AN INSPIRING educational project is to form part of the largest zoo development in the UK.
In just over a year’s time time, Chester Zoo will unveil Islands, a £30 million scheme to transform the attraction.
Linked by bridges and including a journey on water, Islands will be home to animals and plants from the South East Asian islands of the Philippines and Indonesia, including Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumatra and Sumba.
At the heart of Islands, on the recreated isle of Sumba, will be a new education building – called Sekolah – which has been modelled on traditional Indonesian architecture. Just as in the remote villages, Sekolah (meaning school) will be the social and cultural hub of the new attraction.
The zoo already works with schools and communities in the UK and around the world through its many conservation programmes.
Through Sekolah, visitors will be given an insight into the lives of others and discover more about conservation science.
Teaching sessions will be held in the classroom along with curator-style talks, a varied programme of bespoke short films with commentary from the zoo’s educators, animated and intuitive story-telling for younger audiences.
There will be hands-on workshops featuring tools for conservation science, including microchips, microscopes and data loggers.
The school house has been given a welcome boost from The Wolfson Foundation which has pledged a grant to help with its building.
Chester Zoo’s education programmes manager, Dr Maggie Esson, said: “The zoo is an environment rich with animals and plants and steeped in knowledge of conservation and science. We already teach 30,000 students in taught workshops and a further 80,000 come to the zoo for an educational visit on a teacher-led experience.
“Through Sekolah we will help pass on our knowledge, across all stages of the curriculum, to a further 30,000 people through student and other groups. Alongside reading, writing and arithmetic there is a real need for students to learn more about the information-loaded world we live in.
“This can include global collaborative learning, research skills, analysing and interpreting data and critical thinking. With this in mind, we will also be bringing digital aspects to our teaching through interpretation and apps to reach the new generation of would-be conservationists.”
The zoo’s educators can teach students about damage being caused to the planet and how small lifestyle changes at a local level can make a real difference globally.
Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of Wolfson Foundation, said: “This is a wonderfully exciting project that will entice and inspire all ages. We are particularly pleased to be funding the education building which will help communicate conservation science in compelling fashion.”
Islands opens in 2015 and will expand the zoo – currently 110 acres – by about 15 acres. The project will create 45 additional full-time equivalent jobs and a further 31 indirect jobs in the local area.