How do we educate?
Programmes for schools and other educational institutions range from playgroups to lectures for postgraduates.
Lively and varied education programmes for schools bring subjects to life and inspire children to care about the world around them. Further education colleges and universities often come to the sites to learn about animal husbandry and the business side of running such attractions.
Developing partnerships between zoos and further/higher education colleges and universities supports research and vocational training which is of benefit not just to the students but to the wider conservation and business community.
Providing work placement opportunities, often in conjunction with regional Connexions organizations, allow students to learn about working in a zoo or aquarium.
Family learning groups also enjoy structured visits, organized by the education team, and those with learning difficulties can take part in hands-on workshops.
Not all zoos in Britain have the resources for sophisticated and expensive technologies such as computer touch screens, video and audio guides. However, an imaginative and well designed information sign, a lively talk by a zoo keeper or presenter, or an informative guided tour still rank amongst the most popular and effective ways to engage people’s interest and emotions.
Animal encounters, feeding talks and flying displays are other valuable educational tools, demonstrating an animal’s natural behaviour and skills for life, provided this is done without causing stress or compromising the animal’s welfare.
A focus on conservation
BIAZA zoos and aquariums all educate students in line with National Curriculae, incorporating subjects such as adaptations to habitats, animal welfare, animal behaviour, science in the workplace and marketing.
However, it is also our duty and responsibility to promote the protection of the world’s animals. By creating an emotional connection between people and animals we can foster a feeling of accountability to encourage people to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Conservation is our core message, informing visitors about endangered species, the underlying reasons for animal population decline and what we are doing to help.
By highlighting our captive breeding programmes, our contributions to conservation around the world and explaining the “World Conservation Strategy” we can educate people as to the role of modern zoos.
Extinction is often a misunderstood word. We need to explain that extinction is forever and that the rate of extinction is at its highest rate for thousands of years.
By explaining evolution and natural selection, we can show how animals have changed, but also illustrate how people are influencing this natural process. By understanding how we threaten this delicate balance and shaping people’s attitudes towards animals we can link conservation and the environment.
Zoos can also highlight very practical things that visitors themselves can do to help in their everyday lives - sustainable living, ecotourism, purchasing fair trade goods, volunteer programmes, recycling, habitat protection and adoption.
BIAZA demands a serious commitment to education from all its full and provisional member collections. Education is at the heart of everything that BIAZA members do. Moreover, the zoo licensing laws see education as one of the most important components of the work that zoos and aquariums carry out.
The majority of BIAZA member collections now employ full or part-time education staff, many of whom are qualified and experienced teachers.
Education staff are increasingly involved in the planning of animal collections and in shaping the future development of zoos to fulfil their local and global role.
BIAZA supports zoo educators in meeting the needs of zoo visitors, school children and teachers. Annual zoo education awards encourage the sharing of good practice between member zoos.
Organizing training for zoo staff, and encouraging attendance at national and international zoo education conferences, are other ways in which BIAZA fulfils its commitment to high quality education in support of worldwide conservation.
To find out about education at your local BIAZA collection, search for its website here.