To mark the halfway point of COP26, we’re taking a look at what’s happened at the conference so far and what promising actions may be coming up…
A great place to take your students to explore a South East Asian forest habitat in the middle of Chester Zoo! With free flying birds, primates, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and amazing plants, there’s so much to see and learn about.
We’ve been working with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) to prevent the extinction of endemic species on Mauritius and Rodrigues for many years. An important part of this work is supporting the development of education programmes that encourage people to value and protect the species we’re working together to save.
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.
Our amazing volunteers donate thousands of hours of their time to the zoo every year (almost 28,000 in 2019). In their volunteering roles they support our guests to connect with wildlife, to find out about conservation and to have a great day out at the zoo. They really are an important part of our Chester Zoo family, and we know that volunteering at the zoo is an important part of their lives too.
We appreciate the contribution our volunteers make all year round, but during Volunteers’ Week we come together with others around the country to celebrate the contribution that millions of volunteers make to our society. Things are a little different this year, but the role that volunteers play has never been so important. We shall be celebrating with our volunteer team remotely and looking forwards to the day we can welcome them back into the zoo.
Here one of our newest volunteers, Julie Saville, talks about her experiences volunteering at the zoo, what being a Chester Zoo volunteer means to her and how she’s getting prepared to come back into her volunteering role:
As a child I was brought up on the edge of the Worcestershire countryside. My father loved nothing better than taking his children, and usually a few other “hangers on”, out for long walks during which we would learn about the wildlife around us. We were brought up to treasure the environment and to love animals.
I have been a primary school teacher for a large chunk of my adult- life. Although not currently teaching I would not regard myself as retired and am constantly seeking new challenges whether paid or as a volunteer.
In recent years I have been a supply teacher, which can have its rewarding moments. However, I felt that this job was no longer for me. In conversation with a dear friend he told me of the various volunteering opportunities he had taken advantage of and it occurred to me that this could be a more life enhancing use of my time. As someone who loves animals, would like to continue to work with children and loves our zoo, my attention turned to volunteering at Chester Zoo. I thrive on new challenges and prefer to be active so helping the zoo and the public ticks many boxes for me. Furthermore, it offers sufficient flexibility for other challenges to be undertaken too.
It is always a little daunting when attempting something new and interacting with unfamiliar people. But, it was apparent right from that first gathering that this was going to be worthwhile and enjoyable. Learning about all of the animals will also command some effort – I would not describe myself as uneducated, but there is much to learn in order to give guests the best experience and to answer their questions. Of course, there are also physical demands, our English weather is nothing if not unpredictable and the locations we work in vary from the warmth of the butterfly house to the more exposed Islands zone.
Getting to know so much more about all of the animals is just wonderful. I have only been able to undertake one volunteering session but found the more experienced volunteers very helpful and friendly and look forward to making many new friends once the current crisis is over.
It can be frustrating to not know as much about the animals as you would like, but, I can organise myself to research and record information during these quiet times so there is always a silver lining.