AN inspiring educational project is to form part of the largest zoo development in the UK.
In just over 12 months’ time, Chester Zoo will unveil Islands, a £30m scheme which will transform the Cheshire attraction.
Linked by a series of 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, Sumba and Sulawesi.
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 Islands.
The zoo already works with schools and communities both 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 together 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 and 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 will also be able to 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, which opens in 2015, will be part of the whole zoo visit and will expand the zoo – currently 110 acres – by around 15 acres. The project will create 45 additional full time equivalent jobs and a further 31 indirect jobs within the local area.