Environmental education-The mean of zoo education
Zoos have an important role in forming the future with their teaching activities. Teaching kids and parents is a huge part of the activities of Janos Xantus Zoo, too. One of the most important roles of a zoo is nature conversation which is based on education. Zoos are excellent grounds for environmental education. Zoo education is based on observing how animals are behaving in their own habitat. The new enclosures in the zoo of Győr and the inhabitants are perfectly suitable to demonstrate the behaviour of such animals. It is highly important to build the enclosures on the basis of the environmental enrichment principle. These enclosures need to be places where animals feel well, so that their behaviour can be observed. Even the way kennels are arranged is representative of educational value. Everything else is built on it, which is an integral part of zoo-pedagogy. During our guided tours we try hard not only to pass information to kids but also apply competence-enhancing learning-organizational methods and working patterns (discussion, debate, individual and group work) simultaneously.
Zoos are not only about entertainment and recreation, therefore besides strictly professional work we do place great emphasis on the environmental education of children and on shaping a relationship with nature at early age. Our summer camps and family events are great success, just like our animal shows - during which animals also experience an important training, but at the same time serious messages are delivered to humans.
At the end of each year, the zoo creates its plan for next year’s programs. The detailed description of planned programs is available on our homepage, so teachers might obtain information about these events in advance and they have time to plan their trip to the zoo. It is important for them to see the exact time of these programs, this way they can build these educational visits into their syllabus for the next semester/year. Many programs in our zoo are especially for school kids, and we try to organize our zoo lessons in a way that is appealing to all ages and convey real information in an easily understandable language. We try to supplement the information they acquire at shool with personal experience at our zoo. The World Animal Day, The Day of Birds and Trees and Earth Day are all part of the program we offer to schools. Our other programs at Easter, on Children’s Day or at Halloween serve as recreational programs for families so that they can spend a relaxing day in our gardens. Indeed, even at such occasions our well-trained staff is ready to organize educational quizzes and contests for kids and their parents in connection with the life in our zoo.
The so-called zoo-lessons could be characterized as direct-education, as they are part of the educational sessions organized by our zoo. In 2010 we launched our zoo-kindergarten and zoo-school. These classes could be built into the curriculum, and we are still developing this programme. The special syllabus of zoo-lessons is similar to school-lessons, but its methodology is somehow different. These classes are held in the well-equipped classroom of Fülesbástya. Animal preparations, photos, colourful charts, descriptions and sometimes even living animals are part of the class. The classroom is multifunctional. It serves as home for zoo-camp during summer, where kids spend most of their time learning in a playful way. The arrangement of the classroom is not like that of a typical school-classroom; a more free, less formal space is created in this classroom. Zoo-camp is also a zoo-school, where serious educational work is going on for 9 weeks during summer under the supervision of our well-trained zoo-educators.