Nurture The Future Three Ways
Betty Erdman and Rogene Snyder
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska
Thank you for coming to hear about three ways to “Nurture the Future” at your zoo! I’m interested in telling you about our Youth Volunteer Program at Henry Doorly Zoo (HDZ), that gives credence to keeping youngsters busy, having fun and most of all, learning valuable lessons in the zoo world. At HDZ we have three such programs XYZ (Explore Your Zoo), Explorer Post #602 (one of the oldest youth programs co-hosted by the Boy Scouts of America), and the Zoo Crew Program. These three programs take youngsters from ages 10 through 20-plus, and hopefully would entice young people to venture into a wealth of knowledge, fun and friendships in their individual future careers.
We start our youth at various stages of their life from the time, as parents, we bring them to the zoo to see all of the animals and have a real fun family day. Then as our family life develops, we get to the 6-8th grade level of our children, and what are we going to do to keep them busy, out of our hair for a short time, and possibly give them a look at their future in the eyes of volunteering in educational and fun ways to develop their character.
HDZ’s first step is the XYZ Club. This introduces each volunteer on the basics of the zoo world. It more or less whets their appetite and develops an interest in all or any specific area to get more involved and move forward to the 2nd program.
This program was introduced in to the Education Department by a former coordinator in the 1994-1995 season. Our slides show various events that they are involved in. Docents and Zoo Crews participate in these also. Sample notice:
XYZ Club eXplore Your Zoo
What is the XYZ Club?
The XYZ Club is a program exclusively designed for students in 6th through 8th grade who have an interest in animals and zoology. XYZ Club members enhance their knowledge of the natural world along with experiencing rewards from volunteering their time, energy and talents.
XYZ Club members learn what happens at the Zoo through interactions with Zoo staff and their activities. The Club’s programs focus on the four goals of a zoo: Education, Conservation, Research and Recreation.
How to join the XYZ Club:
6th through 8th grade students interested in applying for the XYZ Club need to complete an application form and a one page essay as to why they want to join. Application forms are available in the fall Zoo Membership Newsletter. The deadline for application is January 31 of the ensuing year. Decisions and acceptance/denial letters are mailed by February 9.
Students will need to be available for the XYZ Club meetings February through October on the third Saturday of each month. We offer two class times: 10:00 am 12:00 pm or 1:00 pm 3:00 pm. A maximum of twenty students per class will be accepted, which makes a total of 40 youngsters in the program.
A typical club schedule is made out and, of course, a lot of adaptations are considered. The schedule is complete from February through October. A sample schedule follows:
2002 XYZ Club Schedule (Adaptations):
Orientation and welcome meeting
Jungle “behind the scenes”
Aquarium “behind the scenes”
Savannah/Grasslands: giraffe, elephant, cat, ostrich
Wildlife Safari Park visit and “behind the scenes”
Campout at the zoo (instead of meeting)
Bears enrichment + enrichment to take home
Graduation (cake/slide presentation)
*April/May: Make sure all necessary forms/monies received
*Send any necessary memos to area supervisor requesting behind-the-scenes (BTS)
*Beginning July: Send out campout reminder
-Memo to Day Captains and Red Barn
-Letter to parents (shadowing mid-June through beginning August)
*Summary at end and invitation to all to graduation in October
XYZ Summer Volunteering Program:
Tuesday through Friday (9:20 am 11:20 am)
Proposed shadowing opportunities: aquarium, jungle, Wild Kingdom Pavilion, Wonder Wagons and Red Barn.
Have photo club take slides of XYZ Club in action at all classes for end of year slide show at graduation!
The Explorers gets into a much larger group ranging in age from 14-20, and really gives a volunteer a big advantage in choosing in the Zoo environment.
We, at HDZ, are very proud of our Explorer Post #602, since it is the oldest Post in the City of Omaha, and has the distinction that two of our Senior Staff were the first in the implementation of the program here. It is an interesting note here, that as you may or may not know, the Explorer’s Posts are co-hosted by the Boy Scouts of America.
This program is one of the most favorite in many youngsters life. This year alone we had approximately 250 applicants, some new and a number of youngsters reregistering and continuing in the program. This resulted in
dividing them into four groups so we could accommodate all of them. Classes run from 10:00-12:00 and 1:00
3:00 every Saturday from January through June.
Along with making new friends and renewing old ones, they learn to work as a group, getting acquainted with Zoo personnel; develop leadership qualities and trust in your fellow volunteer, all of which becomes a vibrant push for more knowledge and creates a mode of competition within the group. Job opportunities, as well as a scholarship program, are available from this group.
For a teenager interested in Explorers, there are three questions and answers as follows:
- Does learning about exotic animals interest you?
- Would you like to explore various zoo careers?
- Are you between the ages of 14 to 20?
If they answer “yes” to these questions, then the Henry Doorly Zoo Explorer Post is just the thing for them!
You know the song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand?” So do the Explorers!
Some excerpts from HDZ promotional material are:
IT’S FUN! Imagine taking an African Safari right in the middle of Omaha!
IT’S CREATIVE! Join your fellow Explorers in developing fun and creative solutions to conservation and wildlife management projects.
IT’S EDUCATIONAL! Learn to teach others about conservation.
This award-winning program is part of the Exploring program sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America. Exploring is a co-ed program for young adults, ages 14-20, who want to learn about exciting careers. As a Henry Doorly Zoo Explorer Post member, young adults will get the opportunity to step into the real world of animal care, research, conservation and education. The Zoo’s Explorer Post offers meetings full of fun activities, special guest speakers, great hands-on projects and behind the scenes tours.
What is done with this experience is up to each individual, but one thing is for sure, what they have learned will be kept with them for their entire life. Memories are one of the most vital aspects to have since so much in your future may have a definite goal for one to achieve.
The Explorer must complete this 2nd phase before moving to the third group of Zoo Crew members. These two groups work together and yet separately, thus creating guidance, decision-making, leadership roles and career choices along with their everyday education in the individual’s life.
Working with volunteers in this group, as well as any other one, is a challenge to those of us to keep ahead of them so to speak, as the youth of today have so many advantages in their regular schooling, that many outside activities are second in nature to them. On the other hand, these types of programs will bring out the best of even the most timid or shy youngsters, giving them the confidence they need to move forward.
Future Opportunities: Graduates from the Zoo’s Explorer Post will have the opportunity to apply for our Zoo Crew program. Zoo Crew members are our young adult volunteers who assist the Zoo’s Education Department with classes, camp-outs and special events. They can also earn opportunities to help out in our animal areas.
Zoo Crew members were active in our Explorer Post, having successfully completed the Explorer Post criteria and moved into leadership roles. Zoo Crew members are required to complete an interview process and commit to an annual hour requirement for volunteer service. Zoo Crew members assist the Education Department in the facilitation of our formal and informal education programs.
The Zoo Crew program was originally organized in 1986 to assist in educational programs. This group of teenaged volunteers has since expanded its functions to include keeper assistance. Each member volunteers at least three hours of service to the Education Department each week, in addition to duties in the animal areas.
This commitment is reduced to three hours a month when school is in session.
Hand picked by the Education Department from the ranks of the Zoo’s Explorers Scout Post and personally interviewed, each volunteer has proven his or her responsibility prior to selection. A minimum age of 14 is required, as is a current Explorer membership. Most Zoo Crew candidates are considering an animal-oriented career. The knowledge and experience gained from this volunteer program can prove invaluable in the making of such a decision.
The Zoo Crew program has a set of By-Laws that are unique in their own right. The By-Laws set out eleven articles, which a volunteer must abide by. These include name; objectives; membership requirements; appropriate conduct; Zoo Crew social activities; training; By-Law Amendments; special and standing committees; and miscellaneous items.
Our present membership at HDZ is a group of approximately 30 very active, interesting and well-rounded boys and girls representing the youth of today in many ways. It is a distinct pleasure to work with these kids as they bring new ideas and ways to enhance their program in the Zoo World.
Some of the members in this group started out with XYZ, and then to Explorers and are now members of the Zoo Crew, proving the three-stage program at HDZ has surely been a mentor, a guide and most of all a true friend in every sense of the word. It is a good feeling when you witness a successful youngster graduate into a career life that you possibly had some influence in the attainment of an individual’s goal.
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In conclusion, volunteering in any segment discussed today has its own individual success. The many memories, young and old, are priceless by any means. Seeing success in the youth is also success attained by the adult.
Benefits of volunteering at HDZ include free Zoo membership for fulfilled requirements, discounts in gift shops, concessions, restaurants and selected education programs, access to zoo resources and new friendship with Zoo staff and volunteers.
To get more information about the Zoo and our volunteer programs, visit our website at: www.omahazoo.com, or write to:
Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo
3701 So. 10th Street
Omaha, NE 68107-2200
Volunteer Line: 402-738-6901