Archive for the ‘Education Programs’ Category

Attention Future Biologists!

by | November 11th, 2013

MollyAtBeachHave you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a real field biologist, studying wildlife in the great outdoors? What exactly do they do out there with all that cool equipment, anyway? Now, there’s an easy way to find out. Oakland Zoo is proud to introduce its latest educational program, the Field Biology Workshops, where we focus on modern, innovative techniques of field biology and conservation. If you’re a middle or high school student, this could be your opportunity to try your hand at this rewarding career while you’re still in school. And you don’t even have to go anywhere—the Zoo brings it all to your classroom.

The San Diego Institute for Conservation Research (ICR), who offers a summer program for science educators looking to institute their own science programs, was instrumental in helping to get this program off the ground. During a three-day conservation institute for teachers held by ICR, members of the Zoo’s education staff had the opportunity to learn the curriculum and were provided with teaching materials to get started

Here’s how it works. During our engaging one or two-day in-class workshops (an hour each) you’ll get the chance to use modern technology to study wildlife, analyzing real data collected in the field. A good example is with our condor program, the field study that uses GPS technology to track endangered California condors released back into the wild in Baja California and the Ventana Wilderness Area near Big Sur. As a young aspiring scientist, you’ll be asked to analyze data and give thought to the conservation challenges that these animals face in the real world. Using satellite mapping techniques, you’ll study and analyze the condors’ geographic range and make your own decisions about ways to protect it. One of the exercises involves the planning for a proposed wind farm within the condors’ habitat. Based on your analysis of the data, your job is to advise the company on the best place to locate the facility to minimize risk to the birds while still serving the needs of the public.

Condor119
One of the goals of the Field Biology Workshops is skill-building. We ask the students to come up with answers to these problems; not necessarily focusing on the right answer, but getting the students to think and work like a scientist. Through this program the Zoo is hoping to expand its educational reach by bridging the demographic between its ZooSchool, Teen Wild Guide and ZooMobile programs, offering educational services to students in middle and high schools. The program is still in the planning stages but we’re hoping to be up and running this school year. To find out more about the Field Biology Workshops, please call our Teen Programs Manager, Melinda Sievert at (510) 632-9525 ext 201. So if you’re a middle or high school student who’s interested in biology or if you know someone who is, give Oakland Zoo a call and get that young scientist onboard with the new Field Biology Workshops. See you at the Zoo!

Zoo Docents: Developing the next generation of inspiration

by | October 11th, 2013
Docent with Animal Skull

Docent with Animal Skull

These days, forty years is a long time for something to last—unless it’s made out of cast iron or granite. But that’s almost how long we’ve had our docent program here at Oakland Zoo. I was still in high school back in 1974 when the first docents headed out into the Zoo, ready to greet the public. Since then, the Zoo has grown tremendously and we’ve seen more than 400 enthusiastic men and women join our team of volunteer educators over the years. Right now, we’ve got almost 90 on board. And I can’t imagine this place running without them.

Inspiring a Young Zoo Visitor

Inspiring a Young Zoo Visitor

But what exactly does a docent do, you might ask. Docents, in the same way that ambassadors represent foreign nations, are the vital link between the public and various educational and scientific institutions. Often operating with limited funding, many of these organizations couldn’t function properly without a team of these volunteers. You see them at museums, science centers, historical sites and, of course, zoos. They handle a variety of tasks, including leading tours, answering questions, and assisting people in need of help. But some of their contributions are a bit more ethereal. They inspire. They enlighten. They connect people with things they may not have been exposed to before. You might say docents help create the next generation of supporters and in some cases, future employees.

So what does it take to be a part of such a team? How do you become a docent here at Oakland Zoo? If you’re outgoing, enjoy working with the public and have a love of animals, you might be just what Oakland Zoo is looking for. But like anything else worth doing, it takes commitment and a bit of work.

Docent Training Class

Docent Training Class

It all starts with the application process, which can be initiated through Oakland Zoo’s website. Once your application has been accepted and a background check is complete, you attend an orientation before you begin the training. Our comprehensive 15-week docent training class provides prospective docents with a solid background that includes an overview of the Zoo’s animal collection, conservation efforts, zoology and taxonomy, customer service and interpretive training. The training is a collaborative effort between education department staff, zookeepers and veteran docents. In those 15 weeks, you’ll get classroom instruction, special lectures, as well as homework assignments, quizzes, and presentations. There’s even a mentoring program to provide one-on-one assistance.

 

Once you’ve passed the final exam and graduated, you’ll officially be an Oakland Zoo docent. After that, you need to fulfill a minimum requirement of 70 public hours of service per year as well as earning 4 credits of continuing education by attending lectures, classes, etc. But since our docents find the work so rewarding, most of them enjoy contributing even more time to the Zoo.

A Wild Night at the Movies

by | September 6th, 2013

zoovienights_bannerSky-high ticket prices, over-priced snacks, difficult parking and noisy customers—no wonder people often stay home from the movie theater these days. But who says going to the movies can’t still be fun? Now, you can bring the family to Oakland Zoo for a reasonably-priced evening of movies, snacks, and old-fashioned family fun.

Presenting Zoovie Nights, the new family-themed entertainment events at Oakland Zoo!

From 6:30 – 9:30 on select Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year, the Zoo is hosting nature and conservation-themed movies for families with kids 4-11 years old. So get the family car ready. But don’t worry about dressing up. Our guests are encouraged to come in their PJs and bring comfy blankets and pillows—whatever you need to feel at home here at the Zoo. We’ll provide the snacks (hot chocolate and fresh-popped popcorn, but you can also bring your own favorites.) Roosevelt the alligator (Oakland Zoo’s mascot) will be there in his own PJs to greet you and will be available so you can have your photos taken with him.

We’ll gather in the Marian Zimmer Auditorium located at our lower entrance, where you’ll also get the chance to meet a few of our small animals up close before the movie starts. Once you get settled in with your pillows, popcorn and drinks, it’s showtime!

Here’s the schedule we’ve got for you so far:

9/20 Antz
9/28 Mr. Poppers Penguins
10/11 Charlotte’s Web
11/15 Madagascar
12/20 Fantastic Mr. Fox
1/17 Horton Hears a Who
2/15 Madagascar 2
3/21 Rio
4/26 Fern Gully
5/30 Madagascar 3
6/28 Ice Age
8/30 Rango

Sounds like a pretty cool line-up, doesn’t it? There’s something for everybody. So if you and your family want a movie-going experience that you’ll never forget, come check out Zoovie Nights at Oakland Zoo. For program fees and other information, please see the link above or call our Education Reservations Associate at (510) 632-9525 ext. 220. We’ll see you at the movies… I mean Zoovies!

Western Pond Turtles get a hand at Oakland Zoo!

by | August 22nd, 2013
zena-the-zookeeperHey there, fellow conservation heroes! Do I have an important conservation program to tell you about today, and it’s taking place right here at Oakland Zoo!  It’s a ‘head start” program for the endangered Western Pond Turtle. These adorable little guys were once plentiful and lived all over the entire West Coast – from British Columbia in Canada, all the way down to Baja California near Mexico.

pond_turtle

But today, they’re only found in a few parts of California, Oregon and a couple of places in Washington State. That’s because they’ve lost a lot of their habitat and are being eaten by non-native predators – including another kind of turtle that isn’t native to California.  It’s really sad. 
 
See how tiny the baby Western Pond Turtle is?  Because they grow very slowly in the wild, it takes them a long time to grow big enough to escape or fight off non-native predators like the American Bullfrog and Largemouth Bass who love to snatch them up and snack on them. The other species bullying these guys is the red-eared slider turtle. Many red-eared slider turtles were once somebody’s pet, but people sometimes release them into the wild when they get too big, and that’s bad news for the smaller, shyer Western Pond Turtle. Our little friend loses out to the bigger guys on food resources and warm spots to lie in the sun in their habitat.
 
But the GOOD NEWS is that we are raising hatchlings right here at the Zoo in our brand-new Bio-Diversity Center!  With our ZooKeepers taking care of these babies with plenty of nutrient-rich foods and veterinary care, they grow in just one year to the size it would take them three or four years to reach in the wild. Then, when we release them into the wild they are big enough to protect themselves and have a much better chance of survival. Right now, we are raising 44 Western Pond Turtles for release next year, and the babies are doing great so far!
 
So remember fellow conservation heroes, please don’t release pet turtles into the wild.  Help keep our lake areas clean, welcoming places for Western Pond Turtles. And be sure to teach others all about the amazing Western Pond Turtle!

A Bear of a Party

by | August 5th, 2013

 

TeddyBearTea296x172Sometimes the best kinds of animals are stuffed. No, I don’t mean the ones you find in a museum. I mean the cuddly plush ones like your favorite childhood teddy bear. After all, they provide comfort and security, and bring magic and imagination into our lives, even as adults. So after all they do for us, why not treat them to their own party. That’s exactly what you and your child (along with their favorite stuffed animal) can do at Oakland Zoo at the new Teddy Bear Tea Parties.

 

We’ve been hearing suggestions from parents who want more programs at the Zoo that they can participate in with their children (as opposed to our drop-off programs which are geared for kids alone.) So we came up with a very cute program indeed. Held once a month on Saturday mornings, Teddy Bear Tea offers an entertaining and informative activity for 4 to 8 year olds and their parents. But it’s much more than just a tea party. First, we gather in one of our classrooms, where you’ll hear a bear-themed story and learn how to be a bear in the wild. You’ll enjoy tea, coffee, juice and other snacks such as scones, cookies and assorted fruit. After that, you and your child will have the chance to make fun enrichment items for the Zoo’s sun bears, using cardboard boxes and colorful art materials. These decorated boxes will be filled with various yummy treats for the bears to snack on.

Exploring a Fun Box

Exploring a Fun Box

Afterwards, you’ll head up to the sun bear observation deck and watch as the bears eagerly discover and tear open the boxes that you just made for them. And as you meet one of our bear keepers, you’ll get answers to all those bear questions that you’ve been dying to ask. Enrichment is a big part of the animals’ lives here at Oakland Zoo, and our bears get excited whenever they find fun new things in their exhibit to sniff and eat.
Speaking of fun things to eat, when you attend the Teddy Bear Tea, you’ll get to snack on the same type of 5-fruit salad that our bears

enjoy eating every day. You’ll also receive a gift bag full of assorted animal themed goodies as well as a special personalized thank you letter with photo addressed to your child and their stuffed animal, signed by one of our sun bears.
So if you’re looking for something fun to do with your 4 to 8 year old, sign up for one of Oakland Zoo’s new Teddy Bear Tea parties. The next parties are scheduled for August 17, September 14, and October 12. Parties run from 9:30 am until noon. Don’t forget to invite your child’s favorite teddy or other stuffed animal.

See You at the Next Teddy Bear Tea Party

Awaiting the Next Teddy Bear Tea

For further information, additional tea party dates and to make a reservation, contact our Education Department at (510) 632-9525 ext 220, or email educationreservations@oaklandzoo.org. See you at the party!

 

 

Warthog Love is in the Air

by | July 31st, 2013

 

Basic CMYKHello fellow conservation heroes, Zena the Zookeeper here.   The summer excitement just keeps on rolling here at Oakland Zoo!   This month, we are celebrating the arrival of two totally beautiful new warthogs.  Yes, you heard right – bea-u-ti-ful wartrhogs!  I could just watch these two lovely ladies for hours on end!  We got them from two zoos in the southern United States, the Atlanta (Georgia) Zoo and the Jacksonville (Florida) Zoo.  I hope Simon, our resident male warthog, thinks they are as beautiful as I do. If Simon agrees with me, then maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have some baby piglets join the sounder (sounder means a small group of warthogs).

We zookeepers are pretty proud of our little three-warthog sounder, and of how well the three of them are all getting along.  Sometimes it can take many weeks for female warthogs to learn to get along, but our ladies had not problems at all adjusting to their new home or to Simon, or each other.  Hmmm… I wonder if it was all the fresh grasses, fruit, and enrichment items we put in their enclosure

everyday.

Just look at the three of them playing together with their ball in this picture! They’re getting along like three peas – I mean pigs – in a pod!  wart1

And here’s a little fascinating fact for you – warthogs really do have warts!  The warts are on their heads, where they also have not one but TWO sets of tusks.

Warthogs are also powerful diggers, using their disc-like snout with their legs to dig for roots and tubers. They often lower themselves closer to the ground by bending their wrists (like Simon is doing in this picture).

Looks pretty awkward to me, but don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.  They have special thick, calloused pads of skin to protect them when they’re bending down like that. And just like all species of pigs, warthogs love to roll around in the mud when the weather gets too hot for them.

So see?  These creatures are sweet and loveable and oh so fun to watch – just bea-u-ti-ful.  I’m sure you’ll agree with me when you come visit them for yourselves.  See you at the Zoo!