Posts Tagged ‘Volunteering’

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.

Week Fourteen and Going Green

by | April 16th, 2013

This was an exciting and packed week. I started the week off by shadowing more of the Education Department; this time for ZooSchool. I caught a ride from a colleague so that I could attend the morning meeting in the Education Department. Even though it wasn’t my department and I didn’t know much of what was being discussed, it was still a learning experience to sit in on their staff meeting. Everyone was super nice and Chantal, the Assistant Manager of Volunteer Services, (who approved this shadow opportunity) is an absolute sweetheart and made sure everyone knew who I was and vice versa. It was a great atmosphere right out of the gate and I really appreciate the hospitality and kindness everyone has shown me in my time here.

Once the morning staff meeting concluded, I waited with Jen, a part-time Education Specialist for the Zoo, and shadowed2013-04-10 11.07.29 her as she taught and led a local school class in ZooSchool. This was a step up from the ZooCamp I attended a week prior. The main difference was the age group. ZooCamp was kindergarten age and the ZooSchool I was a part of was made up of third graders.

How it worked: Once the class arrived, Jen and I met them and then led them to one of the classrooms in the Education Foyer, where Jen then taught the class about biomes, habitats, animals, and adaptations. Next, the kids were given clipboards with two different habitat scenes, in which their task was to write down five animals from those specified habitats in the Zoo and note a few of their unique adaptations. Even though I am not a third grader, I still learned so much from Jen and greatly enjoyed how ZooSchool was operated.

After ZooSchool concluded, I headed back up to Marketing and went with my supervisor, Nicky, to assist with an on-site film shoot. At the end of the day, I was invited to attend a Conservation ZooMobile happening the next day, so I received approval and joined in on the fun again. This education event was taking place off-site at the Castro Valley Library. This was yet another fantastic program that Oakland Zoo puts on. The Docents were fabulous with the kids/audience and they had great presentations and information prepared for the hour session. Again, I learned so much and was so impressed with this outreach education program that the Zoo does.

EarthDay13Next up on the list was Earth Day Earth Day Earth Day! I attended the final planning meeting for Earth Day with my cohorts, took care of last minute prep items, and then came ready for the event on Saturday. It was a great turnout of Zoo visitors, volunteers, and outside conservation and animal related organizations. There was so much to do while walking through the Zoo, with heaps of hands-on learning activities for people of all ages. It was very rewarding for me to see the amount of people and activities around the Zoo for our Earth Day event, especially after playing a role in planning the past three months. Interacting with all of the different people and organizations, and being of assistance to others was also a highlight of working Earth Day. In addition, I have to admit, being dressed in head-to-toe khaki, with a radio on my hip, made me feel like quite the official Zoo employee. It’s the little things, folks. That sums up week fourteen and going green. Stay tuned for my final week as the Marketing Intern at Oakland Zoo.

Three Months at Oakland Zoo

by | April 11th, 2013

This week, I worked on social media, posted my week twelve blog post, and launched Oakland Zoo’s Pinterest account. Researching, creating, launching, and managing a Zoo Pinterest account was one of my original internship duties and objectives. This was a great idea because it will be something I can use on my resume, in my career portfolio, and it is a pinterest2really great asset to leave behind at the Zoo. Managing the sun bear cam came in handy this week as well, when a customer called to inform us how much he loves our sun bear cam and that the camera was pointing away from the bears. As one of my pre-determined responsibilities, I was able to go in and re-position the web cam. That was a really neat thing to be able to do and I am so glad to hear people are enjoying our sun bear cam.

A big highlight of my week was attending an hour long webinar about Pinterest that my supervisor brought to my attention. This webinar is something that I would not have the chance to participate in if it weren’t for being a part of the Zoo. Continuing on, I also had the opportunity to sit in on a Development meeting regarding the California Project. I learned so much watching a virtual piece that was designed to promote the project to potential donors. I also received great insight about the duties of the Development Department and what a day in their position is like. I love how many opportunities I have been given to expand my professional development while here, both internally and externally.

Besides social media and public relations, I was able to mingle with colleagues as we celebrated major milestones such as an employee anniversary and a celebration for a bride-to-be. This of course included delicious food that I chose to enjoy once again. Having these gatherings once in a while has been nice and has really reinforced the sense of everyone being my Zoo family.

I was able to take advantage of downtime in the office at the beginning of the week to take a walk through the Zoo and reallyfox remember and enjoy the amazing place that I work at every day. As an added plus, I saw a wild grey fox and a few wild deer roaming the property. Walking into the Zoo in the morning and seeing Nikko, our white-handed gibbon, literally just hanging out or swinging, brought a big smile to my face too. Not too shabby of a place to intern, right?

Another week is in the books. I’ve passed the three month mark and am nearing the end of my time here at Oakland Zoo as the Marketing Intern. Time sure has flown. I have two exciting weeks left. Let’s see what else I can learn and do in that time.

Week Twelve

by | April 2nd, 2013

This week was very heavy with social media activity. With the Grand Opening of Animales de los Arboles and Feast for the

4-2-2013 11-43-52 AMBeasts event, there was a lot to promote and I really wanted to engage the community. I originally set out with a goal to reach 12,000 Facebook fans, but then got to thinking about the elephants (because of Feast for the Beasts), and came up with a Facebook contest to guess how much Osh, our bull elephant weighs. I knew elephants weigh between 12,000 and 14,000 pounds, so I wanted to incorporate that with the Facebook fans. I learned that Osh weighs 12,300 pounds and decided to make that the new goal number for Facebook fans. I named it Operation Osh. Although we came up short, it was still a fun idea and I enjoyed running with it.

I spent most of Tuesday helping out with Spring Break ZooCamp and Sun Bear’s class. Who is Sun Bear you might ask? Well, the Education staff that work ZooCamp all have an animal name. The staff member that I was working with was named Sun Bear. This helps ZooCamp kids remember which group they are in and who their leader is. I joined the kiddos as they were watching warthogs tear open their surprise boxes (animal enrichment), then proceeded to walk to a select few animal exhibits, learned and even taught some animal facts, spent time acting like different animals in the meadow for play time, attended an animal close up with two of our education hedgehog ambassadors, and helped the kids with their very own hedgehog craft in the afternoon. Afterwards, I hiked back through the Zoo to the office to catch up on emails and to-dos for the remainder of the day. I had a good time at ZooCamp and really enjoyed being outdoors and active, but let me tell you… those five-year-olds wore me out and this desk job is making my legs rusty.

I sent press releases over to our web specialist to load up on the website and uploaded pictures to flickr of our new exhibit and animals. I also spent some time doing out of the ordinary projects such as editing and making additions to the Zoo’s history information page on the website. By taking the time to actually read through the rich history, I learned a lot about the organization. I also helped Amber with some miscellaneous tasks for the Feast for the Beasts event as well as the Zoo’s annual fundraiser in June, Walk in the Wild. I kind of like being a ‘helper’ like this. I get to do several tasks for a few different people/departments, and that seems to work for me. It keeps things interesting and keeps me learning for sure. I feel I have always been the jack of all trades and master of none, so doing a variety of tasks keeps my day exciting. With that being said, I am convinced that being able to wear multiple hats is not only a talent, but also a necessity in today’s world.

grand opening

I attended and assisted with the on-site Grand Opening of Animales de los Arboles on Thursday and then spent Friday looking at and sharing all the great media coverage with our online social media sites.

Week Eleven

by | March 29th, 2013

I started off this week being the main contact for Earth Day related items since the Director of Conservation had an out of office conference to attend. This means I was responding to emails and calls with several different organizations to ensure that everything is in place for our upcoming event. In addition, I worked on the previous two weeks’ blog, followed up with Animal Management for information to go with a few upcoming press releases, and then was able to use that information to re-work it into the most important and interesting key points in the press releases. In between press releases and Earth Day items, I continued to monitor and update Oakland Zoo’s social media platforms.

2013-03-20 15.00.33Out of the ordinary highlights of the week included not one, but two field trips, and a few snack and celebration breaks. The field trips consisted of wandering off to Fenton’s Creamery to pick up five amazing flavors of ice cream for the office staff to enjoy for Amber’s (Manager, Special Events) birthday. Nicky (Senior Manager, Marketing/PR) and Theresa from Membership also had birthdays with delicious treats over the past week. Thank you ladies for having birthdays and for allowing us to celebrate with you. To top it off, Dan, in Maintenance also dropped off homemade blueberry muffins for us to enjoy. Due to all these goodies being consumed, there is now a joke about Oakland Zoo’s ‘fifteen,’ similar to the ‘freshman fifteen,’ where you gain fifteen pounds in your first year. Looks like I’ll have to schedule more walks through the Zoo to burn off those extra calories or tell people to stop celebrating birthdays…but what fun would that be?

2013-03-15 17.31.322013-03-18 12.11.222013-03-19 09.37.26

2013-03-21 14.13.182013-03-21 13.42.24

The next field trip came after a week’s worth of assembling press kits to highlight the Grand Opening of a new exhibit, Animales de los Arboles, and that was simply to the post office in San Leandro. The press kits were sent out to over one hundred journalists in the Bay Area and included a copy of the press release, a package of chocolate Cadbury eggs, and a gummy tarantula tied together with a little card with facts about the new exhibit and animals. The coati’s favorite treats are tarantulas and bird eggs, hence where the idea for the press kit goodies came along. Assembling the press kits took some time, but the end result was really nice. Who wouldn’t like to get a little surprise envelope with goodies and an announcement from their local Zoo? I think press kits are great and the work put into them will pay off.

Last, but not least, I was able to spend time assisting a service group and individuals with special needs; they came to the Zoo for a special giraffe feeding with Lead Keeper, Amy Phelps. The children who were in wheelchairs were able to go behind-the-scenes and feed a giraffe by raising their arm up with food, and the giraffe would bend over to gently grab it from their hands. The kids were ecstatic and the giraffes were pretty happy with their treats. This was a very cool thing to be part of, even just to watch. I am so proud to work for an organization that will go above and beyond to make special experiences like this happen.

Weeks Nine and Ten of a Marketing Intern

by | March 25th, 2013

As you may have noticed, things have definitely been picking up around the Zoo. Blog posts about my internship experience have been put on the back burner, but not forgotten. The past two weeks have been full of every day marketing type tasks such as writing and distributing press releases. The job doesn’t end once these stories get sent out however. For meerkat crowdexample, the meerkat pups were announced and for a few days, Nicky (Marketing/PR, Senior Manager) and I were busy responding to calls, emails, and visits for pictures and videos of the meerkats that media wanted to share with their network. In fact, The Huffington Post and Good Morning America even called about sharing Oakland Zoo’s baby meerkats. That is exciting and rare for us to get that kind of exposure. The power of media is amazing.

In addition, I have been handling Earth Day e-mails and other related tasks. The main focus right now has been securing outside participant groups to attend the event (happening on Saturday, April 13, 10:00am-3:00pm). It has been rewarding to have participants say ‘yes’ and sign up to table at Earth Day, whether they are returning participants or new comers. I have also been updating the spreadsheet as responses come through.

I was able to attend the weekly marketing department meeting that I haven’t been to in a few weeks and found it very beneficial on many levels. It is great to discuss projects, set goals, and overall catch up on pertinent things that are going on within the organization and with my surrounding department/team.

Other daily agenda items have consisted of calendar listings on the website, other website concerns, follow up with media contracts and agreements, and of course, social media activity. A new social media platform for Oakland Zoo is being explored and is in the process of being created by yours truly, so stay tuned for that.

All that aside, probably one of the most valuable parts of the past two weeks as an intern, were the lessons I learned, on a work level, as well as on a personal level. A situation happened at work that caught me off guard. It challenged my view and made me take a step back to think through some things, but served as an excellent eye opening moment. I handled everything the best I could with what knowledge and experience I had, but I also used the opportunity to seek guidance from those around me. I am in a very lucky position to have many experienced professionals working around me that I feel comfortable going to for advice. I heard some of the same key points from all of them, but also different suggestions, all of which I found reassuring and uplifting. It was a tough lesson to grasp, but one that needed to be learned as a young professional new to the career world.

In addition to expanding a skill set in an internship, learning life and work related lessons are substantial to the growth of any individual. Skills and knowledge can take me far in life, but lessons and experience is what will prepare me for the next challenge that arises, which will aid in my overall success as a professional and individual.