Making Educational Connections
Education at the Akron Zoo takes shape in many ways. Often, you may not even know that you have learned something. Although we have fun with education here, we consider it very serious. Zoo staff are not only working to provide new information about animals, but also trying to inspire people to be conservation minded about the animals in which they are learning.
For us, education can be described as making connections. We are trying to connect every visitor to the animals at the zoo in a way that will benefit conservation of the species in the wild. This connection may take place when a zookeeper describes a personality trait of an individual animal or when an education specialists brings a snake to first graders encouraging a closer look.
Visits to accredited zoos and aquariums prompt individuals to reconsider their role in environmental problems and conservation action, and to see themselves as part of the solution.
Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter
Not only do we provide opportunities for learning while on a family outing, but we act as a resource for our community.
- Our ZooMobile programs takes education animal ambassadors to school children in Summit, Stark, Portage Wayne, and surrounding counties, providing an up-close encounter to those who may not be able to make a trip to the zoo.
- Our education staff assist students in school projects, providing information and new insights.
- We attend school career fairs.
- Staff are often judges for local science fairs.
- We visit local community groups to provide information on the zoos conservation efforts.
- We engage in problem based and STEM learning projects with local schools.
Making connections can also happen in different ways. Citizen science projects provide opportunities for staff, volunteers and visitors to be scientists and do real work for conservation of species. Some of the science projects that we have engaged in at the zoo are listed below.
Christmas Bird Count
Every December, for more than 100 years, people across North America venture into the field to count birds. These counts are compiled into a national database that conservation scientists use to see how bird populations are doing. This information provides details that allow scientists to see where they need to focus their efforts. Most recently, the count is beginning to show how certain bird populations are moving due to climate change.
You can be a scientist as well. It doesn’t matter if you are an ornithologist (bird specialist) or a novice. The Audubon Society organizes the count across the U.S. every year, and the zoo works with this group to organize a group in our region. Contact the zoo or the Greater Akron Audubon to learn about when the bird count is this year.
Frogs and toads play an important role as indicators of environmental health. As amphibians they are reliant on water and the land in order to survive. This makes them very susceptible to environmental changes. In the past few decades, frogs and toads that have been abundant are declining at a rapid rate. This decline is a first sign that there are problems within an ecosystem or even issues on a global scale.
This citizen project, initiated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, allows members of the community to learn more about wetlands and their communities. Volunteers across the United States learn about the importance of frogs and toads, the environment in which they live and how to identify these amphibians by sight and sound. The volunteers then spend about 15 minutes a week at their wetland area to identify the frogs they hear and enter this data into a national database. This information is used by conservation scientists to help develop strategies for conservation of these important animals.
To find out more about FrogWatch USA you can visit their website. You can also access data that has been collected since 1998.