Meet Our New Education Curator
Q & A with Carrie Hawthorne
Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background and how did you go about becoming an Education Curator?
I am originally from Plymouth, MA where I always loved spending time outdoors and with animals. When I graduated high school, I thought that if you wanted to work with animals you had to become a veterinarian. I went to Otterbein College, in Ohio, to get a BS in Life Sciences / Pre Veterinarian, but after taking some ecology classes and working at the Columbus Zoo for a summer as an interpreter I discovered that I really loved teaching more than anything. From there I went on to get my masters in Environmental Education from the University of New Mexico.
When I moved back to New England, I was fortunate enough to get a job with the Education Department at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI. There, I discovered how valuable an urban zoo can be to the community and schools through STEM programming, ZooCamps, volunteer programs, interactive exhibits, and community outreach.
When the Curator of Education position opened at Buttonwood Park Zoo, I was thrilled to bring my knowledge and passion to my own backyard and work with the communities my family lives within. I am excited about the opportunity to expand our school programs, outreach, and on-grounds programming, and incorporating animal ambassadors into what we do.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned while in this career?
I am in awe everyday of something new I learn about the natural world; I truly never stop learning! There are so many interesting things happening in the world, and cool connections that are left to discover. Just yesterday I was learning about how dogs became domesticated, and the day before that how a snake’s mouth works. Did you know that if our mouths worked like a snake’s, we could swallow a basketball whole?! How cool is that?!
What is your passion while working as an Education Curator?
I am honored that by following my childhood dreams, I have been able to combine my love for the natural world with my love for teaching. Through the students and visitors at the zoo, I get to learn everything from birds, snakes, lizards, and frogs to climate change and the water cycle. I am reminded everyday of just how connected we are to the world around us, and how a close encounter with an animal can spark that recognition in others.
What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?
I tell all the students I work with that the first thing you need to do is pay attention to the things that bring you to life – the topics and activities that just make you feel like yourself. Then start volunteering, interning, and learning more about whatever that is. Work hard, reach out to people, look for connections, and never stop learning! If you love animals, there are so many career paths – from graphic design, to marketing, to education, to animal care.
We heard you will be creating a new segment within our email Zooletter, tell us about it!
One of my goals is to get families trying new things and bringing the zoo into their homes! Every month I will share a favorite science activity, citizen’s science project, or nature quest for you to try. Hopefully people will take a look and try something new!
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