Biodiversity Quest Program Launches in Chicago

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm

 
Young visitors at a zoo run from exhibit to exhibit fascinated to see animals up close they've only seen in pictures or on TV. They pause to watch an animal for a minute or two and then are off to the next one. A placard or an encounter with a member of the zoo staff offers them some more information about the animals, but would it be possible to use mobile technology to help these young visitors learn even more by making connections between the exhibits they visit?
 
New Learning Institute has partnered with several organizations to create the Biodiversity Quest program in Chicago to challenge young people to create mobile experiences, also known as quests, at Lincoln Park Zoo. Designed in collaboration with Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots and the ARKive project, these youth-designed quests will aim to educate other young visitors about endangered species, as well as show them how they can take action to help save the planet's threatened and endangered species.
 
Biodiversity Quest is an eight-week afterschool program held at Bouchet Academy on the South Side of Chicago. Over the course of the workshops, sixth and seventh grade students from Bouchet will design the mobile quests to be played at Lincoln Park Zoo. The quests will each have a theme that leads other young visitors around the Zoo and helps them draw connections between exhibits. As an example, a group might design a quest that guides visitors to the exhibits of several species that share threatened status because of common threats to their habitats.
 
NLI has worked closely with partners to design a program framework that provides an engaging, hands-on experience for the youth participants. Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots program helped structure the workshops with their model of moving young people from knowledge to compassion and into taking action, making a difference for people, animals, and the environment around them. The students in the Biodiversity Quest program begin by learning about biodiversity, conservation biology, and how species become threatened or endangered. They then connect their new awareness to their own interests by choosing species that they find most intriguing to use as the focus of their quests. Then the young participants take action by conducting research and including in their quest how a visitor to Lincoln Park Zoo could help the cause of a threatened or endangered species which may be found across the globe or as close as their own backyard.
 
ARKive brings to the Biodiversity Quest a wealth of endangered species media, biological information and educational resources. This unique global initiative is leading the 'virtual' conservation effort by finding, sorting, cataloguing and digitizing threatened species multimedia into individual species profiles. ARKive.org is a user-friendly and searchable treasure trove of professional wildlife photos, videos, and biological information for over 12,000 threatened species (and still growing!). The participants in the Biodiversity Quest workshops will build their quests using ARKive biological information and will have access to over 80,000 stunning wildlife photos and videos from the ARKive website. Adding this rich media to the quests will allow the young designers to enhance the experience of zoo visitors.
 
The Biodiversity Quest program launched in Chicago on March 22nd. Working in a collaborative environment, participants will engage in project-based learning that includes an authentic outcome : mobile quests that will be shared with other visitors at Lincoln Park Zoo. Over the next few months we will post Digital Dispatches describing the workshops and the progress the young participants are making on their quests. Check back for an update on their first two weeks soon!