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ZooCrew students explore climate change in the Pacific Northwest

Posted by Ryan Driscoll, Education

Climate change can be a messy subject, but that didn’t stop Woodland Park Zoo’s ZooCrew students from diving right in.  

This past winter, students from three middle schools (Asa Mercer International, Washington, and Denny International) used a combination of games, activities, and research to explore the complexities around the causes and consequences of climate change in the Pacific Northwest. After examining the perspectives of various groups including climate scientists, mayors and oil companies, the students developed a variety of projects to help advocate for climate change action.

The projects these students completed included creative artwork, presentations and good old fashioned digging in the dirt. Here are examples of some of the great work the ZooCrew students accomplished.

Chickadee Houses

As the climate changes, the species of plants that thrive in an area also change.  This can have a major impact for birds like chickadees that depend on certain environments.  Students took action by building and painting houses to help these little birds survive and thrive in the coming years.  After helping the chickadees, they then went on to research other Northwest animals that are impacted by climate change and brainstormed alternative habitats. During their zoo field trip, students visited with one of the zoo’s raptor keepers and learned about how raptors around the world are impacted by climbing temperatures.  

Conservation Art and Advocacy

Sometimes artistic talents were the best tools in helping to advocate for action.  After working to craft messages that would lead to concrete actions in their audiences, they got to work designing displays, dioramas, Junior Duck Stamp entries, a climate change video, and even a game app that help teach people about climate change!  After working with the citizen science app Season Spotter, one student designed a diorama to show how the changing climate is affecting the dates when trees and flowers bloom and explored how this impacted animals.  Another group was inspired by a presentation from Dr. Dargan Frierson from the University of Washington and his passion for pikas, a native cousin to rabbits that live in the mountains.  They designed a sculpture showing how climate change was forcing the pikas higher and higher as the temperatures increased.  The creativity and passion displayed by all the projects was truly inspiring!

Bear Affair Trading Cards

Every June, the zoo hosts Bear Affair: Living Northwest Conservation to raise awareness of the issues facing animals around our area and ways to coexists with them.  Some students wanted to help with this event by creating trading cards that could be handed out to visitors to teach them about the actions they could take to help.  After researching cool facts and how climate change was affecting their chosen Northwest animals, they used their artistic skills to create the pictures for the front of the cards.  Join us at the zoo on June 4th to collect you own set of ZooCrew trading cards and see awesome bear-safety demonstrations all day!

Seward Park Restoration Trip

In March, students had the opportunity to work with Seward Park’s Tenacious Roots teen program and work on removing the invasive blackberry and ivy in part of the park.  We were lucky to have a beautiful day, and the students worked hard competing to find and pull up the longest root!  It wasn’t all work though, as both groups got an opportunity to teach their favorite games to each other.  

Zoo Field Trip

On April 2nd, students and their families traveled to the zoo for the culminating field trip.  Between exploring zoo grounds, a lunch-time talk with Woodland Park Zoo Senior Conservation Scientist Robert Long, special keeper talks, and their presentation showcase, it was a busy and fun day.  Some students even got to help Lola, the zoo’s Aplomado falcon, practice one of her new tricks! It was a great opportunity for students from all three sites to meet each other, share their projects and passions, and make new friends!

Students create a loop as Lola soars through from one keeper to another!
All of us here at ZooCrew would like to extend a big THANK YOU to our wonderful ZooCrew students for all of your hard work this quarter. You inspire us with your ingenuity and drive! A special thanks also goes out to our community partners, ZooCorps volunteers and interns, and the zoo staff who help make this program possible. We are looking forward to another great ZooCrew term, this time studying deforestation and the animals of Southeast Asia!