AIP Course Descriptions


Investigations of animal behavior comprise a rich field of study that began as a means to survival for early humans. It has now become a captivating field of scientific study in its own right. This course focuses on species in the order Carnivora. Students in this course investigate animal behavior through direct observation of the zoo’s diverse animal species to explore key questions about how and why species act the way they do in different situations. This course will provide a foundation for understanding ethological research methods and animal conservation issues that can be applied and adapted to increased understanding about animal welfare and wildlife conservation in local educational and community settings.

This is a Web+ course with interaction on-site and in Dragonfly’s web-based learning community.
Climate Change

Participants will study the diverse causes of climate change and investigate potential actions to address global warming. During the class meetings, participants will discuss: public opinion; terms associated with climate change; the effect on oceans; weather vs. climate; the “Six Americans” study; deforestation, and potential affects on Illinois. At the end of this course, participants have a solid understanding of current issues surrounding climate change and strategies for taking action on a local and national level.

Course Code: BIO 638
Course Credits: 3
Online work and four class meetings
Fall term

Note: This course is offered every other year.

Course themes:

  • Analyze primary research on courses, impacts, and proposed solutions to climate change
  • Discuss strategies for engaging in local conservation action
  • Explore principles and science of climate change
  • Learn about polls, the “Six Americans” study, and how polls affect public perception
  • Understand potential effects of global warming on the Great Lakes region
Environmental Stewardship In My Community

Participants will investigate conservation opportunities and solutions in their local communities, practice inquiry-based learning, develop a conservation project to be used in their classroom or community, and reflect on their ecological footprint. At the end of this course, participants have a solid understanding of current issues facing local habitats and strategies for empowering their students or community members to generate solutions and take action.

Course code: BIO 656
Course credit: 3
Online work, 3 class meetings, and volunteer work required
Fall term
Note: required course

Course Themes:

  • Investigate local conservation issues to understand causes and impacts
  • Analyze solutions to local issues and evaluate individual stewardship level
  • Develop strategies for engaging students or community members in local conservation action
  • Explore principles of sustainability and possible outcomes
  • Understand community-based conservation and its benefits
Foundations of Inquiry

This course engages students in exploring the foundations of inquiry based teaching and learning whole gaining familiarity with the advanced inquiry program. The course will include interdisciplinary learning and inquiry techniques, and critical thinking skills. Participants will carry out original inquiry investigations. Through developing comparative questions, devising investigations and communicating results, participants will experience the full process of inquiry and will learn how to guide the process in the own communities.

Course code: BIO 654
Course credit: 3
Online work and 4 class meetings
Summer term
Note: Required first course in AIP

Course Themes:

  • Construct an understanding of the nature of science and investigate models of inquiry in the life sciences.
  • Create and conduct field research projects.
  • Engage in and design inquiry projects as a tool for participatory learning.
  • Assess methods for evaluation when using inquiry-based approaches.
  • Employ community resources, including the AIP master institution environment, to create connections.
Independent Study

This is a credit/no credit course. This course provides AIP students with the opportunity to do intensive research on a topic or topics that directly contribute to the student’s Master Plan. Research may take the form of direct observations but must also include an extensive literature review. The final project includes an extensive written research paper and may include other product (short movie, website, multimedia presentation, etc.). This experience is intended to add depth and insight to the student’s master plan and the student is expected to take on significant responsibilities within the chosen independent study topic.

Course Code: BIO 677
Course Credits: 1 - 3
Online work and individual meetings as necessary
Any semester after completing Master Plan in Action

Course themes:

  • Think critically to research facts and solutions to real world issues
  • Conduct extensive research, synthesize information, and expand on the understanding of the topic
  • Reach novel and sound conclusions and ideas based on research information
  • Master research skills and develop a final synthesis product

This is a credit/no credit course. This course provides AIP students with the opportunity to work one-on-one with Zoo professionals and/or Community leaders on projects that directly contribute to the student’s Master Plan. This experience is intended to be pragmatic, and the student is expected to take on significant responsibilities within the chosen internship. The minimum work required is 90 hours for 2 credit course and 135 hours for 3 credit course. However, students must complete all hours required by internship institution.

Course Code:BIO 640
Course Credits: 2-3
Online work and individual meetings as necessary
Any semester after completing Master Plan in Action

Course themes:

  • Think critically to develop solutions to real world issues
  • Network and work collaboratively with professionals in their chosen fields
  • Explore career opportunities and develop a more informed plan for post-graduation success
  • Develop a unique set of skills that will enhance their Master Plan objectives
Great Lakes Ecosystems

This course requires local travel and a large amount of walking and step climbing.  Students must be able to meet this participation requirement.

The focus of this laboratory-based course is the study of the Great Lakes watershed area. It combines classroom work with field science inquiry and research. Course methods include investigations, lecture, discussion, individual and group projects, and selected readings.  Students investigate the history, geology, flora, fauna, varied ecosystems, and human influence on the Great Lakes area.

Course code: BIO 659
Course credit: 3
Online work and 4 class meeting
Summer Term

Course Themes:

  • Become familiar with the positive and negative human influences on the Great Lakes ecosystem, and understand the status of local stresses and water quality
  • Experience in observing, testing and describing current conditions of watershed waterways, and understand how watersheds function.
  • Gain insight into the history and formation of the Great Lakes area, and become familiar with the terrain in the greater Chicago area.
  • Become familiar with the native plant and animal species; observe and describe these species, and understand their status.
  • Understand local sewage treatment and its relationship to the Great Lakes area, and understand point and non-point source pollution.
Master Plan In Action

The AIP Master Plan (MP) represents a student’s ideas and areas of interest as those ideas relate to the student’s professional and community goals. By writing a Master Plan, students are able to focus their AIP journey and visualize the actions and steps that they might take toward completing their master’s degree. During this course with guidance and input from peers and the AIP Cohort advisor, students work on completing their Master Plans. This ensures that students have a workable plan to incorporate the projects they create as part of their AIP experiences into their professional and life goals. Students will also think about the common threads and program tenets among the projects in this cohesive body of work.

Course Code: BIO 655
Course Credits: 2
Online work and 3 class meetings
Summer term

Note: Required course.

Course Themes

  • Evaluate colleague’s Master Plans and project work, including conducting critical peer review, and respond to individual and peer discussion about their own Master Plan
  • Analyze the vision, focus, goals, actions and audience of intended Master Plan
  • Design a Master Plan to ensure community engagement is well represented in a student’s selected projects
  • Develop, expand and revise a focused research plan or social action strategy that includes a timeline for conducting anticipated projects
  • Determine what is to be accomplished by the end of the AIP degree program
Graduate Research: Book Discussion

This pass/fail course centers on the books, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, by Daniel Quinn (1992) and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond (2005/2011). These unique works focus on the tension between humankind and the Earth. While Quinn divides humankind into two simple groups, Takers and Leavers, Diamond holds a complex theory about causes of the success or failure of societies. Online discussion and class meetings allow the student to investigate their own beliefs about conservation theories, investigate local conservation examples, and examine their personal role (and barriers) in caring for the Earth.

Course Code: BIO 620
Course Credits: 1
Online work and two class meetings
Spring term

Course themes:

  • Increasing awareness of contemporary conservation issues
  • Developing an awareness of modern humankind’s effect on the Earth
  • Thinking critically and scientifically about environmental issues
  • Developing critical review skills when reading literature
Plants and People

As is evidenced by the schoolyard ecology movement, the popularity of Richard Louv's recent book Last Child In the Woods, and the large number of people enjoying outside activities, everyone is increasingly realizing the power of local environments to engage in powerful learning experiences. Join Brookfield Zoo in exploring the power of inquiry to generate knowledge and illuminate the relationships between plants and people. Interact with ecologists, botanists, and classmates, while developing great ideas for using natural and cultivated plant communities.

Course Code: BIO 695
Course Credits: 3
Online work and four class meetings
Fall term

Note: This course is offered every other year.

Course themes:

  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Relationships between plants and people
  • The use of wild and cultivated spaces in education
  • Methods of botanical investigations
  • Curricular development and educational leadership
Regional Ecology: Biodiversity of Northern Illinois

Through field-based experiences and in-class discussions, students will explore the rich diversity of ecosystems found in Northern Illinois and major conservation issues that threat their biodiversity. In-situ exploration of high-quality regional woods, wetland, and prairie provides insight into the interdependence and diversity among the Northern Illinois ecosystems and its biodiversity.

Course Code: BIO 657
3 credit hours
Summer class - 4 face-to-face days

Course Themes

  • Current issues for Northern Illinois wildlife and habitat conservation.
  • The interconnection between and the diversity in the local ecosystems.
  • Observing, testing and describing current regional conditions.
  • Insight into the history and formation of Northern Illinois ecosystems.
  • Understand the status of local stresses on Northern Illinois ecosystems.
  • Hands-on experience in collecting, observing, and describing conditions in regional ecosystems.
  • Understand the negative and positive impacts of people on the landscape.