Students Share Messages of Conservation in ZooU
Teen students who participated in October 2021’s ZooU: Humans and the Global Ecosystem program proved how today’s youth are engaged in making a positive difference. ZooU is a program geared toward high school students who want to explore topics related to zoology, conservation, and the Zoo itself.
The students in Humans and the Global Ecosystem arrived brimming with passion for the planet and equipped with an impressive array of environmental knowledge. This should not be surprising, because today’s teens are more informed and better connected than any generation that preceded them. They understand that we, as humans, are not separate from the natural world. They are also very aware that human activity has taken a heavy toll on ecosystems around the world and are concerned for the future.
The goal of this program was to allow the students to make their voices heard in a modern way through social media. During the first session, students powered though a discussion about the multiple ways that human activity has destabilized and depleted ecosystems. Topics of discussion included constant population growth, habitat loss, overuse of resources, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and our ubiquitous use of plastic. These issues can easily feel overwhelming, to the point that the class took a moment to fortify themselves by watching some baby animal videos.
However, in knowledge, there is power. Understanding the issues facing our planet and our wildlife, as well as our role in those challenges, allows us to begin formulating solutions. The students’ next task was to choose the topics that inspired them the most, and create social media content to help educate the general public. They were offered guidance by the Zoo’s Communication Manager and a few Zoo educators before they took on ownership of their topic.
Working in groups, the students researched their topics and created content. The results were varied, with no two groups taking exactly the same approach. One group created informational slides about water pollution, while another featured our resident blue-and gold-macaw in a video about the pet trade. Some students banked on the undeniable cuteness of penguins and sea otters to call people to action, and another campaign focused on the unique, endangered animals of Asia.
Through it all, one thing was astoundingly clear: teenagers today care. They care about the health of the planet, they care about the living things that we share it with, and they care about each other. It is a privilege to listen to student ideas and to learn with and from the next generation. We are pleased to promote their voices and share their original content!
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