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The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced that the Chicago Zoological Society has received its 2009 Education Award for its Levels of Engagement program.

“The Chicago Zoological Society is taking the lead in science education,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “The AZA Education award provides well-deserved national recognition for this important endeavor.”

With its annual Education Award, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recognizes outstanding achievement in educational program design, judging programs on their ability to promote conservation knowledge, attitudes and behavior, show innovation, and measure success.

Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) is partnering with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system in an effort to help educators improve confidence and competence in science teaching through its innovative Levels of Engagement program. This multiyear project addresses self-identified needs of CPS educators by providing professional development experiences at a variety of levels. Professional development opportunities model student-centered, participatory, interdisciplinary, inquiry-based pedagogy.

Levels of Engagement is the driving force in the institutional implementation of CZS’s Learning Strategy, a learner-centered educational framework for achieving conservation outcomes and developing conservation leaders. The program targets CPS Pre K-12 educators from all schools within the district to improve teachers’ competency and confidence in teaching science. The strategy is based on three measureable domains: cognitive, emotional, and behavioral outcomes. The overarching goal of the program is to enhance how CPS educators teach science.

“Levels of Engagement is an exciting, innovative program that inspires teachers and enhances their confidence and competence in teaching science. The Chicago Zoological Society is proud of its partnership with the Chicago Public School system to create a better educational model for students,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., CEO and president of the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.