My ZooMobile experience

Photo by Kelli O'Brien

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

My ZooMobile experience was very fun. I got to hold the bearded dragon, the chinchilla and the hedgehog. It was nice to see that this experience made the older people we gave the program to smile.

The ZooMobile staff person that I worked with taught me to have the people pet only the back of the animal. I also love the Zoo saying that she taught me: “The owls have acute hearing, acute eyesight, and a cute little face!” Also she said that for us to have eyes that fit us like the owl’s fit him, our eyes would have to be the size of a softball! I would really like to be able to go on the ZooMobile program again.

– Nikkiya Norton, ZooTeen


More career exploration

Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel

Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel

This summer, we gave our ZooTeens some new opportunities to explore a variety of careers here at the Zoo. Many of our teens explored opportunities in our Education Department, including our ZooCamp. See below for reflections from two of our teens who helped organize field day activities with  ZooCamp Coordinator Dea:

On August 8, we worked together to help out with ZooCamp’s field day. We used teamwork to create activities for the campers to participate in. We created two of our own activities and used a binder of game suggestions as well. We played “Duck, Duck, Goose” with water, popcorn using the parachute, and sharks and minnows. The whole time the children were smiling and having a good time. We had an amazing time as well. It was awesome to see our ideas put into action.

– Kate Huppé & Hannah Chase, ZooTeens

Last week, one of our ZooTeens had the opportunity to spend a week as a junior camp counselor. This is one of the opportunities we open up to our teens to help them explore a variety of careers within the Zoo. Below is his reflection of his time in ZooCamp:

Photo by Melanie Andrews

Photo by Melanie Andrews

I worked with ZooCamp this past week and I thought it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of things that I learned at ZooCamp. I learned how to interact with kids better, which is positive because it will help me with interacting with the visitors. Talking to the kids was fun and I learned how to explain information better. While I was there, I noticed that I kept getting more and more comfortable with new people.

There were a lot of fun things that we did at ZooCamp. Every day we made two crafts, which were fun because the kids would ask me about my opinion and for help. I thought it was nice how often they talked to me even though they barely knew me. We also saw two shows or experiences each day, which is fun, but it can get hectic. However, by the end of the week, I was so comfortable with the kids; it was easy to calm things down. Overall I thought my experience with Zoocamp was really positive and I think that I got a lot out of it.

– Griffin Henwood, ZooTeen

Photos by Kelli O'Brien

Photos by Kelli O’Brien

I have decided that the career I want is the veterinary technician career or for short, a vet “tech.”

Through the ZooTeens program, I was able to meet one of the Zoo’s vet techs. It was a truly great experience for me because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a vet tech in a zoo or private practice. The vet tech that I met was named Garrett. Garrett was very insightful and helped me tremendously.

DSC_3756After speaking to Garrett, I found out what it takes to be a vet tech and being a vet tech at the zoo wasn’t quite what I expected. I found out that vet techs at the zoo don’t actually work with animals every day or very often at all. Zoo vet techs do a lot of lab work instead of animal interaction. Garret told me that zoo vet techs don’t handle the animals too frequently and that zoo vet techs don’t do much animal care either. Thanks to Garrett, I was able to realize that my future career is best suited in a private practice. This experience was really fun for me as well as really helpful. I am so grateful to be lucky enough to of had this experience and would encourage any ZooTeen who wants a future career in the animal field to talk to the Zoo’s excellent staff!

– Dylan Herold, ZooTeen

More ZooTeen fun!

Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel

Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel

Last week, I shared feedback from our teens that had traveled with the ZooMobile. The teens are having so much fun with this program, I thought I would share more of their experiences. Enjoy! 

– Tina Crandall-Gommel,  Youth and School Groups Programs Coordinator

We went to SOTA (School of the Arts) today and brought four animals: the millipede, spotted turtle, marine toad and barred owl. I was able to help Tim, our ZooMobile Coordinator, by showing three of the animals around for the kids to see. The first program was challenging because we were uncertain about the size of the group however the second program went very well. The kids loved all the animals and had a great time, hopefully they learned a lot about habitats and animals. I learned a lot of new things from what Tim was saying about the animals. I also learned what it is like to be a zoo educator and what it takes to be a good public speaker. This experience will be helpful when it is time for me to decide what career I would like to pursue. Hopefully I will be able to go out on the ZooMobile again sometime!

– Stephanie Facchine, ZooTeen

As a third year ZooTeen, I was given the option of participating in something called the ZooMobile. The ZooMobile is a group of Zoo educators that take animals anywhere from a Red Wings game to special needs facilities. I was taken along on a trip where Zoo Educator Amanda and I were visiting a local library. The theme was “Dig into Reading”. Amanda decided it most fitting to bring four animals that dig for survival. We brought the three-banded armadillo, giant African millipede, African hedgehog and the sand boa appropriately named Sandy. I have to say this experience was much more fun and educational than I had expected; I even learned a little phrase about snakes. Amanda told the kids at the library, “If the snake’s eyes are on the side, it’s ready to hide, and if the eyes are on the front the snake’s ready to hunt.” I found this entire experience extremely interesting, because I was allowed to hold bio facts and show the younger children the difference between a hedgehog pelt and a snake skin. I work two or three days a week around animals as a ZooTeen, and this experience was very educational and fun.

– Zoe Busacco, ZooTeen

Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel

Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel

Our ZooTeen Program this summer is off and running – and not just on Zoo grounds. ZooTeens this summer have had the opportunity to travel with members of our education staff on outreach programs like our ZooMobile and the Butterfly Beltway Project. One of our goals this year was to give teens that have been in the program for at least one year the opportunity to explore some of the career options here at the Zoo, so shadowing our educators was one of our steps to reaching this goal.

Below is feedback from some of the teens who have taken advantage of this opportunity so far.

I found the experience worthwhile. . . On the way over, Tim and I chatted about colleges which, actually, was very helpful to me in deciding that Oswego may be a better college to attend than ESF. . . we met up with  at the Helmer Nature Center, and got to business. (She) brought us back to the garden which, really, was full of thistle, three or four other plants and milkweed. This surprised me, but I learned that it occurred because the thistle wasn’t taken care of or cut back regularly…. Tim was happy the milkweed was flourishing, though! In the end, we just unloaded the plants and mulch and chatted with the Helmer Nature worker. I liked how relaxed it was; we ended up discussing how they wanted a rose tarantula for their Spider’s Aren’t Spooky program. I liked how close the Zoo and Nature Center seemed to be and work, us being able to provide help and information to the Center so they can carry their message as well. It was a better experience than I first though I would have . . . definitely worth it.

– Taylor Chamberlain

I went in the ZooMobile and this was a great experience for me to have as a ZooTeen. It was interesting to see what the other workers in the Zoo do. It was very fun to actually see and observe the other animals in the Zoo that are utilized for these programs. I did learn some things about these animals that I didn’t know before. I hope to maybe use some of the information I learned and use it in the ZooTeen program. I also really enjoyed the fact that I got to go off site and bring a part of the Zoo to other groups of people. And those people aren’t just seeing the animals but also learning about them. It’s a fun thing to know that people are taking this information away from these demonstrations. It was a nice change of pace to learn more about the different jobs in the Zoo and other opportunities that can come. I really enjoyed going on the ZooMobile trip. 

– Allison Kemblowski

During the ZooMobile I learned a lot about the animals that were presented. I especially learned a lot about the marine toad (Bubba) and how he survives, like how he eats and how he has to blend in with his surroundings in order to catch his prey and then jump because he has a smaller tongue than most frogs. Tim and Katie were really fun to work with. Over all I thought the ZooMobile was very interesting and I had a lot of fun with it. It was something new for me in the ZooTeen program and I enjoyed it very much and I think it would be a great experience for other ZooTeen members.

– Brittany Jordan

– Tina Crandall-Gommel, Youth and School Group Programs Coordinator

Erin (left) during a recent butterfly program. Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel

Erin (left) during a recent butterfly program. Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel

Hello! My name is Erin and I am a third-year student at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks. I study Wildlife Science and this is my seventh summer at the Seneca Park Zoo. When I tell people that I have been at the Zoo for seven years, they tend to look at me weird. I can’t say I blame them, seeing as I’m only 20. Seven years at one place for someone my age is sort of strange. I wouldn’t trade a second of it, though.

I entered the ZooTeen Program in 2007 spent the next four summers working stations, helping with training, and assisting with other volunteer events like ZooBoo. I made friends each summer and I learned a lot from our stations. The most important thing I learned though wasn’t about tiger conservation or what can and cannot be composted. Most valuable was learning how to talk to people.

As a ZooTeen I learned how to settle debates with my teammates when we disagreed on how a station should be run. I learned how to project my voice and make myself heard when the gibbons started howling in the middle of my wetlands ecosystem talk. I learned how to attract a crowd and keep their attention even amidst the hustle and bustle of the zoo.

As you can imagine, this made presenting projects in class just a little less scary and a little more familiar.

When I graduated from high school in 2011 I was faced with my first summer since 8th grade where I wasn’t a ZooTeen.

As it turns out, volunteering for four years made me a very good candidate when the Zoo’s Education Department had a job opening. I applied, interviewed, and accepted the job as a Birthday Party Host.

My job has grown since then. I now do overnights, scout events, birthdays, and I assist with the Butterfly Beltway Project. All of these events have helped me in thriving at college. I recently completed a mapping project where I analyzed the density of the butterfly garden sites across six counties in New York.

When I first started as a ZooTeen I wasn’t sure of what I specifically wanted to do. Honestly, I am still working out the specifics of what I want to do as a career. And that’s okay.

I was recently accepted into a $10,000 scholarship program that will let me work on a project and report on my findings. I will be able to experience various aspects of the scientific process over a semester long scale. By the end of it I imagine what I want to do will be clearer.

I know I want to do science. I like biology, animals and I love conservation. Four years as a ZooTeen really reinforced that for me!

So, to any ZooTeens reading this, I know the days are hot and sometimes the crowds just don’t pay attention but if you’re passionate don’t be afraid to stick with it. You never know where an opportunity like this will lead you.

– Erin Regan, former ZooTeen and current Zoo Society staff member