This past summer, 10 teens (ages 15-17) got the chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work at the Toronto Zoo and learn more about fighting climate change, thanks to a partnership between the Zoo and WoodGreen.
The youth took part in the Climate Action Learning and Leadership Project (CALL), funded by the Government of Canada’s Climate Action and Awareness Fund (CAAF), which supports and engages youth from underrepresented communities to take action to combat climate change.
“This unique experience gave these youth a chance to increase their awareness of the important conservation work that the Zoo is doing,” said Nadjib Alamyar, WoodGreen’s Manager of Newcomer Wellness. “Even more, it gave them valuable work and leadership skills and opportunities for further involvement at the Zoo.”
“While the youth were at the Zoo, we demonstrated the Zoo’s role as a leader in conservation and developed the next generation of engaged conservationists,” said Dolf DeJong, CEO of the Toronto Zoo. “We hope participants now see the Zoo as a valuable member of the community and recognize that the Zoo is a place where they have a seat at the table in the fight to conserve the natural world.”
WHAT YOUTH HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE
During the four-week program, the youth had the opportunity to rotate through various areas of the Zoo, produce content for social media, conduct virtual field trips for external youth groups, and collaborate with community partners in their neighbourhoods, all while gaining valuable hands-on work experience. WoodGreen also offered volunteer hours for participating youth to encourage them to participate and remain engaged throughout the process.
One of those youth was Ali Sidiqqui, a student from Agincourt Collegiate Institute. Ali, who is 15-years-old, first heard about the program from his mom and decided to pursue the opportunity. While at the Zoo, he worked with other youth to develop presentations and brochures about how plastic pollution impacts the environment.
Not only did Ali learn more about the problem of plastic waste while doing the project, but he also gained more confidence in his public speaking skills.
“I feel that my talking skills have improved a bit. Prior to the program, I was very introverted and shy,” he said.
Meanwhile Samia Hussain, also 15-years-old, decided to be part of the leadership program because she thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about climate change and animals.
“I have always been interested in animals and wondering how zoos functioned,” said Samia, who is a student at East York Collegiate.
One of Samia’s favourite parts about her time at the zoo was being able to go behind the scenes, which sometimes included fun opportunities like taking a selfie with an animal or touching it.
THE PROGRAM COULD LEAD TO MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE YOUTH
Samia is interested in working with animals in the future, which aligns well with one of the goals of the program: to be a starting point for these youth and their involvement in conservation.
“Our hope is these experiences will flow into additional opportunities for these youth, such as integrating them into our volunteer program at the Toronto Zoo and/or other partner volunteer opportunities, and further provide them with hands-on experiences when applying for positions at the Zoo and elsewhere,” said Mussa Yussuf, the Climate Action Learning & Leadership Supervisor with the Toronto Zoo.
WoodGreen offers a variety of programs for youth. To learn more about our youth programs, click here.