Part of the Family

Posted February 9, 2017 by Sarah Navarro

Guest blogger: Zoo Academy Junior, Umajesty Allah

Hi, my name is Umajesty and I am an 11th grade Zoo Academy Student here at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. I’m writing today to tell you about the Education Department we have here at the Cincinnati Zoo! The Education Department is not about boring classes and teachers. The Education Department is a family if anything. I know everyone is thinking, “Well, how are you in the Education Department if you’re just a student?”

As I said, I’m a student here and I became a part of this large, loving, beautiful family because of a system at my school called labs. Labs are probably the best part of the Zoo Academy in my opinion – besides the fact that the seniors, teachers, and we juniors are pretty much a close knit family – because they give us real life experience at working in a zoo.  A lab is pretty much a monthly class we take here at the zoo that allows us to go to different animal (and non animal) areas and work with the different staff as interns to get a better understanding of what has to be done.

This rotation for January, I was assigned the Education Department; I’d really wanted this lab for a long time. When I finally got it, I was really excited for the month ahead, because I’d met a few of the staff members previously and they were really nice, fun, and caring people. Honestly, I didn’t care if I got to be with animals because the attitude of the staff was enough to compensate for it. In the Education rotation you don’t get as much animal time as some of the other labs, but what you do get is a super loving environment and people who are good at what they do. You get to learn how to properly handle the animals that we have here at the zoo and you learn the art of storytelling. There’s just so much that this lab has to offer.

Aside from the department as a lab, they also control the different camps that the zoo has to offer like Winter Break Camp, different Summer Camps, as well as Spring and Holiday Camps. They also do teach classes, but not in the conventional, “Everyone get out your books and read chapter 3, then have an essay done by tomorrow” kind of way. These classes have live animal encounters, fun games, super nice teachers, and they’re just so much fun to be a part of.
A moment that will stick with me throughout my life is when I gave my presentation on the ball python to a few of my classmates and the education staff. All I remember is being so nervous before, during
, and after the presentation. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited, and wanted to do it, but my anxiety was really taking its toll on me. But throughout it all, all I received was support, love, and genuine encouragement from the whole group.

My time in this lab has taught me that being here at the Zoo Academy and not working with animals all the time is okay. Everyone here is so… homey and loving and I hope everyone has a chance to have the same experience that I have had.