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Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski (LEFT) and Dr. Alejandro Grajal (RIGHT),
CZS Senior Vice President
for Conservation and Education.

Dr. Alejandro Grajal, senior vice president for conservation and education of the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, appeared before the House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education chaired by Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski. During the hearing held February 26, 2009, in Washington, DC, Grajal testified on the importance of organizations such as CZS that offer informal science education.

“With our nation’s science education system failing,” Grajal told federal lawmakers, “now is the time we must harness our collective resources to stem the declining performance of American students.

Through the Chicago Zoological Society's conservation education programs, Grajal and his team work with area families, students, teachers, and universities to expand the role of informal environments in educating students and the public about science. CZS staff work with Chicago-area school districts, and have developed an extensive teacher-training program that provides sequential levels of engagement in science, from one credit-hour courses, to summer learning institutes, all the way to graduate degrees in advanced inquiry skills.

Grajal continued his remarks by briefing members of the Subcommittee on the Chicago Zoological Society’s achievements in providing fun and exciting opportunities for science exploration by families and children, developing strong science training opportunities for teachers through partnerships with area school districts, and developing a science career ladder for youth and young professionals in economically distressed, highly-urbanized areas.

“Our proactive approach is the Career Ladder for Youth program, which was awarded the prestigious Institute for Museum and Library Services Medal in 2008. This program starts by developing after school programs at Chicago metropolitan libraries. We engage thousands of families with young children in predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhoods. Families and children experience nature, discover science skills at the library and we support trips to the zoo, nearby forest preserves, and the shores of Lake Michigan. For most of these inner city families, a camping trip to the Indiana Dunes National Park is a once in a lifetime experience that opens new frontiers in understanding the natural world, and inspiring new careers in science.”

Also appearing at the Subcommittee hearing were Robert Lippincott, senior vice president for education, PBS; Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, director of research and learning, National Science Foundation; Andrea Ingram, vice president of education and guest services, Museum of Science and Industry; and Dr. Philip Bell, national co-chair, Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments.