Conservation Educator Academy

Click here to edit subtitle

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.

view:  full / summary

Stacie Hernandez

Posted by Stacie Hernandez on June 24, 2018 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I am a fourth grade teacher at St. Monica School and also a Program Director the The STEM Connection. The STEM Connection provides opportunities for STEM learning through summer camp, field trips to our farm, after school programs, and teacher professional development. I have 14 years experience as an occupational therapist and 8 years experience as an elementary teacher.


Just last week, we brought our summer camp group to the zoo for a field trip. They loved every aspect and were able to make many connections to the work we’ve been doing during our camp on the themes of technology, engineering, and life science careers. I’m looking forward the this professional development experience and learning some new ways to create and share engaging STEM lessons for my classroom and camp students.


Martha Smith

Posted by Martha Smith on June 22, 2018 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

My name is Martha Smith and I teach at Lebanon High School. I work with students with special needs, supporting students in a resource setting with academics as well as teaching a science class to students with cognitive disabilities who are working toward a certificate of completion rather than a diploma. I have been in this position for 13 years.


Over the last school year, I had the opportunity to particpate in the Indy Zoo sponsored activity where students created an enrichment activity for the zoo's white rhinos. My students were very engaged in this activity. They researched rhinos and designed two activities that would enrich the rhino enclosure. They built prototypes of their activities and presented their research and prototypes to zoo officials. This was a very successful lesson and I look forward to participating again this next school year.

2018 Participant Profiles

Posted by Dr. Tom on June 12, 2018 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to the 2018 Conservation Educator Academy!

You have enrolled in the 5th Cohort of the CEA, and this year's theme is "Sharing One World." The theme reflects the new Macaque exhibit at the Zoo, and it fits perfectly 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

Tom McConnell's profile

Posted by Dr. Tom on June 11, 2018 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi! I'm Tom McConnell, one of the developer of the Conservation Educator Academy.

I teach Science Education courses and a biology content course at Ball State University. I just finished my 10th year at BSU. Before that, I taught Biology, Environmental Science, Web Design and a little Chemistry at North White HS (Monon, IN) and East Noble HS (Kendallville, IN) - 14 years in total. Then I returned to Purdue for my doctoral program and worked at Michigan State University for 2 years as a post-doctoral fellow.

I have had MANY memorable experiences at zoos and aquariums over the years. The most recent was spending four days at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota. That time was part of my research for three children's books (Conservation Tales) about manatees, sea turtles and seahorses. Mote allowed me to spend time with keepers, resesearchers and medical staff to get up close with all of these animals, and more. Being able to observe in the sea turtle hospital was a moving experience!

I'm excited to learn more about the Zoo's latest exhibit and about your ideas for teaching science in your classroom with ideas we learn! See you soon!

2017 Profiles

Posted by Dr. Tom on June 2, 2017 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (6)

Welcome to the 2017 Conservation Educator Academy!

To help us get to know each other, I'd like to ask you to post a personal profile with a photo in this forum. 

As an example, this is my personal profile. To post yours, just click "REPLY" to this post, and type similar information. You can attach a photo that is already online. I suggest posting an image on FaceBook or Instagram. Then view that image online and copy the URL. When you type your response, click the "insert image" icon - the blue square in the tool bar above the text window. It is the second from the right, next to the Emoticon icon. The paste in the URL, and your image will appear in your post.

I'd like you to include your name, what you teach (grade &/or subject), where you teach, and your favorite experience at a zoo (any zoo!)

So here is my example...

I'm Dr. Tom McConnell, and I teach at Ball State University. I teach courses in science teaching methods for both elementary and secondary levels, a biology course for elementary teachers, and occassional grad courses in education research methods or philosophy and nature of science. I've been teaching at Ball State for 9 years now. Prior to that, I taught biology at the high school level here in Indiana for 14 years. My work also involves writing some books related to science education, including a series of books about Problem-Based Learning in K-12 science classrooms, and a new series of books for kids (gr. 3-5) called "Conservation Tales."

As for my favorite zoo experience, that's tough! Visiting zoos has been a major part of my family vacation planning since I was a kid! But in January 2017, I came to the Indy Zoo for an Animal Art Experience. Sophie, the matriarch of the Zoo's elephant heard, painted a beautiful piece of art, and getting to meet her and her caretakers up close was fabulous! My photo posted here is from that visit.

So I am excited to start the 2017 CEA! Each year, I learn more about the Zoo, and I get to share our shared passion for conservation of wildlife, both at home and around the world! Can't wait to meet you all as we begin the Academy on the 19th!

2017 CEA?

Posted by kathy on February 14, 2017 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I am wondering how to go about signing up for the upcoming summer CEA program.  I also am unsure of where to post details about the lesson that I made last year and taught.  Any help figuring these two things out would be greatly appreciated.  Thank You!

Florida Algae Bloom and YOUR classroom?

Posted by Dr. Tom on July 2, 2016 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

CEA Teachers,

This week, I've been seeing a lot of news about a major algae bloom in the Inter Coastal Waterway along the Gulf Coast of Florida.  This algae bloom is a massive growth of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) that was caused by the flow of nutrients from Lake Okochobee. The bloom is toxic (same as the one mentioned by one of guest speakers!) and is intefering with human activity in the area. The next result is likely to be large fish kills because of the rapid consumption of oxygen when the cyanobacteria die off. There is also a lot of concern for manatees in the area - they are very susceptible to the toxic algae blooms in their habitat.  

This news is exactly the type of problem we discussed with The Nature Conservancy, the Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Zoo's program about soil conservation in Indiana.

I'm curious - have any of you thought of ways to incorporate this into your own teaching?  That may include the lesson plans you are developing for this CEA project, or it might be related to some other lesson.

You can use this Forum as a place to share ideas that might help in your own curriculum.

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.