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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!

Literacy
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!!
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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.

Maths
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.

Science
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!

Art
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!!
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Geography
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.
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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
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Time for a new adventure!

Hi folks, time for a quick update!

Sorry I haven’t posted for such a long time, I’ve been head deep in coursework. However I have now finished my degree and am pleased to announce that I am now a qualified primary school teacher and will be graduating with a 2:1!

So onto the next adventure! In a week my partner, Alex, and I will be moving to Australia! I am very much hoping to continue my journey into environmental education whilst away, and therefore once working will be again updating this on a far more regular basis.

How fascinating it will be to learn about a whole new range of animals, environments, conservation and education. If I find work within these areas whilst there it really will be a dream come true.

So this is where I ask for your advice and help. I will be looking for experiences, and hopefully work pretty much straight away. Therefore if anyone could recommend places to visit with top notch experiences and educational facilities, so I can learn lots while I travel, that would be fantastic! Or if you work in the environmental education sector I would really appreciate advice on how best to find work.

We begin our journey in Cairns on the 2nd of July. I really do hope to meet and learn from some fantastic environmental educators on the year long trip and am willing to work and travel anywhere. So if you have enjoyed my reviews of environmental educational facilities and/or like my lessons and resources, please do get in touch!!

Much love,
A very excited Poppy  x

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Posters to Help Protect Primates.

In the last few weeks of Monkeying Around we looked at the primate pet trade. Now this is arguably the hardest topic I wanted to teach in the 8 weeks of the club and would have to go about it carefully so as to inspire the children rather than upset them.

I looked online and found some great teaching resources from Wild Futures in Cornwall. This gave me some really good info and statistics which I was then able to turn into a PowerPoint full of interesting info suitable for my Year 6s. They learnt all about the current laws for keeping a primate and what this tends to actually mean in reality: What they are fed, the cages they are kept in, the injuries that can cause and what can happen to them when they don’t ‘behave’ and the illegal pet trade taking monkeys from the wild. The children then watched the video about Joey, a rescued capuchin monkey at Wild Futures and were very much moved by his story.

(Wild futures: http://www.wildfutures.org/)

We had a big discussion about whether primates should be kept as pets. The children came to a conclusion that most people cannot keep primates as pets as they do not understand their needs. The children think that UK laws need to be tightened to stop just anyone owning a primate as a pet and to stop primates being trafficked from the wild. They also decided that they would like to help educate as to what it’s really like to have a monkey as a pet…

So they made some posters to do just that!

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The posters have information about the reality of keeping a monkey, discuss how they feel about it and talk about Joey the Capuchin as an example.

I was sad that this was the last thing I would be teaching the children but was also really proud about how enthusiastic the children had become on the subject of primate conservation!

One of girls had done a whole piece of descriptive writing about a macaque during the classes big write. Two more girls surprised me with books they had made in their own time, full of facts about different animals, including notes telling me how much they’ve enjoyed the club!

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Tad emotional but job well done I feel!

On another note. This will probably be my last post for a long time as I am back to university for my last 6 months of study and to ensure all concentration is on my essays and passing, I will be slowing the voluntary/ part time work right down. However my other half and I have an exciting move planned in June…to Australia! I am very much hoping to carry on this environmental education journey out there. So if anyone has any contacts out there in this field of work, please do send me a message!

Thanks 🙂

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Save the Macaque!

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I may have mentioned previously, yanno maybe once or twice, that my favourite animal in the world is a Sulawesi Crested Black Macaque.

So for the last couple of weeks, conservation club have been learning all about these majestic little critters. 😀

The year 6s researched the monkeys looking at their behaviour, habitat and diet, leading to them also falling very much in love with the mohawked characters! The children also looked at why they are so critically endangered and what people in Sulawesi are doing to help. So this clearly included the fantastic charity, who I am in upmost support of, Selamatkan Yaki. ( http://selamatkanyaki.com/ )

The children learnt about how education is so important for the children in Sulawesi and that Selamatkan Yaki teach them all about their local monkeys! They were so inspired by the work that of course, they wanted to help! So we decided that we could make an education video, to help teach others about the Sulawesi Crested Black Macaque.

After some more research and working very hard on an effective script, this is what they came up with…

(Please bare in mind the children only had 2 half hour sessions to make this video)

The children have been very brave in making this video, so any feedback for them would be very much appreciated. Thank you 🙂

Save the Macaque!

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Tall Tails

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You may have recently seen that the natural history channel, Eden, have released a competition for amateur wildlife enthusiasts like myself to upload a minute long natural history film of their own. Obviously an opportunity far too good to miss!

So after a bit of brain racking I managed to rope in my little sister, who has her own vlog (she’s a clever and entertaining little bean, search ‘kelseydoes’ on YouTube), and the lemur keeper to help me out. So after work one day we filmed with some very mischievous lemurs and this is what we cam up with…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv_qzA1_wKM

If you would like to have a gander please let me know what you think! All feedback would be fantastic; good and bad! Of course, if your friend happens to work in the natural history television industry… feel free to pass it on!

In other news, it was my last day working at the zoo today 😦

I have had an absolutely fantastic summer, learnt so much, been given some fantastic opportunities and will of course miss seeing beautiful animals every single day!

My next adventure is my 4th and final teaching placement. I start Monday and will be at the new school, with year 1, until Christmas. I am very much hoping to use lots of outdoor education lessons during this placement and, if allowed, run a conservation club for year 5 and 6.

Therefore at the end of each week I will post any outdoor or environmentally based lessons I teach, letting you know how they went…whether it be great or terrible!

Wish me luck 🙂

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Always meet your Idols…

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This week I had the honour of meeting arguably the most influential man in the natural history industry, Sir David Attenborough!

Sir David was visiting Paignton Zoo to film our Bornean Orang-utan Mali and her baby Tatau for a new documentary about tool using animals. The zoo was chosen for it’s natural like enclosure that our animals our kept in; a very rewarding moment for the keepers!

After his day of filming staff were invited to come and meet him! It was incredible to see so many members of staff, of all different ages, all inspired by the same man. I think it is safe to say that there is no other person who has inspired so many different generations of animal lovers.

We were taken in our departments to have our photo taken and any memorabilia signed. It must have been a long day for anyone, let alone if you are 88 years old! Yet Sir David seemed genuinely happy to sit and chat to us all signing countless amounts of books and dvds. He was in his classic linen suit light blue shirt looking very well and sounding just as serene as when on our screens.

It’s safe to say that I became rather emotional and have been teased about this ever since! But hey ho, it’s not everyday you meet your hero and I cry at a good episode of Dancing on Ice!

So who ever said never meet your idols need to meet Sir David Attenborough! A day I will never forget and will always treasure.

Just Steve Backshall and Bill Bailey to go…

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How does environmental enrichment effect a Sulawesi crested black macaque?

ImageThe most beautiful, charismatic and interesting animals on our planet? I certainly think so! Over the last few years I have become utterly fascinated by Sulawesi crested black macaques. One of the things I love discussing the most with the public when at work is the work of Selamatkan Yaki, a charity run by Paignton Zoo out in Sulawesi, educating local children about the plight of their local wildlife. This is because unfortunately Sulawesi macaques are critically endangered in the wild and their population has dropped by 40% in the last 80 years!

During this 3rd year of university, as a science specialist, we were asked to write a scientific research report on any topic of our choice. Therefore I decided to carry out a behavioural observation of the Zoo’s Sulawesi macaques. The study aimed to look at the effect of active environmental enrichment on the behaviour on a dominant male, dominant female and a juvenile (2 year old) Sulawesi macaque. Active environmental enrichment being the objects that keepers put into the animals enclosure with the aim of stimulating the animal in the hope to reduce stereotypical behaviour, increase foraging and feeding times, allowing wild like behaviour and just giving the animal a more enjoyable and fulfilled captive life.

The different forms of enrichment included:

  1. Food enrichment
  2. Sensory enrichment
  3. Manipulative enrichment

instantaneous focal animal sampling was used. The macaques were observed for 9 weeks on a Wednesday afternoon, between the times of 1300 and 1430, with a sample interval of 5 minutes.

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It was found that overall food enrichment was the most effective in achieving the aims previously mentioned above, but it is also clear that all enrichments did have an active positive role in the macaques behaviour. These mean activity budgets also show similar results to that of a previous captive activity budget (Melfi and Feistner 2002) and their wild activity budget (O’Brien and Kinnaird 1997). It is possible to explain the behaviour seen both as a result of the enrichment; for instance the macaques responded better to responsive enrichment and enrichment that gave them control over their environment, and in terms of unavoidable variables such as the weather and a females oestrogen cycle.

The results also informed me that the enrichment given to the macaques is done in a pro-active way. Meaning that enrichment is not used as a band aid to fix problems, instead it is clearly to provide the animals with the highest standard of living, giving them an enjoyable and stimulating captive lifestyle.

Even though the time scale and the small sample size of this research deemed it statistically invalid, the mean activity budgets still showed some interesting results. It would be great to repeat this study with a much larger time frame and sample size to see how the results differed.

As stressful as a dissertation can be, I highly enjoyed my time studying the macaques. I just wish I had the resources and time scale to be able to carry out a scientifically valid study. However I now feel I have a far more in depth understanding of my most loved creatures. I hope I can continue to use this love for and knowledge about these animals for years to come, to help their plight in whatever way I can!

If you would like a copy of my report, or a more detailed discussion of the results, just ask and I can send a copy 🙂

Also for more information on the Sulawesi crested black macaques, here are a few great links!

http://selamatkanyaki.com/yaki-2/
http://www.wwct.org.uk/conservation-research/sulawesi/macaques
http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12556/0