Conservation Educator Academy

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This blog is a sharing space for teachers participating in the 2016 Conservation Educator Academy at the Indianapolis Zoo.  Use this space to post comments, questions, reflections, and to share links.

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Caitlynn Richardson - Profile

Posted by Caitlynn Richardson on June 24, 2019 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)


My name is Caitlynn Richardson, and I'm a 4th year science teacher at Chapel Hill 7th & 8th Grade Center in Wayne Township. I love animals! I interned at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo and worked in the education department for a year and decided that I wanted to do something similar for the rest of my life. I immediately added an Animal Behavior minor to my Biology degree, and then continued on to get a Master's in Teaching. My favorite time at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo was when I got to hang out with a dingo in the education department. I've never been to the Indianapolis Zoo, but I'm extremely excited to be here! 

Lizzette Menendez

Posted by Lizzette Menendez on June 23, 2019 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello all! My name is Lizzette Menendez!

I teach life science, including Biology (10th grade) and Zoology (11th and 12th grades), at Frankfort High School in Frankfort, IN (about an hour northwest from the zoo). 

My passion for animals is plentiful! I have countless grand memories from the Indianapolis Zoo, stemming from visiting as a young child to being an intern in the water quality lab and in animal care for carnivores and marine mammals to taking advantage of their PD opportunities for teachers! If given the opportunity, I love learning about what people are doing around the world to help save animals. One of my favorite memories is volunteering in South Africa to help with Great White Shark cage diving/ research and African penguin care/research!

I can't wait to learn more ways to share this incredibly important information with my students!

Tracy Guy

Posted by Tracy on June 22, 2019 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)
I teach sixth grade science at Greenwood Middle School. This upcoming school year will be my 17th year of teaching. My most memorable zoo experiences are from recent years at the Indianapolis Zoo. I enjoy seeing my son watch his favorite animals. He and I love the new snake exhibit! I also like the macaque exhibit. My students helped to name five of the macaques and they really enjoy watching the live-cam of the macaques and the tigers.

Miss Melody Tharpe

Posted by Melody Tharpe on June 17, 2019 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

 I went to college to become a genetic biologist, but end with an exposure and deep respect for psychology. Following my college graduation, I took a position with a firm in the accounting department based on my strong math and analytical skills and followed that with a short time in the insurance industry. While working in insurance, I volunteered with an afterschool tutoring program for homeless students. It was through this experience that my desire to switch into teaching formed. Therefore, I have been a classroom teacher for the past decade plus.  I am a life long learner.  I love for new experiences and adventures.  I have a natural love for all animals from all over the world.

Dr. McConnell's Personal Profile

Posted by Dr. Tom on June 14, 2019 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to the 2019 CEA! 

I am Tom McConnell, Associate Professor of Science Education in the Department of Biology at Ball State University. I teach science methods courses for both elementary and secondary education majors, as well as a biology content course for elementary education majors. 

In my work, I also write/publish a series of books about wildlife conservation (Conservation Tales), and lead a variety of teacher professional development activities.

In the last year since our 2018 Academy, I have visited several zoos and aquariums, but my favorite experience was a safari on the Masai Mara in southern Kenya! This was part of a life-changing 2-week trip to Kenya that checked off numerous bucket list items for me, including getting up close with some of the African wildlife that made me want to be a biologist when I was a kid. The image in this post is from that trip, and I will be sharing some other information related to the CEA's theme this year. 

I can't wait to learn more from the staff at the Indianapolis Zoo and share some resources and teaching ideas with all of you this summer! See at the Zoo soon!

2019 Personal Profiles

Posted by Dr. Tom on June 14, 2019 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to the 2019 Conservation Educator Academy!


You have enrolled in the 6th Cohort of the CEA, and this year's theme is "Saving Species: From Invasive Pythons to Elephant Poaching." The Zoo's new reptile exhibit shares information about pythons in the US, and several other exhibits highlight the threat of poaching and illegal animal trade, so we will discuss those topics this year. The theme also fits well with much of my work over the last year, too! I'm excited to connect the theme to your local area and the news we see about environmental issues!


"This Personal Profile is a discussion topic to help us get to know each other! Please try to post in this discussion - Use the "Add Entry" button at the top of the Blog page. Make sure you select "Profiles" for one of the categories.


In your Profile, please include the following:


Your name

Where you teach

What you teach - grade level, subject, etc.

Describe a personal experience at a zoo or aquarium that stands out in your memory.

Include a FACE PIC - I'm bad with names, and I use this to help me connect names and faces. Click the "computer" icon next to the smiley face in the tool bar at the top of your text window while you type your comment.

I am excited to meet you all soon! Look for emails with announcements as we draw closer to the CEA!


Tom McConnell, Ph.D., Ball State University

Lesson Planning Questions

Posted by Dr. Tom on June 25, 2016 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Conservation Educators, this post is a discussion to allow your comments and questions throughout the rest of the summer as you work to finish your lesson plans.

Looking for ideas or resources for activities?
Want some help with an assessment instrument?
In need some feedback from your peers?

Post your questions here for those topics.  We can use this as a "virtual professional learning community."

And if you're not posting questions or comments, keep an eye on this thread. You may that you have something you can share to help your colleagues.

Soil Conservation Ideas

Posted by Jamie H on June 23, 2016 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

If you are looking for help or someone to speak in your class about soil conservation, contact Sherry Fulk-Bringman from Purdue University.

Sherry Fulk-Bringman

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 765-494-4773

Photo Journaling - Share what you find!

Posted by Dr. Tom on June 14, 2016 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

As you take part in the CEA's activities, please share some of the photos and observations you make during the day.