My son is two year old and is completely obsessed with the zoo. We’ve made trips recently to a few different zoos in the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas, and I love wandering around and watching my son’s face light up when sees his favorites – the giraffes. All that zoo time makes me think back to my first volunteer experience as a member of Zoo Atlanta’s Junior Zoo Crew.
Junior Zoo Crew was a summer volunteer program for middle- and high-school students, where we got to work in and learn about many aspects of the zoo. We worked in the petting zoo educating visitors about the animals and reminding them to keep their hands away from the goats’ faces, and to beware of the llamas (which are temperamental and often spit). We also worked in the commissary preparing meals for the animals. Carefully measuring out and mixing up pounds upon pounds of produce for the gorillas was pretty fun, but I could have done without handling those poor frozen bunnies for the carnivores.
We tracked the location and behavior of free-ranging golden lion tamarins, who were in a program to be reintroduced into the wild, and we tagged along with the horticulture team to clean up habitats and keep the zoo grounds looking pretty. Occasionally, we retreated to the admin offices to do some filing and escape the brutal Atlanta heat. The zoo staff worked us hard, but I had so much fun and returned for four summers (as did many of the other kids in the program).
Junior Zoo Crew was a wonderful program and a great introduction to volunteer work and getting involved in my community at a young age. There are countless opportunities to teach kids the benefits of volunteer work. It’s a fun and rewarding experience to find a program that combines volunteering with a child’s interests. Unfortunately, it seems that the program I participated in is no longer in existence in Atlanta; however, other zoos around the country seem to have similar programs. (Way to go, Baltimore and Denver!) I can only hope for a similar program at the Detroit Zoo in the next decade or so - because my son will absolutely love giraffes just as much in 10 years as he does now!