Environment Minister Robyn Parker today (Monday, 25 February) farewelled 45 Sydney high school students from the platform of Parramatta Railway Station as they began a ground breaking journey to Dubbo’s zoo to study wildlife and conservation.
The students, from Canterbury Boys High School, will participate in a unique conservation education program called “Endanger Ranger” at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo which will involve a sleepover and encounters with reptiles, African Rhinoceros and apes.
Ms Parker said the students are the first from the inner-Sydney region to undertake the NSW Government’s special program which aims to place 3,300 Year 8 students in “Endanger Ranger” over the next four months.
“Students are introduced to life skills including leadership, group work, citizenship and sustainable practice as well as key areas of the curriculum, specifically in the Science, HSIE and Environmental Science areas,” Ms Parker said.
“They enter a rich learning environment through a program that includes elements of both African and Aboriginal culture at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. They’ll travel with CountryLink and sleep overnight at the Zoo where they will later encounter a wide range of animals from Australian reptiles to African Rhinoceros and primates.
“This is good news for the NSW Government as we’re continuing to fulfil a promise to people in Sydney that students there will get access to conservation education opportunities utilising one of NSW’s great zoos.”
Ms Parker said the program began 16 months ago in Western Sydney and was extended last year to include inner Sydney schools.
“This special education experience focussing on wildlife encounters will galvanise these students to take action for conservation and it represents a great investment in the future of wildlife and the environment,” Ms Parker said.
Taronga has provided iPads to help the students capture information allowing them to develop a short conservation-focused film or presentation that can be shared with local partner primary school students.
“This special mentoring model has been successfully pioneered by the Taronga People and Learning Department with its focus on local student communities supporting the conservation of wildlife,” Ms Parker said.
“It has included the Little Penguins on Sydney’s northern beaches, Regent Honeyeaters at Capertee in NSW and Chiltern in Northern Victoria, Booroolong Frogs around Tumbarumba and Platypus in the Orana region around Dubbo.”
Since the program began on 17 October, 2011, a total 2235 students and 234 teachers have undertaken the wildlife studies at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
A further 495 students and 50 teachers are scheduled to complete the program by April 30, 2013 with another 570 students and 55 teachers expected to complete the program by June 30.
Taronga’s education programs already reach over 150,000 students at both Zoos with curriculum-focussed conservation education programs tailored for students from pre-school to secondary levels.