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College Class Gets Close With The Animals [VIDEO]

College students often get several opportunities to experience hands on training and real world lessons. One that’s happening at the shore is quite unique because up till now, its never really been done before. It’s a joint venture between Monmouth University and Jackson’s Six Flags Theme Park and Wild Safari.

When Monmouth University Assistant Psychology Professor, Dr. Lisa Dinella took her children to Six Flags Great Adventure on her day off, she realized that the trainer’s discussion on how they train the dolphins was the same lecture she had given the day before to her students … only the trainers used cooler props. That’s when she had her “aha” moment.

Dr. Lisa Dinella
Dr. Lisa Dinella

Dinella says “I thought about it for a while and then approached the school with my idea. In the department, they always know me for my wild and crazy ideas. They thought it was great and we put it into action for this semester.”

The principles that animal trainers use to produce animal behavior, and their similarity to the principles applied to human behavior, gave Dr. Dinella the idea for a unique educational collaboration. The course is being offered to 15 lucky psychology students for the very first time. Monmouth students have expressed such a wide interest in it, hundreds responded and there was a line out the door at an interest meeting. Now many are asking about how they can take it next semester.

The rigorous course load was designed to introduce students to the psychological theories and principles used to shape animal behaviors and to identify how these principles can be applied to their own career and life. The course involves a combination of class meetings, library research, journaling and on-site supervised exposure to animals.

Students meet on-site with the animal trainers at Six Flags in Jackson once a week for a three-hour session which includes instructional time and field work with the animals. As part of their field work, students watch trainers employ the psychological principles they have learned with the animals at Six Flags, including rhinoceros’, elephants, dolphins and sea lions. After watching these demonstrations, students have supervised access to the animals and unique opportunities to work closely with them.

Dinella says “the class isn’t an easy day in the park. One of the projects involves the student giving an oral presentation like someone would during an animal show at the theme park. They will do this in front of school officials, their peers, the class and their families. All of the research is important for their grade and I give quizzes once a week. It’s such a rewarding experience for them though.”

The school plans to offer the class again in the future.

Monmouth University Psychology Class at Great Adventure from Blaze Nowara on Vimeo.

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