Last Wednesday saw a really wild day at Paignton Zoo! I was invited to have a day away from my talks to help out with an educational day involving lots of fascinating things around the zoo!
Gibbon club is run by the zoo education department and is offered to 8-12 year olds, taking place monthly. It gives children opportunities to experience things like forest schooling, pond dipping and rock pooling. ‘Wild Day Out’ is a day in the zoo where the children have special experiences with the animals, have fun with arts and crafts and even get an ice cream!
The first activity for the day was feeding the fish in Crocodile Swamp! This involved feeding bananas to the Pacu fish (yeah I know, fruit for fish!), and fishy pellets for the rest.
This also gave the children opportunity to have a good look at the crocs and the beautiful range of butterflies which the zoo have recently released.
The children then went to feed the giant tortoises! Turns out they much prefer the carrots to the greens (don’t we all), and very much enjoy a little tickle under the chin.
Next, time for some arts and crafts in the form of animal masks. I was amazed at the range of animals that came about and the sheer creativity of some of the children. What comes out of a child’s mind will never stop fascinating me!
I know it’s not on to have favourites but I was particularly impressed by a very life like tiger, a beautifully jewelled elephant and a jellyfish that could have swam out of Davey Jones’ Locker!
And finally off down for one of the zoo’s famous train rides and an ice cream!
All of the children seemed to really enjoy the day, and had a real passion for the zoo and animals. What was really interesting was the fact that not at any point were the children made to sit down and ‘learn’ about the zoo animals or conservation. Yet every child was more than happy to tell me what they had found out in the day, or their favourite animal and what they think needs to happen to protect them.
This shows the true power of informal education. By just being immersed in the Zoo’s surroundings, the children are building on a passion for knowledge and taking it upon themselves to find out new information. This is a truly great example of how conservation education should not be all doom and gloom!
By just enjoying the natural world, children will want to save it.