff members, but it is included to document what the students were asked to do. I had 4 student volunteers who spent several hours each in Fall 2011 looking at the camera trap photos from CCF and entering data into Excel files. The data were sent back to CCF in December of 2011.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund camera trap project came to me directly from staff members of CCF, while I was there for a 2011 Earth Expedition. I had expressed interest in getting my students more involved in the mission of CCF. When I returned home, I stayed in email contact with CCF staff members, and they sent CDs full of photos for my students to analyze and record onto the provided data sheets. While I had hoped to involve more of my students in the project, I was excited that four volunteers were able to work on a study that would directly be used by the Cheetah Conservation Fund to census the wild cheetahs on and around their property, along with the game species that make up the cheetahs' diet. If we had more time to work on the data analysis, I had planned to allow an entire class to work on analyzing the photos and inputting the data. The four students who did work on the project expressed great interest in the study, and they all indicated that they had learned a lot about how to identify Namibian wildlife and how to enter data for a scientific study. They also indicated that they felt closer to CCF and its mission after participating in the data entry, which was my goal for providing this opportunity to my students. I hope to be able to do more with CCF in the future.

Educating Myself, Engaging My Students

Throughout my journey with the Global Field Program, I have made an effort to tie my professional goals, which include educating and inspiring my students, in with course assignments and projects. Thus, I have chosen Earth Expeditions themes and paper topics that directly relate to my programs and students. This has allowed me to read scientific papers and journal articles that strengthened my understanding of a wide variety of topics including conservation efforts in zoos, current teaching skills, and specific studies on environmental issues. By focusing on themes and projects that directly relate to my current job and to my students, I was able to directly use my knowledge and experience to better educate my students and engage them more fully in cutting-edge science and teaching techniques.

I began this effort with my first Earth Expedition to Belize in 2009. By focusing on the role of zoos and aquariums in manatee conservation for my topic paper, I was able to better understand the specific goals and strengths of conservation programs within institutions governed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). I was able to use this information to create a course and lessons that focused specifically on teaching kids about the current conservation efforts and goals of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium (Species in Peril, described above). I was also able to engage my students in class discussions of manatee conservation with the help of the Community Engagement Lab focused on creating and assessing manatee posters.

I learned more about community-based conservation programs in zoos for a topic paper in 2011, which gave me more ideas for ways my students could become more involved in conservation programs in their own communities. This tied in directly with the creation of the Conservation Leadership Award. It was meaningful in a broader manner, as well, as I learned more about the Pittsburgh Zoo's conservation partnerships with organizations such as Polar Bears International, which has lead to more student opportunities, such as participation in PBI's teen conservation contest, "Project Polar Bear". I am currently serving as an adult adviser for a Project Polar Bear team called, "Polar Power". The team is made up of current KidScience students, and they have recently begun brainstorming ideas for a conservation project under the topic of "No Idling".

Finally, this year, I completed a topic paper on engaging teenagers in mindfulness and conservation education. Later, I directly used the information I learned for the paper during a 4-day student camp at the Pittsburgh Zoo's International Conservation Center (ICC), as I led several mindfulness activities throughout the week. Mindfulness and environmental education for teenagers was the topic that I was able to most seamlessly incorporate into our current programming. ICC camp is an ideal location for mindfulness activities and engaging students in environmental activities. I did not design a whole new course around the material, as I had previously done in Zoo U. courses. For the ICC mindfulness activities, I simply was able to slightly tweak the currently used lesson plans at the ICC to ask the students to reflect on their experiences or to create activities that fully engaged the students. Next year, I hope to add a few more mindfulness activities into the camp, and perhaps, I will lead the students on at least one group meditation.

I love to learn, and I have often said that I learn more than my students when I am writing a new lesson, activity, or course. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn about such a wide-variety of topics through the Global Field Program, with the common goal of being able to directly incorporate my new-found knowledge and experience into my professional programs. Not only have I benefited from my education but so have my students, department, Zoo, and ultimately, community.

Sharing the Programs and Projects with the Public

My students are my primary audience. However, I want to share information about my programs (KidScience and Zoo U.), my students and the great work that they are doing, and the conservation programs that I have experienced through the GFP with the wider public, as well.

As part of this goal, I wrote an article about KidScience for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's publication, "Zoo Explorer" in the fall of 2009. The article described KidScience, and it featured quotes from students regarding their projects, participation in conservation efforts, and future plans. While it was a good article, it did not do enough to promote the conservation efforts of the students. The "Zoo Explorer" editors were looking for more of a general piece to introduce KidScience to a wider audience, rather than a story to promote individual efforts of the students or the program. In the future, I hope to write an additional article to discuss the Conservation Leadership Award or another way our students are directly working to better the community.

In the spring of 2010, I created and presented a poster at the Animal Behavior Management Alliance's annual conference. The article described how KidScience students design and create enrichment items each year for the Pittsburgh Zoo's animal residents. While these projects are not specifically conservation-related, they do engage the students in hands-on efforts to better the lives of their favorite Zoo animals. The poster was designed to show other zoo professionals the value of involving teenagers in zoo projects. The poster was a success in that I have made several contacts at zoos around the country as a result of the conference. Many people were interested in engaging teenagers in more projects, and they were excited by the success that we have had. Additionally, the poster now hangs on a wall in the Pittsburgh Zoo's new Animal Care Center, where staff members and visiting Zoo personnel can see it on a regular basis as a reminder of what teenagers are able to accomplish if given the opportunity and resources.

I recently submitted the article, "Ongoing Classes for Teens: Growing the Next Generation of Conservationists" to AZA's Connect Magazine for consideration for publication (pending publication). The article features findings from my past IAP projects, and it describes the success we have had with teen programs at the Pittsburgh Zoo. It explains some of the ways in which I have encouraged my students to be involved in conservation projects, and it shows that we have been very successful with our long-term students. Should it be accepted for publication, the article will give ideas to other conservation educators about ways to foster positive conservation attitudes in their teenage students. While it was originally written in the spring of 2011, I updated it with current information from 2012 prior to submission. I received extremely positive feedback from members of the Marketing Department at the Zoo when seeking permission to submit the article.

I also presented an adult lecture at the Pittsburgh Zoo about my Earth Expedition to the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia in the summer of 2011. The adult lecture was advertised by the Zoo, and 39 paying guests attended the lecture. I also gave the talk for Pittsburgh Zoo staff to prepare for the public lecture. Additionally, I have an adult lecture scheduled for January 2013 to discuss my Expedition to Thailand in the summer of 2012. I am currently still working on the design and content for the talk, though it is already being advertised on the Zoo's website. Adult lectures are a great way to reach an entirely new audience, as they are often attended by docents, donors, and general zoo patrons, some of which have never heard of KidScience, Zoo U. or the work they do on a regular basis. I love being able to share stories of my travels and experiences, while simultaneously serving as an ambassador for the students and programs that I work with every day.

Goals Accomplished, But Not Quite Finished

Overall, my goal of educating and inspiring a new generation of conservationists is not something I will ever be able to call complete. It will be ongoing as long as there are local and global environmental concerns and teenagers who want to learn how to address those issues. However, through my Master Plan and the Global Field Program, I have learned how to more efficiently address the topics, effectively communicate with my students, engage their interest and enthusiasm in practical projects, and foster their creativity and optimism into positive solutions for the environment. Children are not only the future of conservation, they are the present, as they can effectively communicate with adults and their peers today (Ballantyne, Connell, & Fein, 2006). The key is allowing them to see that they do have the power to make a difference right now. Teens can create a large change in the world simply by making small changes in their lives and encouraging changes in their families and communities.

There is hope for the future, and if people can see that, they will be more likely to take their conservation actions seriously (Swaisgood, & Sheppard, 2010). If everyone makes tiny changes in their lives, the combined effort can add up to a meaningful difference for the world. This is this message I want to leave with my students: they can be part of the solution and they can make a difference today, even as teenagers. We all have the capacity to do great things. We just have to work together to accomplish our goals.


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