The Great Ape Trust of Iowa and the Des Moines Public Schools announced a partnership Tuesday designed to get middle school students interested in science through the apes.
Ted Townsend, the founder and chairman of the Great Ape Trus t in Des Moines, says the idea is to take the middle school students and help them learn about the science of the great apes and those students can hopefully become ambassadors to others. "Ultimately, we will have a learning platform that extends from zero throughout a person’s life," Townsend says.
Jan Drees, the former principal of the Des Moines Downtown School, will help develop the concept for the Trust. Drees says they look to engage the kids in a real-life experience to get them more interested in science.
According to Drees, many of the objectives the schools have in place can be taught through the content of the great ape program. For instance, she says in an English/language arts class teaching of report making, outlining, research and debate could all be done around the topic of the great apes or conservation.
Drees says teachers are excited about the pilot project. She says the great ape program "really compliments the curriculum and becomes, I think, and intriguing piece of content for teachers to focus objectives around."
Great Ape Trust scientist William Fields says he’s communicated with the apes about the plan, and they’re thrilled. He says the apes have never really had the opportunity to work with kids, which he says they prefer. Fields says he used the special keyboard to tell the apes "we are going to have little visitors, and they were very excited."
Fields says it’s a great opportunity to share the research and knowledge gained in the study of the apes. Townsend says they’ll evaluate this pilot project to see how it works, but he believes it can expand to the entire state and beyond.
"Once it is crafted in an electronic fashion, why could it not reach out in effect, in time, to every school district in America, why not every school district on earth?," Townsend asks, "these are messages of conservation and the importance of science, that phrase stem of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. You can learn all these things through and immersive experience with apes that is engaging, that makes the learning fun, that makes the learning memorable."
Students from 13 Des Moines middle schools will take part in the program.