ZooTeens: Committed to Conservation

For educators, being able to share one’s love of a subject with new learners is exhilarating. From the first curious glance to the last presentation, conservation education can be such an enriching experience. We’ve been hard at work as the ZooTeen season is in full swing here at the Seneca Park Zoo, from designing new stations to face painting, or even helping out with ZooCamp!

When we recruit for the ZooTeen Program, we look for the best and brightest middle- and high-school students in the Rochester area. Though our interview process might seem daunting, we’re simply looking for students who are passionate about animal conservation, and can easily talk with guests about it.

This is, at its core, what ZooTeens do: educate guests on how the Seneca Park Zoo and zoos worldwide help to save species from extinction, and what guests can do to help. Each teen is committed to at least 2 days a week. Along the way, ZooTeens grow and strengthen their public speaking skills.

After their time with the program, our ZooTeens go on to become conservation advocates in their own communities, and in their own ways. Brenden John, one of our graduating ZooTeen Leaders, will be studying to become a naturalist filmmaker in college. Several of our own Zoo staff members are ZooTeen alumni!

This year’s ZooTeens are especially representative of the diversity in the greater Rochester area. Nearly half of all ZooTeens live within 30 minutes of the city. One quarter of ZooTeens live in the city proper, and another quarter live in nearby Irondequoit or Greece. Some ZooTeens even drive over an hour to come volunteer.

At 116 ZooTeens, it’s one of our biggest seasons yet. Though nearly half of our staff are new recruits, you’d be hard pressed to notice; many new ZooTeens are as outgoing as our returners. In addition to engaging in some public outreach programs throughout the school year, this year’s ZooTeen Leaders were able to design some new station materials for the program.

Many of these newly-designed stations are smash hits, including: ‘A Wake Up Call’, which educates guests on the effects of microplastics from common household products. These new arrivals join perennial favorites such as our African Elephant station, which educates guests on how we partner with conservation organizations like the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) to best help our cared-for species. Whether through using BioFacts or hands-on activity, these stations offer engaging materials to draw guests in, and teach through play and experience, to help our guests to understand conservation care.

Please feel free to reach out to either of us at zooteen@senecazoo.org if you have any questions about the program. If you are an environmentally-conscious teen in the Rochester area, and would like to help out at the Zoo, we will soon be accepting applications for the 2017-2018 ZooTeen Leader Program. Additionally, information for the 2018 ZooTeen Program will be available during the first quarter of 2018.

Alex Baer & Kristi Frey
2017 ZooTeen Coordinator Team

Interested in the ZooTeen Program?