Let’s Build a Zoo!

I can’t quite believe I have now been travelling around Australia in a little van for nearly a whole year! We have travelled the length of the East Coast and have made some unforgettable memories! But as you can see, I haven’t exactly been neck deep in environmental education. Teaching it that is, as I can safely say I have learnt a great deal on my journey from zoos, trips and lots of fascinating people.

This is why I decided to dedicate the last 4 months of our first year in Australia to continue in teaching and trying to be a part of the animal education industry. After lots of enquiring, emailing applying and not much luck, I got my first job in Australia! I was now a kids club attendant at Sea World Resort, Gold Coast. No it wasn’t actually teaching environmental education, but it was a foot in the door in a huge tourism company with 2 different animal parks (Sea World and Paradise Country), so I was a really happy bunny!

As the job was casual, I searched for a day job with a guaranteed income. I replied to an add looking for a home school teacher 3 days a week (perfect!) and this is where I met the wonderful Milly and her family. Milly is 11 and wasn’t getting on too well in school, so mum wanted someone to go back over year 5 with her, focusing the work on her specific interests and needs. Much to my delight, Milly loves animals, so this is where the topic ‘Let’s Build a Zoo!’ was born! I worked really hard in planning a topic where Zoos and animal education were involved in as many usual school subjects as possible, linking closely to the year 5 Australian Curriculum. (http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/Content_for_Year_5_-_Learning_area_content_descriptions.pdf)
I was really proud of the outcome, Milly did some fantastic work and we both really enjoyed the topic. Therefore I thought I would share it with you all on here in case anyone would like to use this topic, or any of the individual lessons in their teaching!

In literacy we firstly looked at the non-fiction topic of information texts. Milly’s overall task was to create a sign for an animal enclosure in her zoo.
To become familiar with information texts we looked at many animal fact books, aimed at different audiences, to look at common features. We then looked in more detail at how to use these features in the text. E.g. Captions, titles, sub headings, bullet points etc. To help Milly picture what an animal enclosure sign in particular might need to include, we took a trip to Sea World to have a look! Milly took pictures of the enclosure signs she liked and pointed out all the text features we had been studying.
Back in the classroom Milly chose her animal to create a sign about, stingrays, and then carried out lots of research, both in books and online. After creating a plan together she independently created her information sign. This was the finished result, I know I’d like to see that hanging up in a zoo!!

The second literacy text was persuasive writing. Again we looked at all the features of a persuasive writing text, and learnt them in detail. Together we planned and practiced writing a persuasive writing piece. Her independent work for this text study was to write a piece either for or against zoos, she chose to write for zoos (phew!). Together we researched many arguments as to why a zoo is good and important. Milly was then able to independently plan and write an effective piece of persuasive writing.

There were so many year 5 study areas that we were able to cover in a zoo topic! First of all we looked at graphs, this would link to our scientific study (see science).
Secondly we studied area and perimeter. By doing this we were able to map out the size of our zoo, the size of the different animal enclosures, and then how to best fit those enclosures into our zoo.
Lastly, and Milly’s personal favourite study, was money. We looked at the financial costs of running a zoo. We worked out how many enclosures, staff and facilities our zoo could have with a given budget. We decided on pricings for entry, gifts and food based on our visit to Sea World and finally how many people would need to visit the zoo a day to be able to make a profit.

When I first arrived, Milly had just gotten a new kitten, so I spotted a brilliant investigation opportunity. We planned a scientific investigation to measure the  kittens growth and then measured his weight and length for the next 8 weeks (the kitten was often not best pleased with our project!). We then plotted our results on a graph and concluded what we had discovered. We then also discussed how this could inform us when raising cubs of big cats in our zoo.
During this time we also looked at animal adaptations. As well as discussing different adaptations we also carried out experiments to help Milly physically see the benefit of the adaptation. My favourite being; 1.putting your hand in oil in an ice bucket to demonstrate the effectiveness of blubber. 2. making giraffe spit out of corn starch and water, to demonstrate how they are able to eat leaves off of spiky trees! We also touched on evolution and natural selection, but this is an incredibly hard topic for adults to grasp, let alone 11 year olds!

Again this study was inspired by our trip to Sea World. Milly was fascinated by the little penguins, so we decided to design an enclosure! Milly researched, in great detail, what little penguins need to survive, and what other little penguin enclosures look like. I then helped her with a design and she got making. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome! We even got the approval of some little penguin zookeepers!!

After a reminder on what a continent is and where places are on a world map, we researched using books, the internet, and documentaries, animals from Europe and North America (these are the two continents recommended for study in the curriculum). Milly then made a lovely fact file about the animals she had learnt about.

Milly then noticed that a threat common to a lot of these animals was direct or indirect poisoning. Therefore, using her information and persuasive text knowledge, made a poster to inform people about the dangers of animal poisoning.

I really have loved my time teaching Milly, and I am proud of how successful this topic has been. She has really enjoyed it and has come on in leaps and bounds. Obviously this was just a snapshot of the work, so if you would like any more detail or copies of planning please feel free to ask! As always please feel free to share to anyone you think may find this useful.

Our following topic was dinosaurs (also super fun!) so to finish, here is a picture of us on my last day, sporting some pretty scary masks!!
Speak soon, lots of love 🙂 x




15 minutes of fame? …or maybe less!

Just a short update today.

A local newspaper has written a (very) short article on the work I am carrying out at Paignton zoo!
I will admit, it is not the most motivating or exciting article I have ever read, but I am flattered nonetheless.

Any press is good press right?



On an altogether more exciting note, I am well on the way to finishing my research on how different forms of enrichment effect the behaviour of the Sulawesi crested macaques (Macaca Nigra) at Paignton Zoo. I will be publishing my findings on here around the middle of May, maybe before!



New Job, New Ideas

Firstly I’d like to share something with you , something I’ve worked pretty hard on! It is a project/ piece of coursework where we were asked to present an idea that we would like to implicate into a primary school, as if in a staff meeting. I took this opportunity to be a bit creative and based this project on environmental education. So along came World Conservation Day! I put forward the idea of a school having one day off timetable to look at the world we live in, local conservation issues, world wide conservation issues and finding out about the people who make conservation happen. I have planned and resourced an activity for every year group, linking closely to cross curricular attainment targets from the new Primary National Curriculum.

This is something I have become passionate about and feel sad that I am unable to put this into practice, in the near future anyway. Therefore I have uploaded the PowerPoint that gives a brief outline of the day and why it would be a highly beneficial day for children. I have also uploaded a more detailed essay, explaining the activities in more detail and the underlying theory.

I have done this in the upmost hope that someone takes and uses the idea! If you teach and you like any of the given activities please use them! Or if you are really inspired by the day please implement the entire day! All I ask is that you contact me before hand so I can share with you the resources I have found to go with it; including a fantastic activity from Steve Van Matre’s brilliant book Rangers of the Earth, which is a great way to introduce the day to the children. Also if you do use any of these activities, feedback would be truly appreciated!

Of course, if you aren’t a teacher but like the idea, feel free to pass it on! Any feedback would be wonderful.

World Conservation Day Detailed Summary

World Conservation Day Power Point

On another note. I started my job as a presenter at Paignton Zoo on Friday. A few days in and this job has already brought up many different feelings; honoured, excited, overwhelmed. Firstly the good bits! This is my first ever ‘real’ job (excluding years of babysitting and part time waitressing), so you can forgive me for acting like a kid in a candy shop when I was told that I have my own desk and email address! I met my colleague for the summer, who is incredibly likeable and even more bubbly and excitable than myself (did not realise this was possible)!
However this was also where the feeling of being in over my head set in. My new colleague is far more qualified than myself, with experience in all kinds of positions in zoos. Therefore there is a little bit of me that just hopes I wont be holding him back this summer! My second worry is my university studies. I am writing my dissertation for May and I have to admit, fitting academic studies in around work is going to prove difficult.
But that said, I work hard, I learn quick and I am so honoured be an employee of such a zoo that there is no doubt that I will be putting 100% into this! I just need to make sure that my academic studies do not slip in the process.

A very influential teacher on my last placement once told me that I thrive on stress… Let’s hope she’s right!


It’ll be alright on the night!

Stressful doesn’t quite cover the last few weeks!
Recently Paignton Zoo advertised a Presenter job; as this had a similar job description as my internship I jumped at the opportunity.
After re-writing my cover letter at least 10 times I hesitantly sent it off and sat in wait!
3 weeks later I had the wonderful email informing me that I had an interview, however it turned out that my fellow interns had not. Understandably this gave me some very mixed emotions; proud that I’d managed to get one, sad that if I got the job that I would not be in the company of current friends and nervous because clearly the competition was tough. In fact I later discovered that 96 applied, and 9 got interviews.
We were told that during the interview we would perform a talk as if we were doing so in the zoo. Therefore I thought it would be sensible to use the cheetah talk that I helped write last year, which involves getting the audience to run rather quickly on the spot! Even though I used to present this talk nearly every day last summer, in practice I struggled to remember it.
By some miracle it all came together in the interview and half an hour later I got a phone call telling me I had the job!
I am absolutely astonished and cannot wait for the summer to begin. It is just that bit of confirmation that I am on the right track!
Therefore I am pleased to say that I will be posting about outdoor education days I am involved in, new talks and any other exciting days at work. With previous experience at Paignton Zoo I am pretty sure these days will not be few and far between!

So there you go, when you wish upon the right star (and add a fair bit of hard work), dreams do come true. 🙂