Using Video in the Moonridge Animal Park Education Programs
Diana Blair and Christie Helm,
Co-Chairs Friends of the Moonridge Zoo Education Committee
The Friends of the Moonridge Zoo (FOMZ) are honored to have been chosen as one of three recipients of the first AZAD Educational Grants. We are in the process of creating educational videos for training, on and off-site animal presentations, and fundraising efforts. We are focusing on improving the quality and substance of the education program at the Moonridge Animal Park.
Moonridge Animal Park (MAP) is located in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, surrounded by a natural forest. The Park is at an elevation of 7,000 feet in the City of Big Bear Lake, an area identified by the U.S. Forest Service as an Urban Forest surrounded by rapidly expanding populations and shrinking animal habitat.
We are a small, unique zoo, one of only two alpine zoos in the United States. All MAP animals are non-releasable due to injury or imprinting.
The formal mission statement approved by the Director of San Bernardino County Big Bear Park and Recreation District in 1999 is to “Educate and promote an understanding of alpine forest wildlife and their habitats to produce harmony between people and nature.” FOMZ has formally incorporated this mission into its own. The mission of both organizations drives program activity and the Zoo has developed a program designed to influence conservation related behaviors of our visitors.
Statement of Purpose:
- The Moonridge Animal Park, and its supporting organization, Friends of the Moonridge Zoo, exist to meet the following objectives:
- Education To meet conservation imperatives in an era of habitat destruction and extinctions;
- Conservation Preserving and working with endangered species;
- Scientific Techniques To maintain animal health and welfare, insure genetic diversity in the zoos and to solve related problems
- Recreation To motivate the public to preserve wildlife and their habitats through educational components
- Research To expand knowledge, important for proper management of collection animals, flora and ecosystems.
Moonridge Animal Park originated in 1959 after forest fires ravaged the local mountains leaving several wild animals in need of care. Due to their injuries, some animals were non-releasable and enclosures were built for mule deer and bobcats. The Zoo has grown incrementally since that time and is now home to about 150 animals representing 83 species, most of whom occupy alpine or sub-alpine habitats throughout the world. Exhibit designs utilize the natural environment for carrying out the alpine theme; MAP preserves the ecosystem, while making a home for the sub-alpine/alpine animal collection.
Many of the resident animals are endangered or of special concern. MAP is a member of the American Zoological Association and the Endangered Species Survival Plan and is a designated holding facility for the endangered Snow Leopard. The Zoo is also home to the only two Wood Bison on exhibit in the United States.
MAP’s animal population is singularly focused on alpine animal habitat. Nearly all of the animals come to
MAP from the California’s Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or from other wildlife preserves which can no longer maintain them. MAP is a fully licensed rehabilitation facility and it is becoming a vital community education facility.
MAP and FOMZ continue work to: develop the infrastructure, increase public access, enhance educational messages associated with exhibits, create new and improve existing education programs. The programs serve the visiting public, schools, families, children and special community groups.
MAP and FOMZ Educational Programs/Activities
The Zoo provides an excellent backdrop for exposing children as well as adults and teenagers to nature. MAP and FOMZ provide a number of education programs, which provide the zoo visitor with up close encounters with wild animals. These programs reach over 40,000 people in addition to the regular Zoo visitors. The video program will add a component featuring the resident animals, but allow for a more in-depth presentation both onsite and offsite. Some of the smaller animals can be transported off site for presentations, but many, especially larger animals cannot. The video allows us to include all the Zoo animals in the programs. In addition, video can capture animals in moments that visitors might miss during a visit to the zoo, particularly the nocturnal animals that are often asleep during regular zoo hours.
Education programs are being upgraded and will include more information specific to the history and ecosystems of California’s San Bernardino County alpine forest that will be featured in the new exhibits. The video component can be used at virtually all of the Zoo’s educational programs. Considering the snow, cold and inclement weather of the alpine location; the video driven education component can be very helpful ensuring quality programs year round.
Video programs will be an invaluable tool in reaching different kinds of audiences. FOMZ makes an extenuated effort to enhance children’s programs. Children’s minds are formed by learning through experiences and social interactions. While people of all ages learn from a zoo experience, young minds are most impressionable. Children who have opportunities to experience wildlife habitats will grow in appreciation for wildlife and gain a healthy distinction between domestic and non-domestic animals. We serve many children from urban Southern California schools, some who have very limited exposure to alpine wildlife and settings. This educational experience will include an emphasis on the importance and need of eco-system survival for all types of life to co-exist. The Video Program will be an important tool for bringing our valuable zoo educational programs to those new to or unable to visit the Moonridge Animal Park. The video features footage of the animals in their exhibits with narrative from zookeepers. Some of the Zoos programs:
1. Noon demonstrations featuring wild animals and a general introduction to the Zoo mission.
2. Feeding tours educating the public about the animals and how to co-exist with them
3. School tours that incorporate the California Science Content Standards.
4. Special group tours for all ages designed to teach about our mission
5. Zoo Day Camp for children ages 5 – 11, with special weekly wild animal themes.
6. Service programs for organizations like scout troops, church groups, YMCA, Rotary clubs, etc.
7. Family/group over-night camps using interdisciplinary methods to present educational messages about animals and living in harmony with them.8. Docent/volunteer training with four weeks of formal training and on-going orientation to Zoo and support activities.
9. Vocational and Job Readiness programs: JTPA, Youth Accountability, ROP and Mentor programs.
10. College student internships offered in fields related to several zoo functions.
1. Wildlife Awareness Program: a zoo mobile program, reaches about 40,000 school children annually.
2. Community service presentations, which feature animals and educational materials at fairs and other community events.
3. Special group presentations in a lecture style format to teach Wildlife Awareness.
4. Special service programs for schools, youth groups, and community groups.
5. Teacher orientations.
New Zoo Location
Due to site limitations, the Zoo does not have sufficient in-door space for all the educational programs. The park is currently located on a 2.5 acre parcel, although plans are underway to move the Zoo to a larger facility by 2009. We are currently negotiating with the National Forest Service for a 25 acre parcel which will result in improved habitat for the animals, room to build facilities for education, expanded facilities for medical care, a larger gift shop, more restrooms and eating areas.
The relocated zoo will boast a historical/ cultural theme, as well as a botanical focus. It will begin with the Serrano Indian Era, run through the Gold Miner Era, the Furring Industry, through the twenty first century, with projections for the future. Animals will be exhibited in the appropriate time frames, highlighting human impact on the environment. MAP and FOMZ will present the live exhibits in a historical/botanical context with artifacts from the related historical epochs, providing visitors with a trip through history. The videos will also help in fundraising efforts to make these ambitious plans become reality. FOMZ is a major fundraising arm of the Zoo.
So far, we have created a training video for our new docents: providing more uniform training material for the docents while reducing required staff time. Another DVD is focused on tour information. Plans are underway for a continuous loop program for off-site presentations where the public will be able to view our larger animals as well as the smaller ones we often transport to sites. We have purchased a portable TV/DVD player for this purpose. Another important use for the video material will be for corporate presentations in our fund-raising efforts for our new zoo site.
Much research and planning has been completed as part of the long-term program development and design for the new facility. Information from existing research has been incorporated into the video program.
Human resources, talent and experience are provided by Docent and community volunteers. Zoo staff worked closely with FOMZ to insure the quality and accuracy of presentation materials; they offer expert narration and insight into the lives of our special animals. Volunteer docent staff have provided technological support and labor. This includes the use of additional video and audio equipment, digital video editing and DVD authoring designed to fit the needs of each specific program (docent training, on-site visitor presentations, off-site educational programs and FOMZ Docent training programs.)
For our presentation we will show excerpts from our existing footage, and explain the context in which they are used. We are very proud of our alpine zoo, our animals and the education programs we share with so many.