Secondary school students from Preston got up close and personal with the residents of Blackpool Zoo recently, as part of an outreach programme designed to support young people’s aspirations.
The ‘Future Zoo’ residential weekend was organised by Future U, which creates opportunities for young people in Lancashire to increase rates of progression onto higher education in areas where participation is lower than expected.
It saw 23 year 9 and 10 pupils from Brownedge St Mary’s High School gaining an understanding of what a career at the zoo could involve, through a combination of workshops, theory and practical experiences.
Shadowing the zookeepers, they helped clean out animal enclosures and assisted with feeding time for the giraffes and zebras, while learning all about endangered species and the importance of raising awareness of conservation. Year 10 pupil Jack was named the winner of a conservation artwork design competition, scooping a family ticket to the zoo as his prize.
Overnight stays took place at the Fylde Coast Scout Hut, enabling the students to experience time away from home and encouraging independence and teamwork.
Rebecca Reynolds, head of education, conservation and research at Blackpool Zoo, was on hand to guide the students. She said: “The combination of workshops, theory, practical and animal experiences is designed to inspire, enthuse and connect students with real wildlife and conservation stories and make it real for them.
“They could potentially work in this industry, be motivated to change what’s happening in the world right now and become conservationists themselves. It was great to see them come to life at the zoo and enjoying every single second of the learning journey.”
Cat Sinclair, career lead at Brownedge St Mary’s, said: “For a lot of our children, they might get to visit a zoo but they’d certainly never get to go behind the scenes, go into the enclosures and handle the animals. It’s just a fantastic opportunity. We’ve been working with Future U for over a year now, they are very supportive and I can’t recommend them highly enough.”
Jessica Richmond, outreach officer at Future U, said: “This experience has offered pupils an incredible opportunity to learn and experience what a career at a zoo might entail, from zookeeping to conservation. The experiences the zoo offered were unforgettable and a first for many of the pupils.
“The Blackpool Zoo team were inspirational and many of the pupils have commented how much they appreciated the trip and are now considering a career working with animals in the future. We are pleased to be able to offer this experience to the pupils in partnership with Blackpool Zoo Educational Team and look forward to future collaborations with them.”