Job Experience Program – St Louis Zoo, USA
I am so grateful for getting to participate in IZE’s Job Experience Program. I learned so much during my experience and had a ton of fun! Kim Hoormann and the rest of the St. Louis Zoo staff were so friendly and welcoming – I could not have asked for a better host! I have already shared some of the great information I obtained with the rest of my education team, but I am looking forward to sharing even more, and using what I learned and experienced to help build and grow our education programs here with EARTH Limited at Southwick’s Zoo!
When I applied for this program, I thought that I would simply be visiting another zoo’s education department to gather ideas and information that I could use to strengthen and build upon the current educational programs at my facility, but what I got was so much more! Every new education staff member I met was extremely welcoming and willing to discuss the highlights and difficulties of their specific role within the department, as well as help me talk through ideas for potential new programs and changes that I could make at my own facility. It was also reassuring to learn that even larger, public zoos face the same hurdles that smaller, private zoos (like Southwick’s Zoo) do; this realization fostered a better appreciation that we really are all working towards the same goals of connecting with the public, providing quality educational programming, and inspiring others to care for and conserve animals across the globe!
There were so many highlights of this experience, including a very fun meet and greet session with Mandy the sea lion, but I think my favorite part of the JEP was the first two days where Diana and I got to participate in the annual Education Department Workshop at Shaw Nature Reserve. Diana and I did not know what to expect since we were “outsiders” to this large group of people, but we were immediately made to feel like we had always been a part of their group. It was great to see everyone working together, getting along, and having a productive review of their department while also having fun. Having everyone together made it very easy to meet staff from all different areas of the department within a short amount of time. And the relaxed environment certainly helped everyone feel at ease talking about their jobs!
One of the challenges that Diana and I faced during our JEP was an unexpected snowstorm in the middle of the week that caused the zoo to close on the day we were supposed to walk around the entire zoo. But everything worked out perfectly; we were able to change our schedule a bit and use the unexpected free time to explore some of the city outside of the zoo. I feel that this exploration time ended up being a significant part of the JEP, especially because the St. Louis Zoo is such a big part of their local community and it is important to know the community that you as an educator are serving.
The JEP was a certainly a whirlwind week, but it was an invaluable experience and I was sad for it to end. I cannot thank Kim Hoormann and the rest of the St. Louis Zoo staff enough for being such gracious hosts! Kim went above and beyond to arrange our experience, meet all our requests, and also make sure that Diana and I would not starve during the snowstorm! I greatly appreciate every piece of advice I received and all the wonderful people I was able to meet. I hope that if any of the St. Louis Zoo staff find themselves in Massachusetts, they will reach out so that I can return their generosity! THANK YOU ALL so much for such an amazing, informative week!!