I saw this brief article about a school which invested in creating an entirely new avenue for children to learn about the living world--a Botanical Garden and Aquarium on the school's site. Despite the small scale of the aquarium (which is basically a bunch of store-bought tanks) and the raised planters that can hardly be called a "Botanical Garden," the high school in New York does illustrate an admirable dedication to enhancing the science curriculum. With national cut-backs in education, and battles over what and how we teach science (especially in Texas!), I find this story to be inspiring. Not only will educators be able to show their students the abstract concepts they are studying, but kids will also get a taste of a few science-based professions, like horticulture and zookeeping.
As a parallel thought to the idea of evolving all science institutions (zoos, aquaria, botanical gardens, science centers, etc) into one all-encompassing Living Center, incorporating small gardens and animal exhibits into schools seems completely logical. Remember the connection you had to the classroom hamster? Imagine having raccoons or deer or even a monkey or two just outside your classroom! Inspiring children to learn about science shouldn't just occur on field trips and the occasional family day to the zoo. Professional training in high school shouldn't just mean shop class and drafting. We should encourage our schools to make these types of additions, despite the associated costs, since the benefits would surely outweigh the costs.
Good Job Gates-Chili High!