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Earn your Master's the wild way

Posted by: Jenny Mears, Education

Are you an educator interested in earning your Master’s degree with Woodland Park Zoo as your campus? Would you like to join formal and informal educators from around Puget Sound and the world in building a strong foundation in ecological literacy, inquiry-based learning and field investigation?
Instructors learn through observation at Woodland Park Zoo's award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

If so, Woodland Park Zoo and Project Dragonfly from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio are thrilled to introduce you to the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP), an exciting new Master’s program for educators. Co-delivered by Woodland Park Zoo professional education staff and faculty at Miami University, the AIP combines graduate courses at the zoo with web-based learning communities that connect you to a broad network of educators and community leaders.
Foundations of Inquiry students test whether the water strider they created will use surface tension to stay on top of the water. Photo by Katie Remine/Woodland Park Zoo.
The first cohort of 21 Master’s students began their graduate career with Foundations of Inquiry, a course that took place on zoo grounds this summer. For five days, these formal and informal educators learned about the process of inquiry-based learning and its use as a tool for participatory education and conservation action through hands-on activities, tours of zoo animals in their exhibit habitats, presentations by zoo staff, and participation in group inquiry projects.
Educators stuff peanuts into an enrichment ball for the zoo’s Asian bears. Photo by Katie Remine/Woodland Park Zoo.

Foundations of Inquiry students also had the opportunity to fill enrichment balls and tubes with fruit and nuts for the zoo’s sun and sloth bears. They made predictions about how the bears would access their food and then were able to observe the animals finding the enrichment items they created while hearing a talk about these bears by zookeepers.
One of the zoo’s sloth bears sucking the fruit and nuts out of an enrichment tube. Photo by Katie Remine/Woodland Park Zoo.

The Advanced Inquiry Program graduate students also had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and hear about the zoo’s Oregon spotted frog conservation program from the zookeeper who cares for these endangered amphibians. They learned firsthand how the zoo gives Oregon spotted frogs a headstart by raising them in captivity until they have completed metamorphosis from tadpole to frog, giving them a better chance to escape predators.
A young Oregon spotted frog in its behind-the-scenes pond. Photo by Katie Remine/Woodland Park Zoo.

After their first course, AIP students came away with renewed inspiration and new ideas for teaching their audiences about inquiry-based learning and the natural world, as evidenced by their positive reflections on their experience:

“It's so different from any other learning opportunity that I know of, offering fresh and challenging material and interactivity with other educators.”

“I must say to you how WELL crafted the AIP is! I am completely impressed with the quality of content, professional collaboration, and academic rigor! I am learning so much, feel a little bit overwhelmed, but also feel completely supported in the process. A good place to be, at this point in the process.”

“[This program] has enriched my work life…It's kept my brain alive - reading and exchanging ideas with other, often very different, educators. And probably most important, has given me hope for the world and strategies to use when I go out to work with different populations.”

Want to know more? Sign up for a digital information session!

Join other prospective students from around Puget Sound to learn more about this Master’s degree opportunity. For current year info sessions, please check out


Anonymous said…
I just let all 350 of my "friends" on Facebook know about our AWESOME grad program. Have you?