Almost all zoos and aquariums provide some sort of educational programming for the public. Educators and program developers design classes, workshops, lectures, and tours and often offer outreach programs to the schools or local community in which they are located.
Even though we are flooded with information through television, movies, videos, and books, nothing can replace the full impact of seeing living animals face to face. Zoos and aquariums serve their communities by supplying interesting facts and, in some cases, hands-on experiences in a friendly, family-based setting. Their public education goals are to encourage visitors to become part of the conservation solution by enhancing their awareness and appreciation of wildlife.
The methods used are as varied as the makeup of the visitors. Through interaction with zookeepers, trained docents, volunteers, and education staff members, information is conveyed with publications, graphics, and naturally designed exhibits. And, of course, nothing carries as much weight as the chance to observe animal behavior firsthand.
THE AUDIENCES EDUCATORS REACH
With more than eight million students participating in field trips to zoos and aquariums each year, it is the perfect opportunity for classroom teachers and staff educators to put their heads together and design curricula to meet the needs of specific classes.
Zoo educational services reach beyond the confines of the specific facility. Educators go into the community through outreach programs, visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and community centers. They also bring exhibits and information directly into the schools, both public and private.
Zoos and aquariums also provide training for classroom teachers. AZA zoo and aquarium educators reach more than 25,000 teachers a year through in-service training courses. Topics are varied and cover such issues as endangered species, threatened habitats, and educational methodologies for field trips.
REQUIREMENTS FOR EDUCATORS
Educators usually possess a teaching certificate or have had teaching experience before they join a zoo or aquarium staff. They arrange programs for the public, explain the exhibits, conduct classes, and often do outreach work with local schools and other community organizations.
Tour guides, or docents, as they are often called, usually fall under the realm of the education department. Many tour guides work on a volunteer basis, are knowledgeable about certain exhibits, and have excellent speaking skills.
Most museums produce in-house publications-such as brochures, pamphlets, newsletters, catalogs, books, and other promotional materials. Editors and writers usually have a college degree and possess strong editorial skills.
SALARIES FOR EDUCATORS
As in any setting, salaries for zoo and aquarium educators are far from glamorous. The average is in the high twenties. The top educator staff member or director could earn approximately $40,000 a year.
Within zoos and aquariums a variety of personnel work together to make known the services the facility has to offer. Marketing personnel work on advertising campaigns and organize activities to increase public awareness of the institution.
Public relations (PR) professionals also help promote the facility and its mission as well as its programs via the media.
Special events staff develop and carry out activities to attract visitors to the institution throughout the year.
Other duties for all these related job titles include writing press releases and advertising copy for promotional literature.
SALARIES WITHIN PUBLIC RELATIONS
The salaries for marketing and PR specialists run closely to those earned by education staff. Salaries can begin in the high teens and run more than $40,000 a year, with an average annual income of approximately $33,000.