Brookfield, Ill.—The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is delighted to announce a $1.5 million gift from Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. King to establish the King Conservation Science Scholars. Each year, this notable and innovative program will serve 120 diverse Chicago-area high school students, 65 percent of whom will be female and/or underserved students.

The program is designed to develop scientifically literate, college-ready, and career-ready teenagers who are prepared to resolve major environmental and technological issues facing the greater Chicago area and the country.

“We are deeply appreciative of the Kings’ endorsement of the Conservation Science Scholars program,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Society. “Our mission is creating conservation leaders by connecting people with wildlife and nature. We believe it is critically important that informal science organizations like ours be proactive in providing out-of-school, zoo-based, and community-based programs. These programs allow teens to construct scientific knowledge, exercise critical-thinking skills, apply their scientific knowledge through action, and reflect on their experiences.”

“We are so proud to be collaborating with the Chicago Zoological Society in this effort. It epitomizes our philanthropic mission,” said Emmy and Bob King. “The King Conservation Science Scholars represents the future of teen programming. By combining subject-specific training, research and commu­nity service projects, and bridge-building activities, program graduates will be better prepared for college and will become scientifically literate and environmentally aware. Further, the program participants will be better equipped to meet the environmental challenges of the future.” 

The Society is partnering with several schools and community organizations to implement this new program. These include Eden Place Nature Center, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Urban League, Academy for Urban School Leadership, Rasmussen College, and Benedictine University.

Students will be required to complete a minimum of 120 hours per year in noncredit program courses offered at Brookfield Zoo and other locations. Courses are designed to build competency in science, environmental education, and career and college readiness. First-year students will take six foundation courses: Conservation Concepts, Basic Inquiry Training, Educational Communications, Team Building, Customer Service, and Diversity/Harassment Training.

Students may then choose additional courses from the following areas: science knowledge (animal behavior and climate change); science application (science project research with Chicago Zoological Society mentors); environmental education (conservation psychology and exhibit interpretation); career readiness (resume writing, mock interviews, and dressing for success); and college readiness (college and major selection and financial aid).

Working with staff, fellow program participants, and community members, students will also develop and carry out environmental education or STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) projects. For example, they might help create a wetland area in an urban nature preserve, develop a project to teach Spanish-speaking zoo guests about climate change, plant and tend a pollinator garden in their neighborhood, or serve as a zoo interpreter. These projects will contain aspects of planning, science, engineering, research, interpretation, and/or environmental education programming.