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ZooCrew students explore zoo careers

Posted by: Rob Goehrke, Education

When you were 13, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did a career in science, technology, engineering or math (also known as STEM) appeal to you? How about a career that helped animals?

With ZooCrew, we work with middle school students through after-school programs to introduce them to the varied STEM and conservation careers that are possible. They work with zoo advisors who represent different jobs across the zoo—from animal care to science writing—to get first-hand experience in how fun and rewarding these jobs can be. By working with professionals, our students can create meaningful, high-quality projects.

Here are a few careers they explored and the projects they created last semester:


ZooCrew students learned that events are crucial in raising funds and awareness for our conservation mission. Those who chose this career had the option of working with zoo Events Manager Toni Radonich to generate ideas to expand WildLights, our brand new winter lights festival. (Drawings created using Doodle Buddy). One student even created a 51-page proposal replete with drawings, ideas, and animal facts.

Concept designs by youth for next year’s WildLights

Some other students worked with zoo Concert Manager Romy Brock to test their peers’ interest in a possible youth concert at the zoo. They polled 47 of their school peers and discovered that over half of them would be interested in seeing such a concert. (Survey created using QuickTapSurvey)

Partial results from the students’ surveys

Digital Communications

Another career that ZooCrew students could explore was Digital Communications with Digital Communications Manager Rebecca Whitham. They learned that creating effective online messages can help spread awareness of conservation issues. One team created a blog post (A day in the life of a wolf pup) while a second team created a short informational video (Wolves: Fact vs. Fiction) using iMovie.

Early Childhood Education

While ZooCrew students are the next generation of conservation and community leaders, some of them turned around and started raising the generation that will follow them. Working with Early Childhood Education Specialist Nemesia Herzstein and the Early Childhood team, they created an African Savanna-themed puppet show, starring lions, hippos, and a big-mouthed giraffe) and a Creature Feature that chronicled the story of a young wolf learning the qualities of leadership from a snake, bear and owl. After weeks of writing and re-writing, both teams got to perform for an enthusiastic group of toddlers and their parents in Zoomazium.

ZooCrew youth doing “puppet dancing” with the little ones

Field Conservation

Another student teamed up with zoo Field Conservation Coordinator Bobbi Miller to find out what people know about Wolves in Washington. This student even came up with some questions that elicited empathy for these local carnivores, such as the following question:

One of the youth’s survey questions about wolves

Animal Management

Our final career option was Animal Management. Students worked with Collection Manager Deanna Ramirez to create enrichment items for the wolves or snow leopards. After the proposal, redesign, and construction, the teams watched as the animals enjoyed a stimulating challenge that they had created.

A wolf enjoying the enrichment that this student designed and constructed

Further Reading

See recent blog posts 10 steps to an enriching summer and Tablets connecting youth to zoo professionals to learn more about ZooCrew’s projects and youth-adult partnerships.

How about you?

The students got to choose the conservation and career project that most interested them. If you were in ZooCrew, which would you have picked?


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