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Earn your Master's degree at the zoo

Posted by: Jenny Mears, Education

Interested in pursuing your degree through the Advanced Inquiry Program? The application deadline is February 28!

Woodland Park Zoo has teamed up with Project Dragonfly from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio to offer the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP), an exciting Master’s program for a broad range of environmental and education professionals, including classroom teachers, zoo and aquarium professionals, and informal educators. The AIP offers a ground-breaking graduate degree focused on inquiry-driven learning as a powerful agent for social change, public engagement, and ecological stewardship. Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) is one of seven institutions across the country that offers the AIP Master’s.

The first AIP cohort at WPZ started in 2011 and students have already reported positive changes in their personal and professional lives. We asked Julia Ward, a Whittier Elementary fifth grade teacher and member of that cohort, to illustrate the impact that this program has had on her teaching, her students, and her life.

Advanced Inquiry Program graduate students Julia Ward and Mike Popelka in the field during their Earth Expedition to Thailand.

Q: Why did you apply to the Advanced Inquiry Program?
Julia: One of my co-workers forwarded an e-mail from the zoo and in that e-mail there was a tiny paragraph about the Advanced Inquiry Program. As I started doing a little research into the program I thought it was way too good to be true. I could get my Master of Arts in Teaching in the biological sciences, do the program while I was working, the price was unbelievably fantastic, and the icing on the cake was that my classes would be AT THE ZOO! I couldn't have imagined anything better. What is most surprising is that so far it has met all of my expectations and more.

Julia Ward’s fifth grade students creating a schoolyard habitat at Whittier Elementary .

Q: What impact has the program had on you personally and professionally?
Julia: I have never personally done anything as academically challenging as this program has been. All of the assignments we are given and the articles we need to read have really pushed the limits of my understanding. At first, I was truly uncomfortable with the steep learning curve and high expectations. My trip to Thailand for my Earth Expeditions course took me further out of my comfort zone than I had ever been before. This kind of struggle, experiences, and academic growth has totally altered the way I think about myself now. I came into this program feeling like I was not really qualified because I was just a 5th grade teacher. I feel like an expert now.

Student plant inventory of habitat garden.

Q: What impact has this program had on your audience / students?
Julia: This program has had a huge impact on my students. I was able to take all of my new learning and present it to my students as I went along. My students created multimedia projects for their website, participated in an environmental pen-pal project, mapped the local watershed, planned and conducted an evolution investigation, and they are currently working on a schoolyard habitat garden project. They also shared their research about the invasive species English Ivy, went on multiple environmental field trips, and even had environmental guest speakers. This program has pushed me to do things and create projects that I never would have thought to do on my own. My students have truly benefited. 

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


lizabaker said…
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