I started a draft for a new blog back in May but never published it, so I thought I’d go ahead and finish it with an update…
“One of the wonderful things about working for Disney is the whole new world of opportunity it opens. As a Conservation Education Presenter, we were required to attend 5 seminars throughout our internship. For my group they were Leadership and Disney Values led by our Core Team, Conservation Biology presented by Anne Savage, Zoo Keeping, Behavioral Husbandry, and Veterinary Services. All 5 seminars were a great opportunity to peek behind the scenes and investigate the various fields of animal conservation. We had the chance to speak with professionals in the field and gain insight into their professions. It was awesome! We had the chance to pet a rhino, learn about the backstage conservation projects, and see a baby elephant being bathed and trained. These are the qualities that make a Disney Internship so unique. You just don’t get opportunities like that everyday. Those personal relationships that we are able to make with these endangered, foreign animals are so important. Through them, our passion for learning more about them and protecting them grows. In part, that is why I chose to get involved in Conservation Education. I want to be able to bring experiences and a connection with animals to others. I want to help people understand the beauty and importance of the magnificent creatures of the world, whether it’s a cute cotton-topped tamarin or tiny spider; they all play an important role in this ecosystem.
Facing an unemployed summer vacation from college, I decided to browse the Association of Zoos and Aquariums website (aza.org) and see what employment opportunities I could find. Several zoos around the United States offer summer zoo camps for local students, so I threw my resume in the hat to see if I could find a position. I was offered and accepted a position at the Houston Zoo this summer as a Camp Zoofari Non-Lead Teacher! I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to work with a new group of people as passionate about animals and conservation as I am. It’ll be great to work with students too, helping them learn about animals and find or enhance their interests. It’s so exciting to be able to give children experiences and opportunities that are unique and see how they light up! I’m sure I’ll learn a lot along the way too. Sometimes kids end up knowing more than you do and you end up going home and looking up more information just to keep up! Working in Disney, our Dinoland Kids Discovery Club was a hot-spot for super-smart 4-year-old brainiacs who could pronounce the names of dinosaurs I’d never even heard of! They’ll amaze you sometimes. It’s great though, because it pushes you to find ways to keep them challenged and interested! I love it!
On May 22nd I’ll be all moved in to an apartment I’m subletting in Houston, Texas and starting another adventure into the world of Conservation Education, and I think it’s largely because of the experiences I had in Disney. There’s a quote I saw on a key chain once, “God never closes one door without opening another,” and I think that largely applies here… “Adventure is out there!”
… Time has just flown by, and I’ve been working at the Houston Zoo for about 7 weeks now, with only 3 weeks to go. My experience here has been phenomenal. I’ve been able to work with kids in different age groups each week (4-5, 6-7, 8-9, and soon 10-12) and teach a range of classes including African Adventure, Animal Olympics, Wild Art, Dino Camp, and more. The kids, teachers, and staff have all been fantastic. I love that you never have the same day twice. Each day is a new adventure, and the kids see to that. Their inquisitive nature, random creativity, and sometimes wandering thought process keeps you on your toes and pushes you to find ways to become better at your job. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I think the Houston Zoo provides the perfect learning atmosphere. Not only do the kids have the opportunity to learn about animals and the environment, but they can then go out and see those animals. They can have an experience that allows them to make a connection and remember that interaction for a lifetime. Every Tuesday-Friday, an animal is brought to the room for the kids to touch. It can be anything from a skink to a chicken or a snake to a chinchilla, but the kids are fascinated. There are also daily chats with various animal keepers around the zoo, where the campers can ask questions and learn a bit more about the specific animals needs and care. The keeper chats are probably my favorite part of camp, and the kids are also super quiet and interested. It’s fantastic. You know those moments are the ones that will make an impression on them. My favorite part about this job is the impact this camp has on the kids and the difference we, as teachers, have the potential to make. We can teach these children at a young age to care for the environment around them and show them how amazing these animals are and why we need to protect them.
I know I’m going to have a hard time going back to Wisconsin and transitioning back to the college setting. Yes, it’s wonderful to be earning my education and I love learning about the various topics as I earn my degree, but books don’t get the same sparkle the kids get in their eye when you show them an elephant getting a bath from its keeper or see a baby giraffe strolling around outside for the first time. I know we have an impact on these kids throughout the week, but sometimes, I think they have a bigger impact on us.