The Dallas Zoo has an absolutely awesome education program which is providing a large variety of educational experiences to the families of Dallas and its surrounding cities.
Touring the Dallas Zoo with Education Supervisor of Family Intergenerational Learning Tonya McDaniel, the truth is that the Dallas Zoo has expanded its outreach to the families of North Texas by establishing dozens of programs that attract more than 100,000 children, families and educators per year.
Week long and single day camp experiences that encourage exploration, education and empathy for wildlife and nature are offered year round.
Programs such as the “Twilight Safari Night Hike” and the “Lights Out Overnight” program offer youth and school group’s after-hour tours of the zoo that include spending the night in tents located within “Camp Opaki”.
Donated by the Durham Family, Camp Opaki contains six Safari style tents that sleep ten individuals and the campsite is surrounded by some very special animals including a beautiful Okapia johnstoni and several beautiful birds and vultures.
The Hippopotamus habitat and a large outdoor elephant habitat are also located near Camp Opaki, as are the Mandrill and Penguin enclosures.
While touring the lovely grounds of the Dallas Zoo, Education Supervisor Tonya McDaniel explained “The Dallas Zoo education department has been providing learning experiences for decades, but the current structure and emphasis was envisioned in 2013. From there, we developed audience-based learning experiences focused on early childhood, youth, teachers, and families.”
She said “We also developed a learning strategy that emphasizes building empathy in children and connecting people to nature in order to inspire them to take action on behalf of wildlife. We see over 100,000 students from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex each year for field trips. We also have some great interactive educational experiences for our school groups that come to visit us for field trips. They range from learning about Wild Jobs at the Dallas Zoo, to Veterinary Science.”
While describing several of the educational programs McDaniel explained, “These programs give students a more hands-on learning approach to help continue their science learning back in the classroom setting. We also partner with several schools in the immediate area to do special conservation and STEM experiences, such as Momentous, Village Tech, and Bishop Dunne. Teachers can get involved with us by joining our professional learning community, Zoo Educators Network, or ZEN.”
The Dallas Zoo and Aquarium educational programs are clearly providing area students and families with unique and interactive ways to learn more about wildlife conservation.
For more information on all the educational programs at the Dallas Zoo, visit DallasZoo.com
Written by: Denise Bell