Oakland Zoo Teaches Conservation-based Science Curriculum to Kids in Madagascar’s Rural Schools

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Two of Oakland Zoo’s Education staff are now in Madagascar as part of a three-year program developing conservation-based educational curriculum for grade school students in the country’s remote and impoverished villages.

Daniel Flynn, Program Director in Education at Oakland Zoo, poses with school children at one of the participating Madagascar grade schools

Two of Oakland Zoo’s Education staff are now in Madagascar as part of a three-year program developing conservation-based educational curriculum for grade school students in the country’s remote and impoverished villages. Daniel Flynn and Betty Vilallta of Oakland Zoo, along with representatives from Centre ValBio, Madagascar Ministry of Basic Education, Madagascar Ministry of Higher Education, University of Fianarantsoa, Stony Brook University in New York, and local Malagasy teachers and village leaders have teamed together to develop and launch a new educational curriculum aimed to inspire and empower young girls and boys in impoverished and remote villages of Madagascar.

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Centre ValBio, a conservation partner to Oakland Zoo dedicated to lemur research and conservation in Madagascar, approached the Zoo’s Education Department in 2015 about the program, and for the second year in a row the Zoo has sent two education specialist staff to be part of the “brain trust” tasked in developing and carrying out conservation-focused, locally relevant curriculum and education aids used in the new alternative method in teaching and learning, titled “My Rainforest, My World.”

The project, funded by a three-year grant from Three Graces Foundation, is intended to help the children learn more effectively in science and to develop critical thinking skills - encouraging them to continue their education into middle school and beyond. Currently, the average age of girls and boys opting out of formal education in Madagascar is 4th grade and younger, with some as young as 13 marrying and starting families of their own.

Since the program’s launch last year, the number of participating schools has doubled from ten to twenty. The schools are located in very rural farming communities, with little to no classroom resources, most of the program schools have no running water or electricity. Upon arriving in Madagascar, Oakland Zoo’s educators delivered 200 pounds of classroom supplies and $700 donated by Zoo staff, Bay Area schools and businesses to the participating schools. Oakland Zoo is also auctioning off a behind-the-scenes experience with lemurs, native to Madagascar, to raise much needed funds for the purchase of additional school supplies.

In addition to developing curriculum and educational aids in collaboration with Centre ValBio, located in Southeastern Madagascar, the project hopes to expand the frontiers of knowledge while safeguarding biodiversity for future generations. A key component of the project involves recruiting and training student teacher interns to aid in the classrooms. These interns will help administer and teach the new curriculum in the schools under the direction and guidance of Centre ValBio and Oakland Zoo; and students will be taught hands-on science through the Zoo’s participatory educational models and theories which they can then use when they graduate.

This effort marks the third hands-on collaboration between Oakland Zoo and Centre ValBio. Last year, zookeepers Margaret Rousser and Elizabeth Abram travelled to Madagascar to assist in the capture and data collection of the park’s Milne-Edward sifaka’s (lemurs, which are critically endangered). Oakland Zoo is thrilled to work on yet another project in Madagascar that directly benefits the local people and native wildlife.

About Oakland Zoo:

The Bay Area's award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid's activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and wildlife conservation onsite and worldwide; with 25¢ from each ticket donated to support conservation partners and programs around the world. The California Trail, a transformational project that more than doubles our size, opens in 2018,

and will further our commitment to animal care, education, and conservation with a focus on this state’s remarkable native wildlife. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks. For more information, go to: http://www.oaklandzoo.org

About Centre ValBio:

Centre ValBio was created by Professor Patricia Wright in 2003 to help both indigenous people and the international community better understand the value of conservation in Madagascar and around the world. CVB’s mission has three main objectives, which are: to promote world-class research in one of the world’s most biologically diverse and unique ecosystems; to encourage environmental conservation by developing ecologically sustainable economic development programs with local villages; to provide the local villagers with the knowledge and tools to improve their quality of life through projects focused on sanitation, diet, and education, and ultimately reduce poverty in the area.

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Erin Harrison
Oakland Zoo
+1 510-632-9525 Ext: 135
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