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Roots & Shoots Lessons at Twycross Zoo

Roots & Shoots comes to Twycross Zoo!

By Amy Moore (Education Officer at Twycross Zoo)

Roots & Shoots comes to Twycross Zoo is a collaborative project between Twycross Zoo and the Roots & Shoots branch of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI). The aim: to bring our joint messages of environmental awareness and our impact on other people and animals to children local to Twycross Zoo that live in Education, Social and Training (EST) deprived areas.

To meet this aim five objectives were determined:

  1. Deliver an after school programme to over 100 primary students in the 2012/2013 academic year
  2. To increase knowledge level of those students and their families around issues facing people, animals and the environment
  3. To provide extracurricular activities for children in rural deprived areas
  4. To promote sustainable lifestyles to over 100 families
  5. To leave a lasting legacy by encouraging schools to sign up to the Roots & Shoots programme

How did we do it?

An after-school club programme was developed based on the prior experience of both parties and offered to six target schools for children aged 9 to 11. The programme involved six sessions, one per week for half a school term, three taking place in school and three at Twycross Zoo. Each week had a different theme to support the core message of the Roots & Shoots comes to Twycross Zoo programme and involve a mixture of hands on activities, discussion and exploration (see Table 1). In addition to the weekly sessions we gave the participants a “take-home” activity, to encourage them to discuss the programme with their friends and family.

To ensure that any children could take part it was essential to offer the programme without a charge attached. A collaborative application, between Twycross Zoo and Roots & Shoots, for funding from the Big Lottery Fund was successful at a level of just over £2000. This provided transport to the zoo for the children. Other costs were underwritten by Twycross Zoo and Roots & Shoots respectively.

Table 1

Week Topic Main activities Take-home activity

1

Endangered Species

Discussion

Endangered species trail

Meeting and learning about suitable pets

Think of questions for week 3 skype discussion

2

Climate Change

Discussion

Themed sorting games

Demonstration

Start carrying out personal pledge

3

Habitat Loss

Discussion

Meet a rainforest animal

Talk to Ape Action Africa employee in Cameroon via Skype

Look out for native species, ready for week 5

4

Recycling

Themed sorting games

Making own recycled paper

Recycle any old mobile phones at home

5

Native Species

Discussion

Bug hunting in wetlands

Animal identification

Make and install bug house in garden

6

Conservation Play

Practice and perform conservation play Re-affirm pledge and continue carrying it out

How did we measure it?

Evaluation was always central to the Roots & Shoots comes to Twycross Zoo programme, to enable the best possible sessions to be delivered and measure learning outcomes effectively. There were three main categories of evaluation; pre and post-programme evaluation sessions with the participants, interviews with teachers and parents and monitoring of engagement and participation by the session leaders.

Pre and post-programme evaluation sessions included four different activities, and the same activities were done both pre and post-programme to enable comparisons between the conditions. These activities were a short quiz, mind mapping, projective drawing and anonymous answer boxes.

Interviews with teachers and parents along with log kept by the session leaders (always an Education Officer) made it possible to compare the perspective of those closest to the participants, session leaders and the participants themselves.

Did we succeed?

Yes! We succeeded on all five of our objectives:

1. Deliver an after school programme to over 100 primary students in the 2012/2013 academic year

114 children took part from six different schools in the 2012/2013 academic year.

2. To increase knowledge level of those students and their families around issues facing people, animals and the environment

There was a measurable increase in knowledge, for example significantly more participants able to identify three different threats to habitats (64% vs 34%) and identify the three endangered animals on a list (48% vs 6%) after the programme compared to before the programme. Participants were also better able to identify pro-environmental actions that they could take, with an average increase of an extra action (3.3 vs 2.3).

In the drawings the participants did for an “ideal” world there was a post-programme increase in nature images and representations of positive actions. In the “real” world drawings there was a post-programme increase in the number of drawings that included litter/pollution and dead animals. Both of these changes suggest that the participants took on some of the key threats facing animals and habitats.

3. To provide extracurricular activities for children in rural deprived areas

The six schools that participated were from rural deprived areas, based on two criteria; whether they are in an area that is in the top 10% of EST deprived areas in Leicestershire (determined from the most recent report of multiple indices of deprivation in Leicestershire – 2010) and within a 30 minute coach drive of Twycross Zoo. The funding secured enabled us to offer the programme for free, facilitating access for all.

4. To promote sustainable lifestyles to over 100 families

Teachers described including topics in the classroom and even whole school assemblies, so that all pupils became involved. All teachers highlighted the fact that participants discussed the sessions with their classmates. Parents echoed this theme with all hearing lots about sessions from their children, including an individual that “doesn’t say much usually”. This spread beyond immediate family, with one participant telling their session leader that she had persuaded her grandparents to recycle all eight of their old mobile phones, one of the pro-environment actions promoted.

5. To leave a lasting legacy by encouraging schools to sign up to the Roots & Shoots programme

All of the participating schools were keen to take part again and all took contact details for the wider Roots & Shoots programme.

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At Twycross Zoo we are looking forward to continuing this programme with Roots & Shoots in the coming academic year.

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