1

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!!
13351099_10209760825716908_1821011777_o

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!!
13351247_10209760827756959_636336945_o

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.
13383902_10209760826196920_1229031308_o

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
13383705_10209760827836961_1819189991_o

 

 

Advertisements
1

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

3

Always meet your Idols…

Facebook-20140819-103343

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…

1

Busy as a Bee!

The last few weeks have been chock-a-block! Full of bug eating, big bangs and bottom wiggling!

I have been incredibly busy with work over the past few weeks but during that time I have been involved in some very exciting educational activities. Firstly, back in July, was the South West Big Bang Fair, held at Exeter University. This event is all about getting children into science! Children from lots of different secondary schools had brought along their science projects to be judged, and some of the ideas were just genius; from particle physics to sustainable building. The rest of the hall was full of scientific organisations with activities aiming to get children into science.
This is where we came in; myself, a presenter from living coasts and 4 Zoo interns went along to show children the wide range of fascinating Zoo careers they could become involved in. Our activities were mainly vet related and included ‘Guess the animal X-ray’, learning how to resuscitate a dog, and practicing cheetah darting skills. We also had lots of animal artefacts to look at and a really interesting sustainable fishing game. We were really pleased with how popular our activities were. By the end of the day we had spoken to around 400 students and all our career booklets had gone! Hopefully we inspired some future keepers, vets, teachers and researchers!

BBSW 2014

Next up was the Exeter Summer Dine event. This was a marketing event and involved local attractions and restaurants visiting Exeter town centre to advertise their business, but of course our stall had an environmental twist!
This twist was our bug eating challenge. On the menu for brave shoppers that day were meal worms, crickets and locus! The reason behind this grim sounding challenge is a serious environmental message. As Earth’s population continues to grow, agricultural land continues to expand, destroying habitats as it does so and soon enough we are going to run out of room. Therefore we need to find a sustainable food source that can feed this massive population without causing more damage to our environment. Insects like these really seem to fit that bill; plus they have no calories and are full of protein! 80% of the worlds population already eat insects on a regular basis, only us Europeans are grossed out by the concept. Therefore my aim was to help people get over the fear of eating an insect. My personal favourite is the locus. 😛
Overall the day went very well. Lots of people were really interested and brave, especially young children. However on this occasion I was absolutely shocked at the rudeness of some members of the general public; no thank you is a perfectly suitable answer. The bug eating challenge will always be one of my favourite activities, every reaction is different!

Facebook-20140711-094151

Finally, over the last few weeks I have been teaching!!! 😀
One of the Zoos education officers sadly left us recently meaning that until the position was filled, formal Zoo teaching sessions would need to be covered. I was so flattered when I was asked to do some of them!
Even though I have taught lessons all day on placement, my first session for the zoo was particularly nerve racking. I think this is because this was my chance; my chance to show I can teach! I read through the session plan over and over and before I new it the children were there ready. The lesson went really well and I loved every single minute of it and was buzzing for the rest of the day!
I have now taught lessons to children from year 1-6 about tropical rainforests, animals around the world, baby animals and will be teaching about African animals next week. My favourite part of any session so far is when talking about peacocks. I get the boys to all stand up holding peacock feathers and to do their best peacock bottom wiggle dance to the girls! The girls are never very impressed but it always gets them giggling. 🙂
These few sessions have been such a fantastic opportunity for me. Firstly they confirmed that this really is what I want to do and I will continue working hard to get there. Secondly I have been given positive for my lessons so far by the class teachers; which means my hard work has not been for nothing, I can do this!

I will be sad when I teach my last session next week. But the last few weeks have definitely continued to motivate me to keep working hard, keep trying to improve what I do, and things might just fall into place!

5

Monkeying Around!

WP_20140519_14_03_38_Pro

Last Monday I was able to do something I’d been desperate to do for a very long time…visit Monkey World! Excited as a child in a sweet shop doesn’t quite cover it!

Due to being zoo staff we were kindly given a tour around the park by Rebecca, one of the education officers. Firstly she spoke to us about the animals and the work which Monkey World carry out. I cannot state how important this work is, Monkey World save so many apes, monkeys and prosimians from lives spent in terrible conditions. Next we spoke about the work of Monkey World in schools and general education. As a lot of the animals at Monkey World were rescued from the pet trade it is not surprising that this is the main subject of their teaching. Even though I usually say that children do not need to be bombarded with negatives as long as a love of nature is provided; the way that Monkey World teach about the horrors of the pet trade sounds like a very touching and moving experience. Children are shown cages that are about the size of which a monkey is usually kept in in a lab. The children are asked to climb into the cage and explain how they’d feel if they had to live in it. Empathy is a powerful tool in this exercise and allows the children to see the monkeys as animals with personality and feelings like themselves, rather than just inanimate objects. This activity could be powerful in changing children’s attitudes to all animals and I was reassured that there are more fun and light hearted games used with younger children! I would love to see one of these lessons taught and can only imagine what a special day it is for children to get a visit from Monkey World!

After the tour we spent hours wandering around the park, which was a lot larger than I ever imagined it could be! The range of primates was fantastic and the enclosures so beautifully designed. I saw chimps for the first time and really enjoyed watching their intelligent minds figure out the best way to eat their ice lollies!

WP_20140519_13_29_22_Pro

We met some incredibly friendly gibbons who insisted on coming to say hello! I will always say that the sound of a gibbon is the most beautiful noise in the world!

WP_20140519_12_02_29_Pro20140519152208

The baby orang-utans were beautiful, joyful, funny and so intriguing! We were lucky enough to stare into their beautiful eyes when one of them seemed to take a particular liking to my friend Holly’s bag!

WP_20140519_13_54_51_Pro20140519151443

Saved the best till last! The stump tailed macaques! I’ve already announced my love for macaques and this lot are just so ugly that they’re adorable.

WP_20140519_12_56_38_Pro

I had an absolutely fantastic day at Monkey World, in fact I really did not want to leave! My only bug bare is that it is called monkey world, not primate world…but that’s just a silly pet hate!

A wonderful day out for an even more wonderful cause. 🙂

3

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.

Image 

Image

Image

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

2

A Wild Day Out!

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.

Wild Day Out 14 (10)

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.

Wild Day Out 14 (6)

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!
Wild Day Out 14 (11)

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.