On 6 July 2023, Chester Zoo welcomed representatives from 11 schools who took over our education programme for the day to share their passion for wildlife and what matters to them.
Ed Boyd, Assistant Team Manager for Schools Engagement, who organised this year’s event said:
“Since 2019, Schools Takeover day has been a really exciting and important day in the yearly calendar for Chester Zoo. Our mission is Preventing Extinction, and we also have a Conservation Masterplan target that by 2031, we will have empowered 10 million people to live more sustainably.
Youth voice around important topics such as conservation and sustainability can be incredibly powerful. When children start talking to our visitors, adults do listen, and ultimately the students involved in the event may one day go on to become the decision makers of the future.
Some of the schools taking part in the day have undertaken repeat-engagement projects with us around protecting native species, sustainable palm oil, the illegal wildlife trade or climate & sustainability. Other schools had taken it upon themselves to become champions for conservation and sustainability, and so this day was an opportunity to celebrate and share their work with visitors to the zoo.”
Each school had the chance to decide on the topic that they wanted to discuss with our visitors.
St Bernard’s RC Primary and Nursery School
During our morning session, St Bernard’s RC Primary & Nursery School were stationed near our main entrance, and were the first school visited by many visitors. They delivered a talk to visitors about plastic pollution and what visitors could do to help, encouraging them to sign a pledge to cement their commitment to sustainability.
Upton-by-Chester High School
Used the backdrop of Monsoon Forest to talk to visitors about their eco club, dedicated to making their school grounds better for wildlife and people. As well as improving their school grounds with important plants, the student representatives also shared the results of a sustainable fashion show which showcased second-hand clothes and their benefits.
Blacon High School
Used the opportunity to talk to visitors about climate & sustainability, in our Realm of the Red Ape habitat, after undertaking a repeat-engagement project on the subject with the zoo.
They showcased photos of beautiful locations and asked visitors to guess where they were in the world, before revealing that they were all within the UK, so a plane is not always needed to see amazing places and wildlife.
They also talked to visitors about the importance of sustainable palm oil and the impact this has on the survival of orangutans.
St John Plessington Catholic College
Were based near our lions where they educated our visitors around the subject of fast fashion, encouraging them to carefully consider their buying choices for a more sustainable future. St John Plessington had received the secondary school award for 2023 Outstanding Conservation School as part of Chester Zoo’s Conservation School Awards the previous evening, so this was an excellent opportunity to showcase their knowledge in this field.
The King’s School
Were stationed near our Humboldt penguin habitat and used the opportunity to talk passionately about recycling, quizzing our visitors on what they thought could and couldn’t be recycled and the importance of understanding this.
Chester Schools Sustainability Network
The network is made up of six local high schools who meet regularly to discuss sustainability within their respective schools. Our sun bear tunnel was transformed into a showcase of sustainable school initiatives from sustainable fashions shows to recycling plastic bottles and turning them into useful household items.
Neston High School
Used the backdrop of our Humboldt penguin habitat to discuss their important plastic recycling project. The previous evening, they had picked up the Chester Zoo Conservation Education Award for Outstanding Conservation Initiative and we were delighted to see the outcome of their project displayed at the zoo.
Oakfield Community Primary School
Used the Realm of the Red Ape habitat to discuss threats to the rainforest with our visitors and to show what every day choices visitors can make to protect them.
Ladybridge Primary School
Talked to our visitors at the entrance of Monsoon Forest about the importance of songbirds, such as the Bali myna and Javan green magpie, and the threats they face, after undertaking a repeat-engagement project with the zoo about illegal wildlife trade.
Runcorn All Saints CE Primary School
Worked with us on a Wildlife Connections school project about native species so used their opportunity near lions to educate our visitors on the importance of pollinators with lots of fun games and activities to demonstrate how bees and other wildlife pollinate plants.
Tarvin Primary School
Took the opportunity to talk to visitors near sun bears about the illegal wildlife trade, and its impact on sun bears and tigers. Tarvin Primary School had set themselves a whole-school project to thoroughly research threats to a range of species and create displays around these, including booking a range of workshops on the subject on their school visit to the zoo. School Takeover day allowed them the opportunity to share this knowledge with our visitors directly.
St Martin’s Catholic Primary School
Finally, as visitors were leaving the zoo via the main entrance, they had an opportunity to hear pupils from St Martin’s about the importance of pollinators and to use their creative skills to make a seed-bomb, which is a fun way to grow wildflowers in the garden and help pollinators and other wildlife.
The day received some fantastic media coverage and we were very proud of all the school that took part and hope they enjoyed it to. We’re already looking forward to the next event that will empower young people to use their voices to showcase ways that we can all help prevent extinction.