In July, a group of young people, age 16-17, dedicated their time as part of a social action week to learn new skills and support the zoo with our mission of preventing extinction.
The young people were able to volunteer their time by taking part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) summer programme, which is delivered locally by Youth Federation, a local charity that engages children and young people across the North West.
The NCS scheme is a national UK government initiative that gives young people the chance to try new experiences, develop their confidence and skills and get involved with social action projects in their communities.
The Conservation Education and Engagement team provided the group with masterclasses and inspirational workshops, which helped them identify as young conservationists, develop the skills to engage an audience and create their own engaging educational activity for zoo visitors.
After a warm welcome to the zoo and an introduction to our sustainability spectacular exhibition, Love it for Longer, the group got to work planning and researching their activities. Their aim was to focus on celebrating ways that visitors could make a difference to the environment by reducing waste and living more sustainably.
Some of our group identified strongly with food waste and sustainable palm oil, working together to come up with a game that helped visitors understand how to identify sustainable palm oil products and reduce food waste at home. The group engaged visitors outside of the Realm of the Red Ape habitat, home to critically endangered Bornean Orangutans and other rainforest animals. Orangutans’ populations have decreased rapidly due to the loss of their natural habitats due to deforestation for palm oil production.
The second group of young people connected with the single-use plastic issue and the damaging impact on marine life. They created an engaging arts and crafts activity to grab visitors’ attention and help them think of creative ways to reduce plastic waste at home.
“We focused on raising awareness for plastic pollution in the ocean by painting cardboard fish and collating them into artwork. We also had many conversations about how to change our ways to reduce plastic waste.”
Anna Mai Jones, Youth participant, NCS
Working with the NCS group supports our education priorities to engage young people aged 12-25, through conservation education activities and inspirational experiences – helping them to develop new skills, learn about conservation and empower them to make pro-conservation choices in their daily lives.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to broaden our work with young people and offer a unique opportunity for them to complete their social action week with us. We want to help inspire the next generation of conservationists by providing positive, practical experience that will give young people the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to feel empowered to go on to champion conservation in their lives.” Nic Buckley, Conservation Education and Engagement Manger
“It was fantastic to support young people to create a positive change through social action and volunteering during their NCS week. Their confidence and skills grew as they participated in conservation masterclasses and developed their activities to engage zoo visitors. We recognise the power young people have to make a difference to the environment through education, campaigning or practical activities in their communities.”
Lindsay Marston, Volunteer Manager
“Youth Federation’s NCS project has had the privilege to have worked with Chester Zoo over the summer. As a result, the young people have gained valuable insight into community engagement, conservation and recycling.
All the young people developed many skills and education that will stay with them for life; the experience was an opportunity of a lifetime. Their social action project will leave a legacy in the Zoo and not only had a big impact on them, but they will educate their peers on the issues discussed.
The whole experience ties in with the principles and ethos of NCS, and the benefits of working alongside the Zoo will aid all of the young people in their future career paths. I want to thank Chester Zoo for this opportunity and hope we can work together again in the future.”
Christine Marchant, National Citizens Service Coordinator, Youth Federation