News Release

August 21, 2012


Contact: Sondra Katzen
Public Relations

Chicago Zoological Society to Host Professional Development Day on August 23
Helping Improve Science Education in the Chicago Public Schools System

Brookfield, Ill. — As Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers across the city are preparing for the start of the school year, the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, will host a professional development day to help science teachers develop innovative thinking and creative problem-solving skills.

Science teachers in the CPS system reported that they would like to increase their skills and ability to implement inquiry-based science learning in their classrooms, according to an Illinois Mathematics and Science Partnerships Comprehensive Needs Assessment. The report ranked "knowledge and application of scientific inquiry" and better understanding and application of "how living things interact with each other and with their environment" among their highest priorities for professional development in science.

The development day, being hosted on August 23, is a part of the Society’s award-winning Levels of Engagement program, a science initiative created in 2006 for CPS teachers grades K to 12. The program addresses the professional development needs noted by CPS science teachers by helping educators improve their ability to teach inquiry-based science and to develop classroom practices that support the potential for high-level engagement in science by their students.

“If teachers lack confidence in their ability to implement science learning in their classrooms, the students will struggle to develop a basic understanding of the world around them,” said Agnes Kovacs, manager of school, groups, and teacher programs for the Chicago Zoological Society. “Through the Levels of Engagement program we strive to help teachers develop skills that will directly benefit their students.”

The professional development day will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and will offer the 65 teachers that have registered thus far the choice of six workshops in which to participate. The workshops include:
  • Science Inquiry: Offers a user-friendly version of the scientific method that emphasizes the inquiry question format to promote thinking and investigation.
  • Picture Books for Science Literacy: Teaches elementary teachers how to integrate science within their curricula by using picture books.
  • Science Fair Preparation: Provides ideas for helping students determine their question, isolate variables, locate and keep track of sources, prevent plagiarizing and more.
  • Integration: Explores ways to effectively incorporate science, math, language arts, and social studies to support classroom curricula and activities. Through integration of these subjects, content matter takes on a real world meaning while becoming fun and engaging.
  • Turning Labs into Inquiry: Demonstrates how to take a traditional lab curriculum and turn it into a student-centered inquiry experience.
  • Zoo Resources: Provides teachers with an overview of resources available at Brookfield Zoo to help them enhance their classroom, curricula, field trips, and personal growth.
“The Chicago Zoological Society is committed to making Brookfield Zoo a living classroom for teachers and students in order to enhance their competency and confidence in science,” said Stuart D. Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society.

The teacher professional development day at Brookfield Zoo is made possible by funding from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, and Motorola Solutions Foundation.

The Levels of Engagement program provides teachers and their students with the opportunity to develop the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through innovative thinking and creative problem-solving skills by applying the strategies outlined by the National Research Council and National Science Teachers Association. Since the program’s inception, upwards of 800 CPS teachers representing more than 160 individual schools across the city have participated.
The program further supports classroom learning by providing student peer-to-peer mentoring and the annual Brookfield Zoo Science Fair. Through this program, high school mentors are paired with middle school students to assist and coach them in the development of their Science Fair projects.

The Chicago Zoological Society’s mission is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation and for Brookfield Zoo's innovative, naturalistic, multispecies exhibits. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. For further information, visit
# # #