Education

Take action for wildlife we love

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_MG_7072The Dallas Zoo’s annual We ❤️️ Wildlife event celebrated a different kind of love. Members and guests showed their appreciation for animals, keepers, and conservationists with valentines created at stations across the Zoo. Guests then delivered these cards during keeper talks as a welcomed sign of gratitude for the amazing staff members and animal residents that make the Zoo such a special place. Visitors even crafted cards to be sent to our conservation partners around the world, who contribute to the protection of animals and their habitats. We received hundreds of valentines – talk about feeling the love!

Over 3,000 people took conservation pledges inspired by an array of animals, pushing us even closer to our goal of 30,000 pledges this year!_MG_7292 Families committed to making small changes in their everyday lives in order to practice more sustainable actions that will keep our animal friends safe and healthy. The tiger-inspired pledge to “support companies committed to deforestation-free palm oil and choose FSC certified wood products” received the greatest number of commitments. Plus, an amazing 450 conservation bracelets were purchased with all proceeds directly benefiting the animals they represent.

We had a wonderful weekend and would like to thank everyone who joined us, showing their love and support for wildlife. Our staff and keepers dedicate their lives towards species survival and conservation efforts. Together, through minor, but important, commitments each and every day, we can prevent extinction and help endangered animals flourish once again.

Couldn’t make it out to the Zoo for We ❤️️ Wildlife Weekend? Take a conservation pledge and commit to make small changes at home that will lead to big differences in the wild:

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We ❤️️ Gorillas

Our Pledge to Protect Gorillas:

We ❤️️ Elephants

Our Pledge to Protect Elephants:

 We ❤️️ Giraffes

Our Pledge Inspired by Giraffe:

  • We’ll respect & protect native wildlife.
  • We’ll restore wildlife habitat.

We ❤️️ Penguins

Our Pledge to Protect Penguins:

We ❤️️ Wildlife

Our Pledge to Protect Wildlife:

  • We’ll pick up 10 pieces of litter pollution every Tuesday.
  • We’ll use reusable grocery bags.

We ❤️️ Tigers

Our Pledge to Protect Tigers:

We ❤️️ Horned Lizards

Our Pledge to Protect Texas Horned Lizards:

We ❤️️ Flamingos

Our Pledge to Protect Flamingos:

  • We’ll use reusable grocery bags.
  • We’ll pick up 10 pieces of litter pollution every Tuesday.
Categories: Conservation, Education | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Random Acts of Kindness to the Earth

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It’s National Random Acts of Kindness Day! While most think of this celebration as a chance to make a stranger’s day, we have a different type of kindness in mind. At the Dallas Zoo, we take pride in doing our part in protect the natural world, and thought it only appropriate to take some time to show our appreciation for the third rock from the sun. Although today may be Random Acts of Kindness Day, we challenge you to complete these simple actions below to show Mother Nature a little compassion year round.

Wildlife and nature go hand in hand. Habit loss and pollution are two of the leading causes of animal extinction and endangerment. Every 20 minutes, we lose at least one animal or plant species. Nearly 240 acres of wildlife habitat are destroyed every hour. If our actions go unchecked, 20% of the millions of species that exist could be extinct within the next 30 years – an unprecedented rate. It’s up to us to work together and make changes that promote sustainable actions in our everyday lives. With nearly 9 billion people projected to inhabit the Earth by 2050, these changes need to start now before our animal friends and their habitats are gone forever.

Select one (or five) of the following actions suggested by our friends at Reverse Litter and show Mother Earth you care by doing it today, and always:

  • Plant a tree. Trees give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilize the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with materials DebTreesKids to create tools and shelter.
  • Recycle plastic bottles. Most plastic jugs and bottles are 100 percent recyclable. The City of Fort Worth offers a curbside recycling service that citizens can use to help reduce waste in our environment. You can also use a site like Earth 911’s Recycle Center to locate the closest recycling facility near you.
  • Shut off the water when brushing your teeth. You can save up to 8 gallons of water every day by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.
  • Return your plastic grocery bags to the store’s recycling bin. The recycling bins are usually located at the entrance of the store. If you are pressed for time, sites like abagslife.com make it easy to locate the nearest plastic bag recycling bin near you.
  • Reuse disposable household items like newspapers, glass bottles, jars, plastic containers and paper bags. This will reduce your trash waste and make Mother Nature smile.Ink Cartridge and Other Recycling at ESC

Need some inspiration? Here’s a little food for thought as you go about your day!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
—Margaret Mead

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Dallas Zoo, Dallas Symphony Orchestra bring ‘Music and Motion’ together for students

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In a unique partnership that brought music and science alive for students, the Dallas Zoo and Dallas Symphony Orchestra developed a creative new program that melded animals and music, two things kids love but may never have imagined overlapping.

The program – which started at the Zoo to explore how animals move, and ended with soaring compositions at a unique DSO concert – encouraged cross-curricular learning, an interdisciplinary way of teaching that stimulates students to build connections and think in creative new ways.

In January, more than 3,000 students attended the culmination of this partnership, a “Music and Motion” youth concert featuring famous animal-themed music, along with orchestral arrangements of animal-inspired melodies composed by local students.

(Listen to the introduction to the performance.)

“Cross-curricular learning deepens the experience for students and can create connections that make learning real for them,” said Marti Copeland, Dallas Zoo’s director of Education. “Music stimulates the mind, and this program also incorporated movement, which has been shown to enhance brain activity. When students are doing something they are interested in or enjoy, they are ready to learn.”

Students kicked off the program in September with a special Animal Adaptations Tour, guided by Zoo educators. They observed animal movements, which were then related to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in Science through adaptations and physical traits used for survival. Students met a variety of animal ambassadors as they also searched for musical inspiration, including ocelots, flamingos, kangaroos, koalas, spider monkeys, and even Rufus – the Zoo’s illustrious bobcat.

“It was exciting to see the students in front of an exhibit and hear them talk about what they saw,” said Anna Lewis, the Dallas Zoo’s camp coordinator. “I loved seeing them try to move like the animals and make connections from one exhibit to another.”

Following the tour, Dallas Symphony Orchestra teaching artists led an interactive music composition workshop at the Zoo. Students were steered through the creative process, learning how to apply their observations of animal movements to write melodies.

A number of these original melodies, including “Leaping Kangaroos,” “Stalking Bobcats,” “Swinging Spider Monkeys” and more, then were selected and arranged for full orchestra by DSO Education Director Jamie Allen. The combined excerpts formed the single “Music and Motion” composition featured in youth concerts performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in January.

“I always enjoy seeing the ‘aha’ moment when that light bulb of inspiration hits,” Allen said. “We wanted to adapt the idea of music to animals in order to expand children’s minds, because learning doesn’t happen in silos. That’s just not how kids think.”

At the “Music and Motion” premiere, groups of DFW students were abuzz with excitement in the Meyerson Symphony Center as DSO Assistant Conductor Ruth Reinhardt introduced a flurry of animal-inspired pieces. Students heard the Dallas Symphony Orchestra perform such movements as Saint-Saën’s “Carnival of the Animals,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and Mancini’s “Pink Panther.”

(Listen to the Music and Motion performance.)

But the highlight of the afternoon was the world premiere of “Dallas Zoo Melodies.” Local student-composers enthusiastically clapped, cheered, and imitated their favorite animals as they heard their works come alive.

“The students who participated in the ‘Music and Motion’ program at the Zoo were very engaged throughout the experience,” Copeland said. “They were so creative in coming up with a rhythm and melody for each type of animal movement. When I heard the world premiere of ‘Dallas Zoo Melodies’ at the Meyerson this week, I enjoyed picking out the different animal-inspired melodies. The ‘Stalking Bobcat’ tune has stayed in my head for days!”

Love learning and animals? Find out more about the Dallas Zoo’s amazing classroom programs and partnerships  today!

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Teen Science Café proves science is cool at Dallas Zoo

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Ninth grader Ronak Dhingra, and Teen Science Café teen leader, guest-blogs on ZooHoo!tsc_logo

The Teen Science Café Network, founded by the National Science Foundation, is a national organization that aims to get teens passionate and excited about science at an early age, with the hope they will consider a STEM career. Why teens? We are the next generation of the workforce and the future of society.

According to the STEM advocacy group Change the Equation, only 36 percent of all high school graduates are ready to take a college-level science course. Our cafés bring science to life by people who love it and experience it everyday – real scientists. These scientists share what is fun about what they do (without using any jargon). Our hope is to shift some perspectives and get teens to see that maybe they do like science even though they may not enjoy it at school.

The Dallas Zoo Teen Science Café was started last summer. We selected the Dallas Zoo to host because of its reputation as a leading zoo in the nation, and its many programs geared towards children. I felt, as a former Dallas Zoo Youth Volunteer, that the Zoo would be a great sponsor for a Teen Science Café.

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Humboldt penguins along the Peruvian coast during Dr. Patty McGill’s last trip in Jan. 2016. Photo credit: Austin McKahan, Kansas City Zoo digital marketing manager

Dallas Zoo’s vice president of Conservation and Education, Dr. Patty McGill, kicked off our first-ever café. She has a cool job that includes traveling up and down the Chilean and Peruvian coasts counting and studying Humboldt penguins. She led the audience in a series of activities in which we had to look at a picture of many birds from afar and estimate how many penguins there were. This may seem easy, but it gets hard when there are many black and white birds standing in a crowd!  It was also very cool to walk through the Zoo at night when nobody else is there.

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Dr. Patty McGill (far right), and Dallas Zoo Director of Education, Marti Copeland, pose with teen leader, Ronak Dhingra, and other café members.

Our second café featured Professor John Sibert from the University of Texas at Dallas who spoke about “The Mighty Atom: From Discovery to Molecular Architecture.” He demonstrated how molecular architecture was connected to the building we were sitting in. He also had us make our own spectroscopes, which are instruments that allow us to identify elements and materials using light spectrums.

When I looked through my spectroscope, I saw the element “signatures,” which were bands of color differing from one element to another in small ways. It’s amazing to think of how these relatively few building blocks make everything up.

From these cafés with amazing speakers, teens take away cool facts and knowledge about science and, most importantly, a passion for STEM.

Hey, teens, join us at one of our next cafés:

Jan. 15: Computation + Creativity: The New Literacy by Professor Greenberg (Southern Methodist University, computer science)

March 19: Professor Gonzalez (University of Texas at Dallas, biology)

April 23: Professor Ranganathan (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, biology)

I promise these events will be fun and exciting! Hope to see you then.

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Christmas is for the birds

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A snowman is a non-traditional bird feeder, but can work in a pinch as long as the weather cooperates.

A snowman is a non-traditional bird feeder, but it can work as long as the weather cooperates.

Dean of Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy, Ben Jones, guest blogs on ZooHoo!

With 98.5% of all North American migratory birds, and 637 of the 957 total North American bird species recorded in our state, you can say Texas is for the birds! Feeding and identifying birds is an amazing nature adventure that’s fun, intellectually challenging and pleasant to watch and listen.

The average yard has 15 different bird species visitors. With a little effort, you can increase your species count to around 50.

A yellow-bellied sapsucker is seen through a bird-spotting scope. The Dallas Count Circle spotted six sapsuckers on their recent outing.

A yellow-bellied sapsucker is seen through a bird-spotting scope. The Dallas Count Circle spotted six sapsuckers on their recent outing.

Tips to increase your yard bird count:

  • Try offering different foods.
  • Place feeders at different levels. Birds find their food by sight and like to eat at the same level they would find their food in the wild.
  • Try a high quality seed mix to attract cardinals, blue jays, doves, chickadees, and titmice.
  • Add peanuts into the mix for woodpeckers and nuthatch.
  • Add thistle seed this winter for finches. You’ll need a special feeder for thistle or you can pour it into a mesh sock.
  • Suet is a great bird food for winter. Fatty suet provides extra energy for birds during cold months

Some bird species live here year-round, and some are migratory and travel with the seasons. The Christmas Bird Count is the oldest citizen science initiative in the world with tens of thousands of people counting resident and migratory birds. This year on an unseasonably warm Saturday, 37 participants from the Dallas Count Circle identified 107 total species at and around the Dallas Zoo. Some special bird species spotted this year include the greater and lesser yellowlegs, loggerhead shrike, Bewick’s wren and a horned grebe.

This winter watch for resident species like blue jays, northern cardinals, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadee, woodpeckers and mourning, inca and white-wing doves. Also, look closely for migratory species like dark-eyed juncos, American goldfinches, red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches.

Of course, where there is an abundance of bird activity, there could always be bird-eaters.  Make sure your cats stay indoors and watch for raptors like Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks.

So, what are you waiting for? Put out a few feeders. Try some new seed mixes. Sip a hot chocolate and let the winter bird fun begin!

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