These two factors are very important at the refuge. Of course, we are first and foremost indebted to everyone that visits or helps in any way and through our education and conservation programmes we can very much ‘give back’ to the local and wider community. We promote public education and awareness by providing information about our animals, both the exotics and British wildlife in respect of conservation biodiversity through information panels, educational talks and field trips here. We work with a wide range of groups, from schools to companies; youth groups e.g. scouts, Duke of Edinburgh students to WI and elderly peoples’ clubs.
Our volunteers, supporters and students have ranged from 14 yrs to 81 yrs; everyone has skills and benefits they can bring, even if they are not quite sure what these are when they arrive! Many with special needs or disabilities have also benefitted in return over the years as they have said they can connect with animals in a way that does not happen with people and this has helped then build more confidence and develop skills that greatly help them in other areas of their life.
At the Exotic Pet Refuge we are committed to offering a range of high quality educational experiences. Some of what is on offer is as follows:
- Curriculum based sessions; we can offer sessions on a variety of subjects which will support other curriculum work.
- Special species or animal workshops these can be based on just one particular animal here or several of the same species from our mammals, birds or reptiles.
- For younger students in 2012 we are planning a petting section at the sanctuary so that the care of handling of pets and domesticated animals can be learnt.
- Art and photography sessions including drawing and painting using any of our animals as subjects.
- Animal handling experiences, we usually do this as part of our work with schools within the framework of assemblies or classroom presentations, coupled with this will be a talk about the species, its natural habitat and the issues it may face in the wild, also including a question and answer session.
- Guided educational tours of the sanctuary.
- Sessions to enhance learning, based on specific projects that students may already have underway.
- Work experience placements, this is valued as an enrichment to the curriculum. It provides the individual with an insight into the world of work, a new role and a new set of experiences. The proven success of the scheme undoubtedly broadens the perspectives of many teenagers and assists the transition between school and work.
We support the aims of the Learning Outside the Classroom (LotC) Manifesto and very strongly believe that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances.
Making learning more engaging – It can sometimes be difficult to keep kids on task in the classroom here they can study a species for example a corn snake, ask why does it rest under a rock, learn about its’ habitat and why it does this, then go back to the classroom with their reasoned answers from a live setting.
Make learning relevant - Many concepts which seem too difficult to get a grasp of in the classroom are a lot easier to understand in the big wide world when they are set in context, and when the students are more engaged and motivated to understand and learn.
Nurture creativity and imagination – Taking kids beyond the classroom is like unclipping their wings. Suddenly their minds are free to explore and you can often end up with some very creative results.
Improve attendance and behaviour – By building in outside visits into your curriculum and engage and motivate pupils to learn, this has been proven to give more motivation and interest. This is an important part of the students developing as responsible citizens.
Summary - Learning outside of the classroom can provide learning experiences that won’t be forgotten fast, being outside in the fresh air and getting exercise at the same time.
Learning outside the classroom is about achievement through an organised, powerful approach to learning in which direct experience is of prime importance. It is not only about what we learn but importantly how and where we learn.