AN AMAZING LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Safety of course is our priority, and we’ve put lots of measures in place to ensure there’s social distancing around the zoo, but that doesn’t mean that a school visit can’t bring learning to life, be playful, and support everyone’s wellbeing.
Whether it’s watching the elephants playing in the water, hearing the lion ROAR, or finding out which animal is the smelliest (tapirs are pretty stinky!)…nothing brings learning about animals to life as much as seeing them here at Chester Zoo.
Students will learn lots by watching animals and reading some of the signs around the zoo. There’s so much to learn about! Here are our top tips for turning a school visit to the zoo into a learning adventure.
We absolutely love working with schools throughout the year. We love welcoming them to the zoo, as well as going out to schools across the North West and North Wales to teach and inspire young people about conservation and the actions they can take to act for wildlife. So it’s been devastating that school visits haven’t been possible in recent months and we’ve really missed working directly with you.
However during lockdown, we’ve been pleased to bring you many new learning resources for you to enjoy at home and at school, as well as our Virtual Zoo Days. It’s been wonderful that so many of you have continued to use the zoo as a source of inspiration for learning and we’ve been overwhelmed by the support you’ve shown us through our Save Our Zoo campaign.
It’s been a delight to see so many of the schools that we’ve worked with and even some new schools, joining our Chester Zoo mission of preventing extinction, to learn about wildlife and ways they can help conservation through zoo focused projects. We’ve seen so many example of pupils creating posters to help ‘Save Our Zoo’, fact files about species they’ve learned about from our Virtual Zoo Days, creating their own amazing zoos out of materials at home or school and even habitats in shoe boxes.
We caught up with a few of the schools who have been sharing their work on social media to learn more about what they’ve been up to.
There are some fascinating creatures that are active at night. Enter the world of nocturnal animals to discover how they find their way around their environment, hunt and evade predators.
For all animals, there are three common necessities of life: finding food, finding a mate and avoiding being eaten. But some face the extra challenge of having to do all of that in the dark!
As humans we rely heavily upon our sense of sight, so we are going to explore the ways other animals have become adapted to life where there is a lot less light! Follow our step by step guide to investigate the world of nocturnal animals and find out how these amazing creatures use their super senses to navigate life in the dark.
Safety of course has to come first and we’ve put lots in place to ensure social distancing around the zoo, but that doesn’t mean that a family visit can’t also be playful, help children learn and support everyone’s wellbeing.
In fact, we believe these things are more important now than ever, so we’ve put together some top tips and special resources to help you get the most out of a visit.
As we begin our own road to recovery, we are working with education experts to ensure we can also support recovery in our schools.
Our Curriculum Advisory Panel work with us to ensure our programmes for schools meet the needs of the education sector. This week we met to discuss the role of Chester Zoo in supporting teachers and pupils in the post COVID-19 world.
Once a term we come together with experts from across the education sector to discuss how our plans for working with schools will meet their needs. Our expert panel come from across EYFS, primary, secondary and FE colleges, and cover a range of areas of expertise between them including school leadership, animal management, biology, geography, psychology, school improvement, exam and text book writing, research and so much more. As a panel they enable us to stay up to date with what is happening across the education sector in England and Wales, and ensure that our programmes deliver on both the zoo’s conservation mission and the needs of the curriculum and exam specifications in schools and colleges.
There is no doubt that even as schools return to teaching in classrooms, things will be different for some time. Our normal engagement with them through school trips or outreach may be difficult to deliver due to social distancing measures and restrictions still in place. But as our panel confirmed, our role in supporting schools is more important now than ever. As children and teachers return to the classroom, the focus on mental health and wellbeing will need to be greater than ever before. Research tells us that fostering a connection to nature can support our own wellbeing, so we know we need to ensure we find new ways to deliver this with our schools. Resources for learning, like those we can provide at the zoo, that focus on empathy for others, for animals and for the environment could also play an important role.
We talked together about the recovery curriculum and the importance of inspiring pupils who may have disengaged during long absences from school life. Again there is certainly a role for the zoo here. Our 35,000 animals and plants all have a story to tell, one that is capable of inspiring and motivating some of the most disengaged learners. Our projects and programmes have often had the most impact on those pupils that might struggle more with traditional teaching and curriculum. The types of experiences and connection a conservation or zoo inspired programme can deliver may also be helpful in aiding transition to high school, especially when so many primary pupils will have had positive experiences with the zoo in one form or another.
“The zoo plays such an important role in educating young people about the many threats that wildlife face and what we can all do to mitigate those threats. As a panel we are proud to support the inspirational Conservation Education team in ensuring that what they do meets the needs of schools and colleges, both practically and in terms of curriculum.
Bringing together the expertise of the zoo’s specialist team with the broad education sectoral expertise of the panel, enables us to help shape a service that is both innovative and relevant.”
Nicola Hawley, Chair of the Curriculum Advisory Panel
Education is a huge part of how we achieve our mission of preventing extinction. Through inspiring the next generation of conservationists, connecting children with nature and supporting young people to take action for wildlife now, we can mitigate some of the threats to the animal and plant species we care about. In the last few months, even with our schools closed, our online resources and virtual zoo days have provided lots of opportunities for this to happen. We know they have been used effectively by thousands of schools and families home schooling. Following the valuable guidance of our expert panel, we will be working on new ways to achieve our mission in the current circumstances, knowing that we will not only be supporting our own educational objectives but supporting the recovery of schools too.
On the same day we met, we also had news that the zoo will be able to reopen in the near future. Whilst this gives us some hope, we still have a long road ahead of us. But thanks to our panel we know we’re on the right path and we’ll continue to find new ways to ensure we can connect teachers and pupils with wildlife, to support them to deliver their curriculum and to engage learners with the wonders of the natural world.
All over Indonesia the forests are falling silent because the songbirds that once lived there are THREATENED BY EXTINCTION. We’re facing a crisis because these beautiful, remarkable and rare birds are being captured and trapped by local people to be used either in singing competitions or kept in cages as a status symbol.
Throughout Indonesia millions of birds are kept in captivity, a tradition deeply embedded in Indonesian culture. It is believed that over 1.3 million songbirds are caught ever year!
Understanding problems for species which are happening on the other side of the world can be a little tricky so we’ve put together this guide about the illegal bird trade. Take your learners through a journey through the bird markets of Indonesia using our resources to discover why songbirds face these threats and how you can help.
UK wildlife is in trouble. 56% of UK species are in decline. In the UK we have lost 97% of the wildflower meadows we had in the 1930s and hedgehog numbers have fallen from 30 million in 1950 to just 1 million now.
There are hundreds of UK species that need our help so we’ve created this guide to help learners explore native species, their threats and ways that you can help to make small changes to your garden that will help UK wildlife.
We worked with 146 people from 53 families and together took over 620 positive actions to support biodiversity at school and in the families own green spaces.
Our Wildlife Connections Campaign is all about bringing people together to create safe spaces for UK wildlife. By creating connections from one wildlife-friendly space to the next we can create wildlife highways through our neighbourhoods and protect the precious wildlife that we love.
Between October 2019 and February 2020 we set up Family Wildlife Clubs at five schools local to Chester Zoo, bringing together families to improve their school grounds and own green spaces for wildlife. Through this project we engaged new audiences within our local communities, providing opportunities for them to develop the skills and knowledge to be able to take action for UK wildlife and play their part in improving biodiversity.
The project was funded by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Nature Connects Grant which is awarded to international projects that aim to bring families together to experience their natural environment and take action for wildlife.
At each school site we planted mini wild flower meadows, planted trees, built giant bug hotels and made their school grounds a better place for people to enjoy. The families also made animal habitats to take home to make their green spaces better for wildlife, including making mini ponds, mini bug hotels, bat boxes and bird boxes.
By taking these actions to make more and better connected wildlife friendly spaces we can help to combat the threats faced by UK Wildlife, including the loss of suitable habitats and loss of connectivity between habitats. At each school we did basic wildlife surveys before taking action and will support the schools to monitor changes over the coming years and to promote biodiversity on their school grounds and surrounding communities.
The Family Wildlife Clubs brought intergenerational groups together to gain the skills and knowledge to make positive changes for local wildlife. As well as supporting skill and knowledge development, the experience also benefitted the participants personally and in their family relationships.
“I enjoyed spending time outdoors with my son and the group”.
– parent from Sandy Croft School
The knowledge and skills gained through the session encouraged people to take action in their own green spaces too.
“Using knowledge of different habitats we have implemented some of the practical habitats in our gardens.”
– parent from Liscard Primary School
We’ve lost nearly 1/2 of the world’s wildlife in the last 50 years due to habitat loss, pollution and poaching. Many of the threats to wildlife are caused by humans, so it’s our responsibility to protect them in any way possible. At Chester Zoo, we work in a number of different ways to prevent the extinction of endangered animals.
Use our step by step guide to inspire your learners about some amazing endangered animals that we’re fighting to protect, show them ways in which the zoo is doing this and give them some actions to help in our mission of preventing extinction!