Posts Tagged ‘school programs’

Man Your Battle Stations: 20 Years of Conservation ZooMobile

by | January 11th, 2012

Question: What makes the Conservation Zoomobile different from the other wonderful ZooMobile programs offered by the Oakland Zoo? For one thing, it’s a team effort– and a very loyal team at that. For nearly twenty years (since being founded by docent Edna Mack), the CZM has been led exclusively by the same group of four docents! (Only recently did Harry, Roland, Claire and Debbie recruit some new blood.)

Hands-On Learning Fun

Yet, it’s more than team teaching that makes this program unique. Offered only on Wednesdays during the school year, CZM travels to elementary schools throughout the East Bay to teach kids in the 3rd through 5th grades about conservation issues around the world.  Usually set up in a school’s auditorium, it’s structured into several stations that operate simultaneously, sort of like a job fair.

"Garbage" Sorting Exercise

Following a brief introduction, the students are divided into groups and led to one of the four awaiting stations where they spend 15 minutes before rotating to the next one.  At the 4R station, the kids learn about sustainable consumption of the world’s resources, and the cycle of resource use. Also known as Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Rot, this station teaches kids about purchasing power, donating clothes, and recycling light bulbs. They participate in an exercise where they sort “garbage” into different components, and see a mini composting demonstration. At the Rain Forest station, kids will find a festive cave-like umbrella display that they can actually sit inside. Here, they learn about the incredible living ecosystem of the tropical rain forest and get to see and smell some of the many by-products of the forest that we use in our daily

Exploring The Mini Rain Forest

lives, such as chocolate and spices. They also learn about some products whose extraction is destructive to the forest and how we can minimize that damage. What exactly goes on at the H.I.P.P.O. station? No, they don’t bring out a real live hippopotamus. These letters stand for Habitat, Introduced species, Population, Pollution, and Over-consumption– the five main threats to the earth’s wildlife. The kids see puppets and biofacts (animal artifacts such as skulls, bones, snakeskins, etc.) and learn about the impact of fur coats, as well as which other animal products to avoid. The last station offers what the Zoomobile program is best known for: live animals. Here, the kids get to visit with tortoises, snakes, chinchillas and even cool giant millipedes. They learn the difference between domestic and wild species, as well as which animals make good choices for family pets.

During the wrap-up, the kids are asked for feedback to show what they’ve learned, and what they liked best about the presentation. They then watch a rain forest video and later learn about the different things that they can do in their daily lives to help rain forests around the world.

Meeting A Furry Chinchilla

Longtime Zoo docent Harry Santi has seen a lot since he started with CZM. And, he’s noticed a big change in the depth of animal knowledge that kids possess these days. Sometimes, they know the answers before he’s even had the chance to finish the questions. He’s also seen a crazy thing or two in those twenty years, such as the time he got all the way out to Walnut Creek for the presentation before he realized that he’d forgotten to bring the animals! He had to go all the way back to the Zoo to get them.

So if you’re an elementary school teacher or know someone who is and would like to participate in this special educational experience, give the Oakland Zoo a call and get the Conservation ZooMobile to come to your school this year! You can book a Conservation ZooMobile by calling (510) 632-9525, ext 220.

Zoo-to-Community Is Spreading Its Wings

by | November 4th, 2010

There’s Big News happening with the Zoo-To-Community program (ZTC) here at the Oakland Zoo. The program just received its first big grant for schools outside of Oakland! Since its inception three years ago, the Zoo-To-Community (ZTC) program has offered vouchers for free Zoo admission and access to programs such as ZooSchool, ZooMobile, ZooSchool Discovery and Zoo field trips to local residents who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

ZTC Kids at the Zoo

And now, thanks to the generosity of the East Bay Community Foundation, funds are available to reach West Contra Costa County. That’s definitely good news for Richmond Title 1 elementary schools, (where 75% or more of the kids are on the free lunch program) child development centers, and Head Start schools. Head Start, as you may know, is a national program that promotes school readiness. The Title 1 program provides funding to school systems for students at risk of failure and living at the poverty level.

During these last three years, ZTC has been steadily expanding. Through the use of mailings to school principals, the word has been spreading, and more schools have been getting involved. Participation has quadrupled in the last year alone, enabling the program to reach an impressive 16,000 people, including 13,000 school-age children.

Grants from donor organizations are a big part of the Zoo-To-Community program. In a typical year, ZTC receives half a dozen such grants, ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 a piece, from supporters such as First 5, Bechtel, Clorox, Wells Fargo, The Junior League, and the Rogers Foundation. So the East Bay Community Foundation’s grant for $ 15,000 represents a substantial part of ZTC’s financial backing for the year.

Up Close with a Turtle

What all this financial business boils down to is this: last year we had the most funding ever for bus transportation. Up

Touching a Hedgehog

till now, the biggest headache for ZTC– the one thing that’s kept the program from achieving its full potential has been transportation. Oakland is one of the few major cities that doesn’t have its own school bus system. Even with free Zoo admission, many people simply had no way to get here. So the program’s resources weren’t being fully utilized. But now, thanks in large measure to the East Bay Community Foundation’s Grant, that’s all changing.

All of this is exciting news for Zoo-To-Community Coordinator Sarah Powers, who has derived great satisfaction from being able to offer the benefits of the Oakland Zoo to a whole new segment of the East Bay community. Ms. Powers, who’s been in charge of ZTC for the past year and a half, says she looks forward to continued expansion of the Zoo-To-Community program in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. So if you’re eligible for ZTC, get on the bus and check out the Oakland Zoo!