Our education programmes are an important part of our mission of preventing extinction. They inspire people to care about and, more importantly, take action for the natural world. We deliver a lot of our education activities with people when they visit the zoo, but we know not everyone is able to come to us.
To achieve our conservation mission, it’s important that we reach as many people as possible. So, in 2009, we took the zoo on the road and launched our free Safari Ranger outreach service, taking zoo education workshops out to schools and community groups in our local area.
We started with one Safari Ranger and a handful of workshops for primary school aged children. Over the last decade, our offer and team has grown hugely. We now work across the North West of England and into North Wales. In 2019, we delivered a huge 2,500 workshops engaging almost 80,000 participants ranging from early years groups through to university aged students, and everything in between.
Whilst Safari Ranger workshops can be booked by any school within a 60 minute drive of the zoo, we have particularly focused our projects on those schools who might face additional barriers to visiting. We aim to work with schools who have had limited previous engagement with the zoo and who have high numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals. Projects are linked to one of our main conservation campaigns and aim to empower pupils to act for wildlife, as well as generating learning across the curriculum.
Since the pilot phase, 100s of schools have been involved in taking action for our Sing for Songbirds campaign, our Sustainable Palm Oil Challenge and more recently our Wildlife Connections campaign which focuses on the threats facing UK Wildlife. Each project involves multiple visits from our team to the school and a trip to the zoo. In some cases, families from those schools are also supported to visit the zoo with free tickets and resources linked to their children’s learning.
A massive thank you from all of us for running and organising our Wildlife Connections project so well! The children had an amazing time and the trip is the buzz topic in school today
To make sure what we are doing is effective our educators work closely with our social scientists to evaluate our work and measure outcomes. Our expansion into project work was informed by a pilot study conducted in late 2015. Promising results highlighted positive, measurable learning related to our core conservation education outcomes and our findings were published in 2017. A recent study of the developed Safari Rangers projects demonstrated that participating pupils showed increased knowledge of conservation issues and pro-conservation behaviours. We’ll be taking the learning from this study to continue to develop our Safari Ranger outreach programme into the future, ensuring that more young people can join us in our mission to prevent extinction.
“Research is really important in helping us understand how effective our programmes are. It enables us to do more of what works and change the things that are less effective. Ultimately it helps us make sure we are doing our best to meet the needs of schools and achieve our mission of preventing extinction.”
– Charlotte Smith, Head of Conservation Education & Engagement