These training sessions help the students begin to build a community amongst themselves by doing different group activities and bonding exercises. Most importantly training helps prepare the students for the many different tasks they will be completing over the summer. These include every topic from world-wide conservation challenges, to how the Zoo and its animals benefit from biodiversity, to how to test the water for the trout in the Research Station.
On the average summer day in CDC, students will take shifts working at different animal exhibits. The student is at the exhibit to provide information to guests about the animals. This information may include things such as the animal’s life, what their ecosystems are like, and the conservation efforts that have been made involving them. CDC Students review their knowledge on each animal before arriving at a station to be sure they can answer the questions the guests may have. This helps challenge the students to learn and retain more while also fostering the curiosity of the guests. CDC Students can also help run Zoo Patrol during the week throughout the summer. Zoo Patrol is a summer camp for children eight through ten and eleven through thirteen who are interested in animals, zoology, or just spending time at the Zoo. Personally, I found working with the campers gave me more experience on how to better educate people and how to communicate differently with people of all ages depending on the situation. This experience is unique from the work at different stations because it allows you a longer time to talk with the kids than the average passing guest. We were able to teach the campers in Zoo Patrol about a variety of things such as specific animals, different important concepts such as evolution and conservation, as well as animal care practices.
While in the Conservation Discovery Corps I have had so many incredible experiences I never had anticipated being able to have. I learned how to better interact with people I don’t know very well and speak publicly on topics I have a profound interest in. In this program I met a lot of incredibly fun and interesting kids who all share the love of animals that I have. I also was fortunate enough to get to know a lot of the Zoo’s incredibly dedicated and brilliant staff members who are always there to support and encourage us to go the extra mile. CDC Students are also involved in off grounds trips as well as special on grounds events. During the late spring into the early summer we planted native marsh grasses in Stratford. The importance of this replant is to ensure the biodiversity of this habitat for the animals that live there such as Stratford’s endangered piping plovers. Other off grounds opportunities included boating trips out of New Haven’s Sound School to learn about the marine biodiversity of Long Island Sound. At the Sound School we also worked on creating reef balls. Reef balls are habitats that help the reproduction of oysters. The Sound School had started the reef ball project due to the oyster population decline in Long Island Sound. On other off grounds trips we helped tag wild geese to track their population size and better understand their migration patterns. Similarly, we also helped tag horseshoe crabs.
There were special events I was able to participate in on grounds as well. This summer we had Brian and Teddy Bradley’s Skyhunters In Flight shows going on twice a day on the weekends. Teddy and Brian are trained and seasoned falconers who would bring in their own birds of prey to the Zoo. I was lucky enough to help participate in the shows which were used as a form of training exercises for the birds. During these shows we could be asked to run with a lure for a hawk to catch or help fly a Peregrine Falcon. Sometimes after the shows we would get to feed some of the birds or work on other training exercises. For example after shows I once fed their Harris’s Hawk and recently I helped fly their North American Barn Owl.
While in the Conservation Discovery Corps I have had so many incredible experiences I never had anticipated being able to have. I learned how to better interact with people I don’t know very well and speak publicly on topics I have a profound interest in. In this program I met a lot of incredibly fun and interesting kids who all share the love of animals that I have. I also was fortunate enough to get to know a lot of the Zoo’s incredibly dedicated and brilliant staff members who are always there to support and encourage us to go the extra mile.