Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx Zoo, New York, NY

sara_miller4During the summer of 2014, I moved to New York City to work for the Wildlife Conservation Society as a Conservation Education Fellow. I worked with the Education Department at the Bronx Zoo.

Wildlife Conservation Society has a mission to save wildlife and wild places throughout the world. They currently manage five parks in New York City, including the Bronx Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Central Park Zoo, and New York Aquarium. They also manage about 500 conservation projects in over 60 different countries.   WCS is committed to protect 25 percent of the world’s biodiversity by addressing four the biggest issues faced; climate change; natural resource exploitation; the connection between wildlife health and human health; and the sustainable development of human livelihood. While focusing on these issues, WCS manages more than 200 million acres of protected lands around the world.

Throughout the summer, the Wildlife Conservation Society also runs a summer camp at their five parks in New York City. They have full-time Education Staff who develop curriculum for each zoo separately, and hire Conservation Education Fellows to implement the lessons.

I was a Conservation Education Fellow at the Bronx Zoo, and was assigned to work with 8-12 year old campers. The campers attended camp for one week each, and learned how Wildlife Conservation Society works to save wildlife throughout the world, involving local people and protecting wild places. The camp weeks included exhibit visits as well as animal encounters and hands-on science experiences, and culminated with the campers educating the public at their “Conservation Stations”. I worked with nearly 300 campers throughout my 13 weeks at the Bronx Zoo.

For the first couple of weeks of the fellowship, I prepared for the following weeks of the summer by shadowing lead instructors and formulating new activities and lessons.  I then was able to take lead in specific lessons throughout the rest of the summer. For 8 weeks, I led animal demonstrations, experiments and activities for close to 35 campers each week. In addition, I was in charge of on average 8 campers per week, developing weeklong projects that concluded the program on Friday that week. The projects included “Conservation Stations”, in which the campers had the chance to teach the public zoo visitors about a specific animal species and conservation topic.

sara_miller2Before this fellowship at the Bronx Zoo, I had never worked closely with a conservation organization. I learned a lot about the specificity of projects and the influence of Wildlife Conservation Society throughout the globe, and I was able to share that knowledge with children at the camp. It was a very motivating experience after previously studying abroad for a semester in East Africa, because I was able to bring in my past experiences in a research setting into a more formalized teaching setting.

This experience has allowed me to work with children I would not have met otherwise about issues I hadn’t necessarily known about. Also, because I was working at the Bronx Zoo, it allowed me to not only work closely with the Education department, but with the headquarters of WCS, where most of their international work is done. I had the opportunity to meet WCS scientists, as well as some of the Directors of International Programs.

One of the main projects of WCS is their 96 Elephants campaign that works to stop the illegal poaching of elephants all over the world, focusing in Africa. We brought the campers each week to a specialized exhibit about this campaign, and they were all able to “join the herd” and learn about the threats to elephants as well as conservation efforts of WCS. This was just one part of the summer that really opened up my eyes to different environmental issues around the world that people are working daily to solve. It was truly incredible to be with such experienced educators and scientists teaching about such prominent issues around the world.

Overall my experiences with Wildlife Conservation Society were extremely rewarding. It was stimulating and exciting to teach children about issues that animals, places, and people experience throughout the entire world, including in their own backyards. I was happy to be a part of educating younger generations about current environmental issues, which ultimately will positively influence our threatened globe.