Lindsay Taylor graduated from Manchester in 2012 with a Bsc in Zoology with Industrial experience. As the name suggests, a Zoology degree tends to open up job opportunities that involve work with animals and immediately after completing her degree, Lindsay secured a job at Blackpool Zoo as a Seasonal Education Assistant. Since then, she’s had a stint at Flamingo Land, where she worked with a wide variety of exotic animals…
Being an Education Officer is a very varied job, with every day being completely different depending on whether it’s a weekday or weekend, and whether it’s during term time or school holidays. Working in a zoo is an exciting place to work too; you get to see exotic animals every day and can also go behind the scenes at certain times! Here is an example of what is involved during a term time week day:
9:00 – Morning briefing with the zoo team. This is an important part of the day where everyone shares what happened with their animals the previous day, and also if anything is going to be happening that day. This is really useful for the education team as it allows us to keep right up to date with any important news and plans relating to the animals as it could affect our planned activities for the day.
9:20 – The education department has a few small animals to look after which are used during school workshops and public ‘meet a creature’ sessions. The animals and their vivariums need to be checked every morning and sprayed with water to maintain their humidity levels.
9:45 – Time to set up and prepare resources which will be used during the school workshops.
10:00 – Meet the school(s) which are visiting that day at admissions and lead them into the zoo. The kids are often very excited so it’s important to keep an eye on all of them and keep them within the group.
10:30 – Teach the workshops and deliver guided tours which the school has booked. These can be for any age and on a variety of topics. They are always linked to the National Curriculum and many of the workshops involve looking at live animals and artifacts. The tour consists of looking at certain sections of the zoo, delivering information about the animals and answering any questions (sometimes very bizarre ones!).
14:00 – Lunch time! This is usually after the schools have left, unless it is a quiet teaching day. This is also a good opportunity to check emails and voicemail messages. If it has been a busy teaching day then there can often be a lot of messages which need responding to. Its a good time to speak to someone at the school in person before they go home.
15:00 – This is when we usually bring out some of the education animals for the general public for a “Meet a Creature” session.
15:30 – Story time. This is a short interactive story designed for young children. As you can tell, the majority of my work is revolved around educating children of all ages, so if you don’t like kids, this job wouldn’t be for you!
15:45 – Feed the education animals. This is usually veg, meal worms, crickets, locusts or mice depending on the animal. However not all of them eat daily, so its important to check the feeding schedule!
16:00 – Continue replying to emails and phone messages. Then if time, send out some timetables to schools visiting over the next few weeks so that they know their plan for their visit day! Also, complete any other admin/office jobs/planning etc which need doing.
17:15 – Check and spray the education animals again before home time and turn off their lights.
17:30 – Home! (If you manage to get everything done on time!)
This is a great job for anyone who is organised, confident at public speaking and enjoys working with animals and children and adults. It can be very busy and pressured at times but you are rewarded by seeing many endangered animal daily, and the hope that you have educated the visitors about them and their conservation issues in the wild.
I recently left Flamingo Land to work at a primary school as a learning support assistant, to gain some experience in a formal school setting. Then in September, I’ll be starting a PGCE course in Leeds. A lot of zoos require you to have a PGCE to work in their education departments, so I will either go back into zoo work in a couple of years or be a primary school teacher depending on which I prefer!