Future Zoo course wins educational award

A joint programme organised by Future U alongside Blackpool Zoo and Myerscough College has won an award for inspiring students to take up careers working with animals.

Future Zoo teaches school students about wildlife conservation and zoology careers while giving them hands-on work experience at Blackpool Zoo.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) granted the programme its gold award at its annual awards after more than half of the students who took part said they were more likely to apply for further education to pursue such careers when they left school.

Judges at BIAZA praised the programme for its “capacity to truly change the lives of students by raising their aspirations and improving their emotional wellbeing.”

In total, 145 students took part in the three-day sessions, seven of whom had never visited a zoo before. Students learnt about identifying species, improving habitats and enclosures, research and animal training.

Theo Blackburn, Future U programme manager, said: “Future Zoo has offered pupils an incredible opportunity to learn and experience what a career at a zoo might entail, from zookeeping to conservation. The experiences the zoo offered, including feeding giraffes and zebras, and getting up close with elephants, were unforgettable and a first for many of the pupils.

"The team at Blackpool Zoo were inspirational and many of the pupils have commented on how much they appreciated the trip and are now considering a career working with animals in the future."

Rebecca Reynolds, head of education at Blackpool Zoo, said: "The students relished the learning opportunities on offer to them, they were inspired by real life conservation stories and enthusiastic to learn about animals and their welfare. Our research also highlighted that green space and connection with animals had a positive effect on their mental health and sense of wellbeing.

"Important life skills were also taken from the course, which are vitally important for young people as they prepare to progress further into education or employment.

“The results far exceeded our expectations as we aimed for 25 per cent of students to have raised aspirations, this figure increased to over 90 per cent, which is fantastic."

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