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Category — Education

In The Eyes Of Another: Zoo Academy

Guest blogger: Monneka Johnson, Zoo Academy Senior

My name is Monneka and I am a student at the Zoo Academy. It’s my second year in the program and I had an amazing junior year. I plan to have a successful finish! As a senior, I am not only an example, but I consider myself a leader for the juniors.

Zoo Academy students in the classroom

Zoo Academy students in the classroom

Being a Zoo Academy student, my day isn’t just any old crazy day of doing English, math, science, or social studies. The Zoo Academy allows me to explore beyond the average high school day; it’s an ongoing adventure. I have passed several milestones to accomplishing challenges such as handling animals that I’ve never encountered, which gave me a fright at first, but in all, I achieved a personal growth goal. I have had the opportunity to handle multiple species of animals such as the blue-tongued skinks, Brazilian rainbow boas, and armadillos!

Showing one of my classmates a blue-tongued skink

Showing one of my classmates a blue-tongued skink

The blue-tongued skink, up close

The blue-tongued skink, up close

Meet the screaming hairy armadillo

Meet the screaming hairy armadillo

Here's a Brazilian rainbow boa

Here’s a Brazilian rainbow boa

We learn how to interact with visitors here at the Zoo, as well as with the staff; between the staff and my peers we’ve become a camaraderie. A “camaraderie” is a trust among friends. We engage what we know, want to know, and how we relate to one another and this is how we build a camaraderie. We show that we take pride in contributing to the Cincinnati Zoo mission statement every day by putting on our uniforms and making sure our tasks get done efficiently and safe.

Some of my classmates meeting a macaw at the Bird House

Some of my classmates meeting a macaw at the Bird House

Hanging out with one of the primate keepers, Eric High

Hanging out with one of the primate keepers, Eric High

The Zoo is so engaging. There are no dull moments. We as a team enjoy the character in everyone’s attitude everyday. You’ll almost never be disappointed with an answer; our staff makes the days here at the Cincinnati Zoo interesting from all the informational facts. As a student at the Zoo, being able to learn as you work as well as interact with visitors is an awesome learning experience.

November 5, 2014   No Comments

Exploring the Why of a Where

What is your favorite place? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? I bet that when you answer those questions, you are not envisioning a dot on a giant world map. In fact, I bet that you are not picturing a map at all. What you are picturing is an experience, a sensation, a memory, or a vision of an ACTUAL place. Maybe what you picture is the vastness of the grassland savannahs where zebras roam and lions stalk. Perhaps you are recalling the smell of fall leaves crunching underfoot as you rode horseback along a wooded trail. Geography is so much more than a place on a map or a point on a globe. It is more than the names of countries, states, and capital cities. It is “the why of a where.”

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The National Geographic Explorer offshore at L’Ans aux Meadows

I got a firsthand chance to learn the why of a where this year when I was selected to travel to the Canadian Maritimes and circumnavigate Newfoundland as a 2014 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is a professional development opportunity for educators that is made possible by a partnership between National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. The purpose of this fellowship is to recognize educators who have demonstrated a commitment to increasing geographic literacy in their students. Educators apply and, if chosen as a fellow, are sent on expeditions aboard the National Geographic Explorer vessel to get hands on experiences with the natural and cultural diversity of a region and bring these experiences back to their classroom. As the Lead Program Developer at the Cincinnati Zoo, that means incorporating my experiences into the programs that I create and the outreach that will be part of my fellowship journey. By doing so, I am hoping to increase knowledge about different places on our planet, help others develop an appreciation for the people and wildlife that inhabit these regions, and cultivate understanding about the global impact, for better or worse, that our choices and actions can have. I know that this trip was transformative for me and helped me better appreciate these things.

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David Boyd salting a prepared cod at Prime Berth Fishing Village, Twillingate, Newfoundland

By circumnavigating Newfoundland, we were able to really experience the geography, topography, and culture of the region. Cruising by jagged coastlines, standing on the easternmost tip of North America, and traversing fjords turned the coastlines on a map into real and tangible places that I can visualize. The cities and waters to and through which we traveled have become more than dots on a map as well. They are the places where I tasted wild blueberries, met Vikings, felt the rough, bristly needles of a black spruce, heard the snort of a startled caribou discovering it is being watched. It is where I heard the call of circling gulls while I watched the plume of mist produced by a fin whale surfacing to swim beside the ship. They are the places where I walked the streets of a fortress, watched the “disassembly” of a cod, dragged my plankton net, and saw Alexander Graham Bell’s dreams take flight.

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Showing my youngest shipmate, Connor, how to examine water samples for microscopic sea life. Photo by Sisse Brimberg – KEENPRESS

I have heard the different accents that are acquired when the Scottish meet the English meet the Mi’kmaq, Inuit, and Innu Indians. I have heard the heartbreak in a man’s voice when he speaks about the loss of the cod fishing industry and, with it, the heritage upon which Newfoundland was founded. This, all of this, is Newfoundland. This is what geographic literacy and the why of a where means to me. It is with this understanding that I will use my experience to make geography meaningful in my programs. I will help them draw connections geographically, geologically, historically, anthropologically, and biologically between areas while weaving in the intangibles of a place that speak to its essence and its roots.

I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this experience and inspired by the duty and privilege I have of sharing it with my community. We are all so much more than the place where we live. We are part of something bigger and, for me, that has never been clearer. So go and explore the wildness of a local park, contemplate the rain that falls and its journey from far off oceans to get to you, and be mindful of this planet and our place in it as well as on it. In the words of Baba Dioum, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.”

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Snowy owl at Salmonier Nature Park, Holyrood, Newfoundland

 

To learn more about the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship, click here

To learn more about how the Cincinnati Zoo’s conservation projects and how you can help conserve wildlife and wild spaces, please click here.

October 24, 2014   No Comments

Come See the New Passenger Pigeon Memorial!

Numbering in the billions in 1800, the passenger pigeon was formerly one of the most abundant bird species on Earth. On September 1, 1914, Martha, the last known passenger pigeon, passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo after tireless efforts over several years to find her a mate.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Martha’s passing in 2014, the Zoo renovated its Passenger Pigeon Memorial, transforming it from a single-species memorial to an educational exhibit with a positive and hopeful conservation message that segues from the story of the passenger pigeon to modern wildlife conservation efforts.

Welcome to the renovated Passenger Pigeon Memorial!

Welcome to the renovated Passenger Pigeon Memorial!

A small crowd of Zoo visitors and staff along with media representatives gathered at 11:00 AM on September 1, 2014, as Zoo Director Thane Maynard dedicated the Memorial and officially reopened its newly restored doors. Watch the dedication video here.

Visitors to the Memorial are greeted by a large reproduction of John Ruthven’s 2013 painting of Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon on the entry wall.

Entry wall featuring a reproduction of John Ruthven's Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon

Entry wall featuring a reproduction of John Ruthven’s Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon

A display case on the back side of the entry wall contains a reprint of John J. Audubon’s Passenger Pigeon hand-colored engraving from The Birds of America, along with an actual net used to catch passenger pigeons, a platform stool to which blinded pigeons were tied as decoys, a cast model of a passenger pigeon and an Aldo Leopold quote.

Display case

Interpretively, the exhibition flows from left to right along the interior walls, circulating around an octagonal case in the center of the building containing passenger pigeon sculptures carved by Gary Denzler.

Passenger pigeon sculpture by Gary Denzler

Passenger pigeon sculpture by Gary Denzler

Signage was designed based on elements from Ruthven’s painting with pop-up panels featuring colorful images and text. The first wall tells the story of the passenger pigeon and its extinction, why it happened, and the scope of this loss.

The Passenger Pigeon: From Billions to None

The Passenger Pigeon: From Billions to None

Next, it describes how the passenger pigeon’s extinction was a wake-up call that spurred the conservation movement in America, highlighting the stories of native species that were nearly lost, such as white-tailed deer.

A Wake Up Call to Save Wildlife

A Wake Up Call to Save Wildlife

The last wall introduces conservation champions of the Zoo and presents examples of how we are working to save species today, including the Sumatran rhino and the American burying beetle, from going the way of the passenger pigeon.

Saving Species: Conservation Champions of the Zoo

Saving Species: Conservation Champions of the Zoo

The rehabilitation of this historic building and exhibit was made possible through the generosity of the H.B., E.W. and F.R. Luther Charitable Trust Foundation, Fifth Third Bank, and Narley L. Haley, Co-Trustees.

 

September 10, 2014   2 Comments