Education Department

Zoological parks are one of the best ways to learn about the wildlife with which we share the planet. Although curators, keepers, aviculturists, and aquarists are usually glad to answer visitors' questions, the Education department of a zoological park is eager to make each visit a fun learning experience for everyone.

Members of this department provide visitors and students with information about animals and plants in the park's collection. Through behind-the-scenes tours, special classes for all ages, instructional field trips, outreach programs, informative animal exhibit graphics, and multimedia educational resources, members of the Education department strive to help the public understand and appreciate the earth and its diverse wildlife.


Director of education Main job duties: The Director of Education is responsible for creating the department's long-range goals, as well as developing interpretive plans for new exhibits. With the help of the entire department, the Director analyzes animal information programs and curriculum materials for appropriateness and quality. He or she interacts on a regular basis with the academic and general community, staying aware of needs, trends, and current issues affecting education. He or she might also serve on Species Survival Plan committees.

Education: Master's degree in the biological sciences or education. Initial training: Five years of supervisory experience; ten years of experience in the field. Works closely with: All animal services departments, Design and Engineering department, Accounting department, Purchasing department, Human Resources, Marketing Services department, and Public Relations department. Challenges: As head of the department, the director is ultimately responsible for developing programs and materials that are relevant, educational, and fun. In some cases, the director must also provide interactive, educational elements and graphics throughout the park that guests are eager to use.

Education manager Main job duties: Responsible for implementing the department's long-range goals, the Education Manager oversees the daily activities of all staff members and coordinates the department's activities, programs, and projects, creating new programs when needed. This individual must be qualified to teach all classes the department offers, from kindergarten to college level. He or she is also responsible for successfully marketing all education programs, and ensuring that budgets are maintained. In addition to representing the Education department in inter-department projects, the Education Manager must have a current knowledge of major issues and trends regarding education, both nationally and locally. Education: Bachelor's degree in biological sciences or education; Master's degree preferred in biological sciences or education. Initial training: Five years experience with two to three years of supervisory experience. Works closely with: All animal services departments, Design and Engineering department, Accounting department, Purchasing department, Human Resources, Marketing Services, and Public Relations department. Challenges: Often, the department offers numerous programs that occur simultaneously. The Education Manager needs to be a strong planner, ensuring that each program or class, regardless of when it's offered, who teaches it, or where it's held, maintains a high-quality programming level. This position must also have an in-depth knowledge of the staff personnel in order to foster successful team communication within the department.

Instructional designer Main job duties: Instructional Designers research and write information for classes, education shows, and other presentations, as well as conduct classes for students and teachers. In conjunction with other members of the department, they create the curriculum and information resources the department publishes. They also conduct other group programs, including teacher workshops, professional organization presentations, and gifted and specially challenged classes. Education: Bachelor's degree in education and a teaching credential. Initial training: One to two years of teaching experience. Works closely with: Curators, all animal services departments, and Public Relations department. Challenges: Instructional Designers must match course content and instructional techniques to teachers' and students' needs. And like all teachers, instructors in the Education department of a zoological institution must be able to readily adapt their programs on short notice.

Science writer Main job duties: The Science Writer is primarily responsible for researching, writing, and editing exhibit information graphics, curriculum materials, information booklets, animal fact sheets, program brochures, and other promotional materials. The Science Writer oversees projects from first draft to final production, maintaining quality control throughout. This position also provides the department and the park as a whole with current reference materials, including books, articles, professional journals, photos, and other relevant documents. Education: Bachelor's degree in biological sciences and certification in technical writing preferred Initial training: One year writing, editing, and proofreading experience; print production knowledge helpful. Works closely with: Instructional Designers, Education Director and Manager, curators, Public Relations department, Photo Services department, Graphics department, Marketing Services department, and contractors. Challenges: Often, there are several projects due simultaneously, thus long-term planning and commitment is essential to maintaining schedules. At times, there are unexpected tight deadlines which require long hours with continuous attention to detail. Because of the in-depth interaction with other departments, the writer must have solid and strong interpersonal and verbal skills.

Educator Main job duties: Educators in a zoological park narrate and answer questions at animal exhibits and during special animal presentations. They also provide guided tours for the public. Their knowledge level of all the animals and exhibits must constantly remain current. As Educators gain experience in the park, they can become Instructors in the department. Instructors teach the special programs sponsored by the department for school groups. Education: Working toward degree in biological sciences. Initial training: Three years working with the public in a service-oriented job, and public speaking experience. Works closely with: Instructional Designers, animal services departments, and Public Relations department. Challenges: This position is one of the more visible positions in a zoological park. The Educator is often the first person guests will approach with animal-related questions. Despite long hours, weekly schedule changes, and unpredictable weather, interpretive duties must be performed in a consistent, accurate, informative, and entertaining manner. Diplomacy and strong public relations skills are needed to deal with guests and large groups.

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