Describe your job: No two days are the same when you’re a zoo educator!
From teaching a Critter Tale class to hosting Read Across Oklahoma Day, nature education comes in many forms. The tools of this trade, like animals, artifacts and children’s books, take on new life as social culture changes. Last year’s clownfish craze gives way to the new superhero fanaticism. And whatever it is – zoo educators figure out a way to make it apply to nature.
Last year, I was thrilled to help open the zoo history museum, The Patricia and Byron J. Gambulos ZooZeum. Helping zoo visitors discover the Zoo’s history and reconnect with their own zoo memories is another tool we can now use to deeply imbed those positive zoo experiences.
How long have you been in the position? I’ve been a Naturalist Instructor since 1998 and am now a supervisor in the Education Department.
What in your background helped you get the job? I didn’t come into the field with a science background – instead, I was an elementary school teacher; hired on the philosophy, “A good teacher can learn the biology she doesn’t know.” Gracious, I had a lot to learn, but it’s been delightful.
What’s your favorite thing about job? I enjoy the variety and the opportunity to follow more than one interest. Here are some examples: As a reader, I enjoy running the zoo research library. As a history buff, the ZooZeum is a great way to explore the past. As a writer, I can write a book about the Zoo and kid-friendly text for Zoo signage.
Describe a favorite memory/experience in your current position: This winter, I had a unique brush with a celebrity, Gayla Peevey, the girl who sang “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”. Her song, which is still big in Oklahoma, kicked off a campaign to buy the Zoo’s first hippopotamus in 1953. For a special event, the Zoo flew her in from California for the grand opening of a ZooZeum exhibit about her life story. She led the song during a public sing-a-long, and she met her fans at a private event called the Gayla Gala. I enjoyed escorting her around for four days and hearing how she’s affected the life of so many Zoo visitors for over 50 years.
Do you have a favorite animal? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite animal is the human-kind. Every time I teach a four-year-old class, that’s my favorite age group. And when I teach ten-year-olds, they are then my favorite.