Climate Change Education at the Zoo
CLIMATE CHANGE is a major threat to wildlife worldwide as it drastically alters the habitats they call home. For certain species, these radical changes in climate can impact populations causing some to become endangered or threatened. Without significant action to reduce our fossil fuel dependence, climate change could become the single most important factor to affect wildlife since the emergence of mankind.
The topic of climate change can be difficult to talk about which is why zoos and aquariums are banding together to make it easier. The National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) was founded to work with educators at informal science learning centers, like zoos, to help them spread understandable information about our changing climate.
The Buttonwood Park Zoo’s education team was trained by NNOCCI in the spring of 2015. Since then Curator of Education, Carrie Hawthorne, has co-facilitated several 6-month NNOCCI workshops. By explaining chains of human activities that contribute to climate change and focusing on community-level solutions, our team hopes to encourage visitors to consider ways they can be part of the solution.
A recent Penn State University study tested the effects on visitors to zoos and parks participating in the NNOCCI program and found that such guests subsequently discussed the topic more frequently than those that visited similar non-participating institutions. These exciting findings suggest that parks and zoos can be effective tools to enlighten the public about a complex problem and spark much-needed conversations.