My name is Joanne and I work here at the Houston Zoo in the Conservation Education department. The Conservation Education department strives to connect people with nature and discuss ways that they can help save wildlife in their backyard. As the Educator and Adult Programs coordinator at the Zoo, I have the opportunity to translate our conservation messages to educators around the Houston area.
We endeavor to share Take Action opportunities that educators can incorporate easily into their classroom. Our newest educator program, Educators Night Out, is a successful way that we have found to share these ideas with educators around the Houston area. The Conservation Education department hosted this new program over two nights in August. During these two evenings, we focused on plastics in the environment. We had several STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities that educators could use in their classroom to share with student’s ways that they can help save animals in the wild.
One activity involved plastic debris that was picked up on Galveston beaches by several members of our education staff. The educators attending the event were able to create art pieces out of it, similar to the Washed Ashore exhibit that was on display this past spring. Educators were encouraged to replicate this activity from the items recycled at their school with their students.
Another activity focused on the effects of plastic and microplastic debris found in oceans around the world. Many animals, including sea turtles, mistake plastic debris as their food. Our marine debris activity aimed at showing educators and students how easily it is to mistake plastic for animals’ food options in the ocean.
Lastly, we discussed how engineers assist conservationists. Since plastic debris can be found in various parts of the ocean, engineers have helped create robots to move through the ocean to help clean up this debris. The educators that attended Educators Night Out were tasked with creating a diver that floated in the middle of a container.
Since this was a special event at the Houston Zoo, one of our tamanduas, Zappo, stopped by for a visit and to share how plastic waste affects his habitat. The educators were also able to meet a few of our ambassador animals, tour the Carruth Natural Encounters building, and enjoy drinks provided by No Label Brewery. At the end of the evening, all educators in attendance were gifted with a reusable sea turtle canvas bag. Inside their bag contained all the materials they needed to replicate the activities they learned about in their classroom.
Thanks to a generous donation from the Hearst Foundation, we will be hosting two more Educators Night Outs this fall. On Tuesday, November 29 and Thursday, December 1, we will be welcoming educators back to the zoo to learn about how recycling small electronic devices can help save animals in the wild. Educators will take part in new STEAM activities, meet a few ambassador animals and snack on light appetizers and drinks provided by Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Visit our website to sign up and learn about more of our offerings to educators!