Posts Tagged With: education

Animal Adventures outreach programs provide fun for all ages

flamingos and elderly

Animal Adventures outreach specialist Hayley Perryman guest blogs on ZooHoo!

The Dallas Zoo has an impressive array of ambassador animals from penguins to porcupines, tortoises to tegus, cockroaches to a cheetah, and pretty much everything else in between. These animals travel all over the DFW metroplex, and they have a very important job – inspiring a passion for nature and educating the public about conservation.

However, these creatures have another job, as well. It’s one that we don’t always think of, but it might be the most important job of all – that job is to inspire childlike joy and happiness in every guest they meet. Most people believe that programs like ours are only reserved for children or young adults, but my favorite types of programs are those specifically for retirement homes and the elderly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love spending my time going to pre-schools, middle schools, high schools, and all other schools to teach kids about wildlife, but there is something very special about visiting the elderly.IMG_0595

When we arrive, we often times hear comments like “this is one of the only programs that we can get all our residents out of bed for!” and “I hope it’s okay if my grandkids join us. They were just as excited as we were to hear that the Zoo was coming!”

We get our animals situated and ready to go for our 45-minute presentation and watch as older ladies come walking or wheeling in, sitting together and talking as though they were teenage girls in a high school cafeteria. We’ll giggle as we see someone arguing that this seat is saved for Susan or Tom, and how they’re hoping their kids or grandkids hurry up and get there so they don’t miss the program. Once we have everyone there, we begin.

Our programming, although usually booked for children, does find itself in front of adult audiences from time to time. Oddly enough, the adult groups are often more excited than all of our youth programs put together. I think we tend to forget about the simple things in life every now and then. These are things that, as children, caused our hearts to race, our minds to dream, and our smiles to spread across our faces; things like coming face-to-face with a flamingo, watching an opossum munch happily on a piece of banana, or seeing a tortoise stand up and start to dance from side to side as they get shell scratches from someone in the audience (fun fact – radiated tortoises are known as “rain dancers” because they do this in real life due to the nerve endings found throughout their shells!).

As our program comes to an end, our audience is suddenly transformed into one entirely of children, regardless of actual age. Smiles are seen on every face, laughs are heard throughout the room, and that wonderful look of happiness and joy is found in both young and old alike. That amazement and wonder is something that all of us need more of in our lives, and I find it so incredible that creatures of any kind are able to inspire that in people of all ages.

We visit several different retirement communities throughout the Dallas area, ranging from hospice care to elderly happy hour at a library – and trust me, it is as awesome as it sounds. These types of programming are a testament to the fact that there is no age limit on loving wildlife and wanting to help save the animals that are so important to our ecosystems.

Sponsored by AT&T, this past year, the Dallas Zoo Animal Adventures outreach team completed 623 outreach programs, reaching more than 86,400 people through educational appearances. We hope to reach even more people, both young and old, in this coming year, and we will continue to strive to make 2017 a year for learning about conservation and making a difference to save the planet.

Categories: Conservation, Education | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Hockaday high school students monkey around with primate enrichment

Hockaday students present their enrichment devices at the Zoo

Hockaday students present their enrichment devices at the Zoo

For most high school students, the semester is filled with standard classes like calculus, biology, english, and history – but a group of five Hockaday students can proudly add monkeying around with STEM to their academic repertoire.

President and CEO Gregg Hudson congratulates the students on their hard work

President and CEO Gregg Hudson congratulates the students on their hard work

It all began with a unique partnership between the Zoo and the Hockaday School. Several Hockaday students were already involved in our Teen Science Café and Zoo Corps group, so it only seemed natural to find a way to further engage other students, using Zoo related problem solving.

“We value long-term partnerships like this because they can result in a deeper connection with the Zoo’s conservation mission. As the students delve into their projects and learn more about the animals they are helping, they can come away feeling more connected to the animals, which is important since their generation does and will have so many opportunities to make a positive difference for species worldwide,” said Dallas Zoo’s director of Education Marti Copeland.

The Hockaday School had just the person for taking on this wild task. Science teacher Leon de Oliveira began a brand new course for the semester entitled “Community Impact by Design.” The class allowed students to work in small groups while engaging in the design and engineering process in order to solve a problem. This year’s challenge: find a creative way to encourage small primates to use more vertical space in their exhibit.

Keepers put Wendy's and Kate's treat shaker to the test

Keeper Audra C. put Wendy’s and Kate’s treat shaker to the test after filling it with food

How exactly does one prompt a primate to move onwards and upwards? Through enrichment, of course! However, Zoo staff left the designing fully up to the students. The class made multiple trips to the Zoo to observe their subjects while working closely with primate keepers and our education team. After multiple models and prototypes made out of various approved materials, the students were able to turn their ideas into actual enrichment items.

“I have just been blown away by their creativity and perseverance throughout the challenge. To see the whole process starting from their initial cardboard designs to the final product was incredible. What a transformation!” Education supervisor Courtney Jonescu said.

Hockaday seniors Wendy Ho and Kate Keough created a “treat shaker” out of PVC pipe. The capsule shaped item, designed to hang from a tree branch, has maze-like layers of plexiglass on the inside. Primates must shake the apparatus to move food through the levels until it falls out a small hole at the bottom in order to be consumed.

Sophomore Meredith Jones approached the task from a different perspective, developing a “treat tree” with branches for food pieces to hang. Primates must pull levers in order to release the tree, allowing it to sprout out of a PVC pipe and reveal more and more treats depending on which lever is activated.

Spider monkeys eagerly engage with the enrichment device

Spider monkeys eagerly engage with the enrichment device

Junior Annie Allen and senior Audrey Black cleverly worked together to craft a “ball box.” The cube-like structure is made of mesh and houses a second cube within it, filled with whiffle balls, which have perfectly sized holes for primates to reach their fingers into and attempt to work food out.

“You had to really think like a monkey and consider everything that they could do, like their strength,” Allen explained.

And think like a monkey they did! Wendy’s and Kate’s treat shaker was even put to the test on May 11 after the students presented their final enrichment deliverables to Zoo staff and interested onlookers. Keepers hung the device from a branch in the spider monkey habitat, warning that the primates might be somewhat shy to approach it – but the troop proved otherwise.

“The device worked exactly like the students hoped it would, and the spider monkeys were immediately interested in it. They looked down the tube through the plexiglass window, just like the girls imagined they would.  Then they manipulated the tube until yummy treats fell out of the flawlessly cut hole at the bottom. It turned out to be perfect and all of us were thrilled to see that,” said Jonescu.

We think the students deserve an A+ for their hard work, creativity, ingenuity – after all, it’s not every day that one receives the monkey seal of approval.

Categories: Education, Enrichment, Mammals, Monkey | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Take action for wildlife we love

_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:

CONSERVATION PLEDGES:_MG_7169

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

Summer Camp 2016 is one for the books

This winning shot of our Eurasian eagle owl is by camper Hannah J.

This winning shot of our Eurasian eagle owl is by camper Hannah J.

School has been in session long enough for us to miss our days at summer camp. We packed a full house this year during our WILD Adventures Summer Camp, welcoming 1,103 kids – that’s 100 more campers than last year, with more than 25 sold out weeklong camps!

A few highlights: This was our fourth year to offer our popular Keeper Camp, which has sold out every summer. And we hosted our first gallery opening for our Top Photographers, where campers showed off their best three photos taken during camp.

During camps, kids ages PreK through grade 12 get to experience the Zoo like never before. Each camper goes on a special tour of our 106-acre park, feeds animals such as giraffes and lorikeets, meets animal ambassadors, and enjoys hands-on activities, like designing animal habitats.

Two girls work on designing an animal habitat for Zoo by Design camp (grades 6-8).

Two girls work on designing an animal habitat for Zoo by Design camp (grades 6-8).

Our younger campers got to attend special keeper chats where our zookeepers answered all of their burning questions. And the older kids were afforded a tour in some of our behind-the-scenes areas.

While we always have fun, our focus is on learning, and teaching youth about our mission of saving wildlife and wild places.

“We have two big goals for camp: to encourage empathy for animals and cultivate conservation leaders,” said Marti Copeland, director of Education at the Dallas Zoo. “We model respect for wildlife – including stopping to observe the insect crawling across the sidewalk – saving water, and separating trash from recyclables in our lunches.”

If you can’t wait until next summer to see us, Winter Camp is coming up soon. Over winter break, we offer seven single-day camps from Dec. 20-22 and Dec. 27-30.

These campers got to meet penguins up close!

These campers got to meet penguins up close!

Here’s a little sneak peek: We plan to celebrate the holiday season in a special way this year. Each day, campers will learn about a different festival focusing on an animal from around the world. For example, Thailand has a yearly celebration called “Monkey Buffet,” where they honor monkeys by putting out fruits and veggies for them.

We have six other fun festivals like this planned, so don’t miss out. We can’t wait to see you at camp!

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Conservation concerns brought to life with interactive art displays from 9th graders

Conservation concerns about animals may not be top of mind for most teenagers, but the ninth graders at Village Tech High School are far from typical.

The students from the Cedar Hill charter school were challenged this past spring to think deeply about endangered animals for a semester-long project integrating many different school subjects with an end goal of a prototype interactive sculpture.

A partnership with the Dallas Zoo elevated the original challenge by giving the students the opportunity to talk with experts and possibly have their work displayed to the public.

“The Zoo gives the project credibility and an authentic audience,” said Justin Robinson, the director of the Forge, the school lab that brought these projects to life.

By the end of the year, the ninth graders completed four interactive art display prototypes highlighting the ocelot, African elephant, hawksbill sea turtle and western lowland gorilla. These projects used art, engineering, science and more to tell the tale of endangered species.

“We want every project to result in people taking action,” said Dallas Zoo director of Education, Marti Copeland. “[Their work] exceeded my expectations.”

Learn more about each project:

Western lowland gorilla African elephant

gorilla

The western lowland gorilla team planned to create a gorilla sculpture that looks like it is covered in concrete, emphasizing the habitat destruction that is threatening the animal’s population.

elephant

This team created a mechanical sculpture showing the stride of an adult elephant. An integrated 15 minute countdown clock reminds the public how often an elephant is killed in the wild for its ivory.

Ocelot Hawksbill sea turtle

ocelot

The ocelot team created a sand timer wheel with facts about the carnivore. As you spin the wheel and read the facts about ocelots, the sand timer continually empties, much like the ocelot species in the wild.

hawksbill

The team created a hologram projection of a hawksbill sea turtle swimming. It’s activated with a 3D-printed button. The team tried using living dinoflagellates marine plankton to illuminate the activation button.

The hawksbill sea turtle and African elephant projects were selected by Zoo judges to be scaled up and adapted into public displays at the Children’s Aquarium and Dallas Zoo.

It’s onto the (now) tenth graders to press on with the projects. With the conceptual idea and prototypes created, they must solve more problems like how to scale up the sculptures, make them self-maintaining and safe for the public before eventually debuting the sculptures at the two venues.

Congratulations to the students at Village Tech. We can’t wait to see these larger-than-life projects with important message inside our Zoo and Aquarium gates!

Categories: Conservation, Education | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brought to you by the Dallas Zoo