The Zoo’s Education Division has a new name: Learning and Engagement. Our name might be new, but it reflects changes in our practice and priorities that have taken place over many years. As a group, we’re responsible for the Zoo’s camps, sleepovers, and daily talks, tours, and animal encounters. We welcome school groups on field trips and provide teacher workshops, partner with community organizations, and represent the Zoo at community events.
“Learning and Engagement” better encompasses all of this work, but, more importantly, it changes the focus from us to our visitors. “Education” implies a transfer of knowledge. While information can be a great tool for learning, more often we’re standing side by side with our program participants, facilitating experiences that foster lasting relationships with nature. Like a good party host, sometimes our job is just to invite the right people into a room and stand back, as we did recently when our community partner, Compton College’s Upward Bound Math & Science Program, brought high school students to the Zoo to meet animal keepers and learn about a career they may have never previously considered.
So, next time you’re at the Zoo, look for Learning and Engagement staff at Muriel’s Ranch, leading a behind-the-scenes tour, or helping you feed a giraffe. Our name tags might be a little more cramped, but we think it’s worth it to remind ourselves about the most important part of our jobs: you.