Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Buffalo Zoo and Erie 1 BOCES Partner to Offer Unique ZooTech School Programs

ZooTech, school programs co-developed by the Buffalo Zoo and Erie 1 BOCES, are now available to all school districts in the Erie 1 BOCES region.

Officially launched in November 2011, the ZooTech programs are designed to incorporate technology with the Zoo’s everyday “living laboratory” of animal residents. Lessons taught under the ZooTech programs are designed for students of all ages and cover a wide variety of subjects. The ZooTech programs have fully been developed as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs that fulfill education standards in a fun and unique way.

"As part of the program, we will help teachers translate their examples into lessons that will align with NYS Common Core Learning Standards," said Julianna Sciolino, manager of professional development at Erie 1 BOCES. "After instituting their lessons in the classroom, the students will attend class at the Buffalo Zoo to interact with the concepts they have been learning. Finally, the students will utilize technology to create and publish examples of their new knowledge." 

“This is certainly not your traditional fieldtrip,” said Tiffany Vanderwerf, the Buffalo Zoo’s Curator of Education. “By being surrounded by some of the world’s most amazing animal species, the ZooTech programs allow a variety of subjects to be more deeply explored by using advanced technology. Aside from the STEM-related curriculum connections, a social studies teacher can deepen their students’ understanding of world hemispheres and an art teacher can discuss exhibit design.”

On Friday, May 18, 2012, a Sweet Home Senior High School 9th grade class, under the direction of chemistry teacher, John Elliot, will participate in a ZooTech program that features the theme “Evolution: Beyond Darwin’s Voyage.” Students will be immersed in an interactive exploration of evolution. By challenging students to act as though they have discovered a new island (“Zoo Island”, this program allows them to experience the breakthrough that Charles Darwin made more than 180 years ago.

As part of the lesson plan, the program implements technology with use of evolution simulations and flip cameras. Students will gain an understanding of common ancestry and create a wildlife documentary that features video they take of the Zoo’s animal residents.

"It is our hope that the Buffalo Zoo trip will be beneficial to students by giving them a chance to use technology (internet research, video shooting/editing) to create a visual examination of evolutionary relationships among live animal specimens,” said John Elliot, chemistry teacher at Sweet Home Senior High School. “This will create an authentic learning experience that will ideally anchor their understanding of evolution and allow them to draw conclusions from events and items they encounter in their day to day lives. They will then share these videos with the rest of the class, allowing them to become educators."

While the students create their documentaries at the Buffalo Zoo, Erie 1 BOCES professional development coordinator, James Dailey, will provide the students with multimedia assistance. On May 22, an Erie 1 BOCES representative will also offer in-class assistance with the importing of the students’ captured video into iMovie.

For more information about the ZooTech programs, please call the Buffalo Zoo at (716) 995-6128 or visit

About the Buffalo Zoo
Founded in 1875, the Buffalo Zoo is the third oldest zoo in the United States. Each year, the Buffalo Zoo welcomes more than 400,000 visitors and is the most visited cultural attraction in Western New York.  Located on 23.5 acres of Olmsted's beautiful Delaware Park, the Buffalo Zoo houses approximately 1,200 endangered and domestic animals and offers visitors a variety of events and educational programs year-round. The Buffalo Zoo’s philosophy is to exhibit animals and plants in naturalistic settings that represent their native habitats. The Zoo is dedicated to providing visitors with a better understanding of nature, including how animals relate to each other, their environment and to humankind. For more information about the Buffalo Zoo, including the Zoo’s “Bundle Up For Polar Bears” initiative, which is taking place through March 16, visit
About Erie 1 BOCES
Statewide, school districts partner with BOCES in an effort to provide accountability, municipal sharing, efficiency and educational equity. Erie 1 BOCES, one of 37 BOCES in New York State, is a cooperative of 19 school districts surrounding the city of Buffalo. To assist school districts, the organization provides a variety of educational services including professional development. Erie 1 BOCES' coordinators engage teachers in high quality professional development through classroom practices that integrate the NYS learning standards, assessments and technology to support higher student a­chievement. The service area supports: instructional technology, curriculum, assessments, instruction, and NY state education department updates. Learn more at

About Sweet Home Central High School
Sweet Home Senior High School is part of the Sweet Home Central School District of Amherst and Tonawanda. It is the mission of the school district to empower all students to be cooperative, self-directed and lifelong learners, prepared to responsibly meet the challenges of the future. For more information, please visit

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