Project IMAGINE: Innovative Model for the Advancement of the Gifted through Inquiry in Nature and the Environment
Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo, Bronx, NY
Gifted and talented students face an array of potential problems ranging from apathy and underachievement to the risk of dropping out of school. These hazards are magnified for students from under-served areas. These are the very students targeted in Project IMAGINE.
What does IMAGINE mean?
I - Innovative
M - Model for the
A - Advancement of the
G - Gifted through
I - Inquiry in
N - Nature and the
E - Environment.
Project IMAGINE was incorporated into five school districts of the New York City Area over a period of three years. Sponsored by the Bronx Zoo Education Department, this grant-funded project involves schools where at least 50% of the students come from low-income families. It incorporates professional development for the cooperating teachers and relates content and performance standards to a core subject.
Unfortunately, very few informal science institutions (ISI) are able or equipped to meet the needs of gifted and talented students. Therefore, Project IMAGINE serves as a model of how ISIs such as zoos, nature centers and museums can work with schools to implement a program of science infusion for gifted and talented students.
Through this program 6th grade teachers from under-served communities in the New York City metropolitan area come to the Bronx Zoo for training in the HELP: Habitat Ecology Learning Program curriculum. HELP affords teachers professional development credits and opportunities to work with the gifted and talented by incorporating the curriculum in their classes. At the end of the school year teachers recommend their students who show talent and strong interest in science to Project IMAGINE.
In the 7th grade these children begin the application process to come to the zoo for an intensive training program in conservation biology, ecology, environmental science and taxonomy.
If accepted, students fulfill a 70-hour participation requirement from September through June. This program includes classroom work at the zoo, special projects including a distance learning presentation, and working in the field with docent mentors.
At this point the Friends of Wildlife Conservation/Friends of the Zoo or FOZ, as we are popularly known, now enter the picture. It is our duty to escort our “mentees” for an entire day of service at the zoo. Here are some of our favorite photos of the enjoyable hours we have spent with the Junior Zoo Guides of Project IMAGINE.
(At the presentation of this paper slides will be shown.)