Going to the zoo is part of one master's degree program

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	With global warming gradually becoming a larger issue, environmental preservation is on a lot of people's minds.
    With global warming gradually becoming a larger issue, environmental preservation is on a lot of people's minds.

    Going to the zoo is part of one master's degree program

    Going to the zoo can be a fun activity on a hot, sunny day. However, did you know it also can be part of a curriculum for a master's degree?

    Miami University in Ohio has created a program known as Project Dragonfly that allows students to travel to local zoos as part of their curriculum. Why? Before you begin to assume that this gesture is simply to appease animals lovers, it's not. The program works in conjunction with the environmental preservation program at the school. The university hopes that the program will inspire students to understand environmental preservation and work to help save the animals that are affected by destruction and climate change. 

    The college, which is based in the Midwest, offers students the opportunity to visit one of eight different zoos throughout the U.S. Most of the zoos are in urban areas throughout the country, such as the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. Project Dragonfly also is available to students interested in sustainable living and habitat restoration.

    "The college offers students the opportunity to visit 1 of 8 different zoos throughout the U.S."

    Pushing students forward
    Students get to research different environments and animal species, and speak directly with zoo staff to better understand how animals interact in their environment. The program is entirely inquiry-based, meaning students need to take the initiative to ask questions to find out what they want to learn. Students need to have a genuine interest in the field and create goals and ideas that they want to see fulfilled, whether that means fighting deforestation or stopping animal poaching.

    The program began in 2011, and has been a success since it launched. Approximately 30 students who specifically enrolled in the Woodland Park Zoo's program have graduated, and another 40 are currently going through it. Many students go on to participate in other wildlife programs during their time obtaining the master's degree.

    Learning lessons
    During her time in the program, Tessie Goheen, a graduate of the Dragonfly Project, worked in Belize to promote environmental conservation. Now, as a teacher, she is educating young students on ways to preserve the world. In 2014, she worked with Montessori students in a STEM classroom, and taught them how to make homemade compost bins and get involved in water conservation. By the end of the lessons, her students were making proactive, environmental decisions on their own.

    Currently, Miami University in Ohio is the only program hat offers students who are interested in environmental preservation the chance to work with local zoos. Given the success of the program, hopefully others will follow suit.

    Luckily, several people are working together to preserve the environment and deter those who harm or disturb it. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of fines and prosecutions has drastically increased, rising to more than $4,000,000 in fines and 400 prosecutions in 2014.

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