Manhattan, KS, March 30, 2015 – Manhattan’s Sunset Zoo was recently selected for a year-long mentoring opportunity with Portal to the Public; a national collaboration of Informal Science Education Institutions – like zoos, aquariums and science centers – working to bridge the gap between researchers and the public. The Zoo is one of eight sites, out of 43 applicants nationally, invited to join Portal’s 2015 cohort. Over the next year, the Zoo’s Curator of Education, Jared Bixby, and Education Specialist, Nicole Wade, will work with Portal to the Public staff to implement programming that connects local scientists and the community.
“As a Zoo, we are immersed in a setting that is all about advancing the science of our natural world. We interact with both researchers and education institutions daily, and that is why we are uniquely positioned to help bring these folks together,” said Scott Shoemaker, Zoo Director.
In March, Zoo staff began the mentoring process by attending a Portal to the Public training. Over the summer, the Zoo will use Portal’s guiding framework to develop public programming with local scientists around their research. In addition to mentoring by Portal to the Public staff, the Network will also provide the Zoo with a mini-grant to offset the costs of the plan’s implementation.
“We are thrilled to bring this new opportunity to local scientists and the community,” said Jared Bixby, Curator of Education. “As we think about advancing science education, especially among our youth, it makes a difference if students can talk face-to-face with a scientist and understand the importance of their research.”
Portal to the Public was launched in 2007 through funding from the National Science Foundation and a collaboration between Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, Albuquerque’s Explora, Lancaster’s North Museum of Natural History, and London’s Institute for Learning Innovation. Their work created an initial model that informal education sites can use to build programs that connect scientists and the public. The Portal has since received two additional grants, expanding the current network to 44 institutions.
Sunset Zoo is the only network institution in Kansas and regionally joins one site in Colorado, one in Missouri, and two in Iowa. Additionally, only five institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are currently part of the network including Detroit Zoo, the National Zoo, New England Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo and Sunset Zoo.
For more information about Portal to the Public, visit their website. To learn more about Sunset Zoo’s involvement, contact the Zoo’s education department by calling 785.587.2737 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.