Urban Advantage

Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Urban Advantage (UA) is a standards-based partnership program designed to improve students' understanding of scientific inquiry through collaborations between urban public school systems and science cultural institutions such as zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and science centers. UA involves institutions outside the formal education system that support the science-specific goals of the public school system.

Urban Advantage was launched in 2004 in New York City by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in collaboration with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Botanical Garden, the Staten Island Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, and the New York City Department of Education, with leadership funding from the New York City Council.

UA began by assessing and responding to the science education needs of NYC middle schools. Assessment results showed a severe shortage of qualified science teachers. At the same time, a new city-wide mandate required all eighth grade students to complete long-term scientific investigations (known as "exit projects" in New York City). This provided the program with a clear focus: eighth grade student exit projects.

We are excited to announce that you now have more options for using your Class Trip Vouchers at the Bronx Zoo! You may now choose from the following paid exhibits:

  • Jungle World (year-round)
  • Congo Gorilla Forest (April – December)
  • Butterfly Garden (April – October)
  • Wild Asia Monorail (May – October)

The procedure for taking self-guided trips to the Bronx Zoo has also changed in order to make your trip to the zoo begin smoothly. All self-guided field trips (with or without a voucher) to the Bronx Zoo must register with the Education Department. This has changed for 2 reasons – first, to give you valuable information prior to your arrival and second, to track Urban Advantage Field Trips as we have been asked to do by the NYCDOE. Simply fill out the form here at least 48 hours in advance and you are good to go! You will receive a letter from us confirming your reservation and we will notify admissions that you are coming

As always you can use your Class Trip Voucher for our school programs at the New York Aquarium or Bronx Zoo. Please visit our website at wcs.org/schools to read about the programs available to you. Call 1-800-433-4149 to reserve your school program. Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions at teacherinfo@wcs.org.


Urban Advantage Framework: Six Components

  • High-quality professional development for teachers and administrators
  • Classroom materials and equipment that promote scientific inquiry and authentic investigations
  • Access to UA partner institutions through free school and family field trips
  • Outreach through family events, celebrations of student achievement, and parent coordinator workshops
  • Capacity-building and sustainability structures, including a network of demonstration schools and support for the development of lead teachers
  • Assessment of program goals, student learning, systems delivery, and outcomes

For more information, read the Urban Advantage brochure.

Impacts of Urban Advantage

  • 157 schools, 376 teachers, over 38,000 students
  • All 51 districts in all 5 boroughs
  • Average of 2.4 teachers per UA school
  • Over 6000 participants in this year's Family Science Sunday event (a 50% increase from last year)
  • In science, UA schools outperformed non-UA schools in 2008-09 with an average of 55.9 percent of students meeting the standards on the 8th Grade New York State Science Examination, compared to 46.2 percent of students at non-UA schools.
  • Participating in UA also contributes to post-8th grade outcomes. Students at UA schools were found to be 22.5 percent more likely to take the Living Environment Regents exam in the 8th or 9th grade and showed significantly higher levels of proficiency that students in non-UA schools.

For more details, read a recent document with Urban Advantage highlights .

UA Partner Logos