Teachers from different schools around Catalonia met in Placa de la Dama at the Zoo during the morning of 18 September, to learn about and experience our education programme for the 2021-2022 school year. The Zoo’s director, Sito Alarcon, along with the head of conservation and knowledge at the facility, Juli Mauri, and the entire education team, received the teachers in a session which included a taste of the latest additions to the programme.
Barcelona City Council approved a new model for the Zoo in 2019, based on three main pillars: the conservation of species, research and education. The latter is fundamentally important in our activity and has a central role. Because of this, the Zoo has put together a new education plan with specific activities for all age groups and levels.
The new Education Plan is strongly influenced by the new model and the values that run through it. It is also based on the school curriculum and the basic skills in the education system in our country. The goal of the plan is to transform activities into educational experiences, and to achieve this the Zoo is revamping its programme through an improved methodology and teaching approach for content and materials, the inclusion of new technologies and new ongoing experience-based style, taking into account the changes going on at the Zoo and the current environmental challenges and biodiversity crisis.
The plan includes new activities which represent another step forward in the transformation project for the Zoo of the future. We want teachers to be able to get support from our team and strengthen the work at their schools with all our expertise (zoology, biology, ecology, conservation of biodiversity and animal welfare), through specific activities on specific subjects linked particularly to autochthonous and endangered local fauna, of great interest in terms of complementing classroom work.
One notable revamped activity revolves around endangered animals and is unique to Catalonia because of the environment used. The activity includes interactive digital support to learn through play and as a team, by visiting the facilities at the Zoo. The longest-running and most popular activities have also been updated, as in the case of the Invertebrates workshop, which now enables participants to see live animals directly during the activity and to visit the invertebrates hall which is opening soon. Another is the What animal am I? activity, with discovery games and biological material.
The Zoo School is also making an effort to introduce methodologies and resources which transform activities into inclusive experiences for everybody. The team at the Zoo are aiming to adapt in general to the needs of all schools and the reality of each moment, as demonstrated over the months of the pandemic, also offering to visit schools or to match the programme at the Zoo to meet demand wherever needed.
In terms of welcoming school groups, work will be carried out on a new space and also on an experience-based and ongoing format which facilitates learning and values for educators and students. The situation of the last two years has also seen the Zoo build new technologies into its programme, with online connections allowing our educators to access classrooms at any school, and digital support activities which foster learning through gamification and the route around the Zoo.
Finally, the new Education Plan comes with an ongoing training plan for environmental education, fauna and sustainability by the education team at the Zoo, the idea being for in-house professionals to be capable of offering the best environmental education, particularity in terms of the conservation of threatened fauna and its habitats.
To summarise, the Zoo seeks to decisively help raise awareness in society about the need to protect nature and the environment between us all. Through revealing experiences, the idea is to help students of all ages and levels reconnect with nature and influence their habits, acting as a catalyst for change for a society which is more respectful towards biodiversity and more active in defending it. Activities are being transformed into educational experiences, based around nature and aimed at schoolchildren, but also obviously at families and the general public, who the Zoo runs various activities for throughout the year. Educational and awareness activities are being broadened through a comprehensive communication strategy so that a visit to the Zoo is not just about observing a series of enclosures with animals, but becomes an all-encompassing experience that helps people to acquire new knowledge, moving them emotionally and spurring them into action before, during and after their visit, through the website, this blog, social media and all the other communication channels for the institution.