The Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA) and critically acclaimed photographer Alfie Bowen are collaborating to deliver educational workshops to inspire love and acceptance to schoolchildren across East Anglia.
Alfie, who is ZSEA’s Brand Ambassador, will be speaking on how he overcame bullying throughout his own school life and went on to become a professional wildlife photographer and autism activist.
‘The Wild World Schools Tour,’ which promotes an acceptance of people’s differences and individuality, began its pilot stage with eight visits to East Anglian schools during June and July. It now reconvenes with a visit to Harleston Sancroft Academy in Norfolk on 28 September, with further events to follow throughout autumn.
Alfie says: “It has been an incredible experience meeting so many amazing, intelligent and kind children across the East of England, and sharing my experiences of photography, autism and wildlife with them.
“I will never forget the little faces that lit up when they realised I was autistic just like them, and that I achieved my dreams, which means they too can achieve their dreams.
“It has been one of the highlights of my career thus far, and I’m excited to be hitting the road again this month.”
The 24-year-old from Beccles has received critical acclaim for his photography from wildlife experts Chris Packham and Sir David Attenborough, and is now working closely with Castle Fine Art and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Alfie is joined on the tour by spokespeople from ZSEA, the charity behind Banham Zoological Gardens in Norfolk and Africa Alive Zoological Reserve in Suffolk.
ZSEA’s parks provided Alfie with a safe space during a time when he was experiencing personal challenges while growing up, and was where he nurtured a love for animals that led to his career as a wildlife photographer.
ZSEA will be delivering talks on conservation, education, community and neurodiversity, along with interactive mindfulness workshops exploring animal adaptations and the wonderful differences between species.
Claudia Roberts, CEO at ZSEA, said: “I had the honour of attending some of the summer tour dates to represent ZSEA, and it was such a rewarding and eye-opening experience. We set out to spread a message of understanding and acceptance for neurodiversity, but it became so much more than that.
“At the end of one session, an eight-year-old girl approached me and said, ‘I’m so glad you came to my school because now I know I can be a palaeontologist.’ This tour is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of women in science and business, and to teach children that if they work hard, they too can achieve their dreams.
“The Zoological Society of East Anglia is thrilled to be supporting Alfie on The Wild World Schools Tour. Connecting with nature can do wonders for our mental health, and Alfie’s story is a true testament to that fact."
ZSEA announced Alfie Bowen as a Brand Ambassador at the end of 2021, and have since been working closely with Alfie and MBA students from the University of East Anglia to launch their Neurodiversity Project. The charity has been raising funds to improve accessibility around their parks for people with neurodiverse conditions, including autism.
Alfie and Asim Krdzalic, Conservation Education Manager at ZSEA, attended Redcastle Family School in Thetford this July to deliver workshops to children in their Special Resource Base (SRB). This class is part of the local SEND offer made by Norfolk County Council for children on the autism spectrum.
Laura Bradshaw, SRB Lead Teacher at Redcastle Family School, said: “We were blown away by Asim and Alfie and their brilliant session. They are fantastic ambassadors for the zoo, and the children will be producing a heartfelt thank you card.
“The children – and adults – are keen to visit Banham Zoological Gardens and follow Alfie’s process of planning, sketching and taking the perfect photograph.”
The Wild World Schools Tour is still taking bookings for visits, and a limited number of free sessions remain available to schools, specific groups and charities supporting neurodiversity, funded by ZSEA’s community programme. For more information contact on booking a session or financially supporting this programme please email: [email protected]
To find out more about ZSEA’s conservation and education projects, visit: https://www.zsea.org/
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