Photo credit: Rick Stevens


It's all about education at zoos and aquariums


Education is key to ZAA-accredited zoos or aquariums, whether it’s community, school, tertiary or professional education. Across Australasia, ZAA members have developed all kinds of programs, materials and facilities to encourage people to learn more about wildlife and conservation science.

Taronga Zoo recently had a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to open the Taronga Institute of Science and Learning, a purpose-built centre for kinder to PhD education. Featuring science labs, a lecture theatre and several seminar rooms, the Institute provides facilities to be used by students studying two new degrees in conservation that will be offered in a partnership between the University of Sydney and Taronga Zoo.

Especially unique is the immersive classrooms. These multisensory spaces are the first of their kind in the world, themed around rainforest, desert and woodland habitats. A blend of living animal habitat and classroom, these spaces provide exciting experiences for school kids and align with school curriculum.

In New Zealand, Auckland Zoo, Hamilton Zoo, Orana Wildlife Park and Wellington Zoo have teamed up to deliver the Warehouse Zoofari. It’s a nationwide program that focuses on conservation education. The partnership with The Warehouse provides funding for low socio-economic schools to bring their students to visit a participating zoo and have a magical learning experience for free. Each of the four zoos has their own unique approach to Zoofari utilising their particular strengths; acknowledging that conservation is at the heart of everything they do.

The National Zoo and Aquarium Canberra have designed their programs to be as fun and engaging for kids as possible, whilst imparting important education along the way. Apart from their usual school and group guided visits proving an educational experience, the zoo run their Zoocation Holiday Program – a fun-filled day of animal experiences, games, making enrichment toys for the animals, and learning about conservation.  All this staffed and developed by the experienced and qualified Education Guides at the zoo.

Zoos South Australia are running an international education exchange program. The Tisamale Global Exchange is a cross-cultural, life-changing experience coordinated by the Mentors at the Zoo (MATZ) and Youth at the Zoo (YATZ) teams. The first stage saw seven MATZ travelled more than 10,000 kilometres to the village of Mfuwe in Zambia. This brilliant opportunity allowed the MATZ to gain amazing life skills, immerse themselves in the vibrant local culture and form friendships that will last forever.

Next year Tisamale Too, the second stage of the program, will give 14 young Zambians the opportunity to travel here and learn about the unique animals and conservation efforts in Australia.

At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, they run ‘Sanctuary Sprouts.’ It’s a nature play program for kids aged 2-5, based on the Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines and Early Years of Learning  Framework (EYLF). The program promotes the holistic development of children through the power of creativity, exploration, imagination and play.

Each session transports children into the secret world of one of their favourite native Australian animals to explore how they live. When possible, we enter the animal’s habitat for a fully immersive experience, digging in the dirt like a wombat or hiding enrichment treats for the dingoes to sniff out. The session ends with an up-close encounter with the focus animal.

The education programs at Zoos Victoria’s three zoos are designed to connect students to real-world scenarios, spark curiosity, develop thinking skills and consolidate understandings. Qualified education teams create a rich and memorable learning experiences for students. Guided excursion programs include teacher-led sessions and workshops based in their dedicated learning spaces.

From Kinder to Year 12, their education programs support cross-curricular priorities that link to outcomes from the Victorian Curriculum, Victorian Early Years Learning Development Framework and VCE Study Designs. The excursions align with what students are learning in the classroom and provide an experience beyond what is possible in the classroom.