Hands-on as a CYT

Every summer, the Virginia Zoo offers youth a chance to get involved at the Zoo, to become more hands on with conservation efforts and learn to be an environmental steward of the future.

The Virginia Zoo’s Conservation Youth Team (CYT) is a youth development program for high schoolers that provides important volunteer services to the Zoo, our guests and our communities. During a fun and intense one-week training at the beginning of summer, teens learn their way around the Zoo, the basics of conservation and ecology and how to interpret to Zoo guests. For the rest of the summer, CYT participants provide exhibit interpretation for Zoo guests or support summer Safari Camp programs. As a member of the Conservation Youth Team, students develop important job and life skills, build self-confidence and earn community service hours. Regular interactive experiences connect students with opportunities to better understand science and conservation in the local community.

A perk of being a CYT is working with other organizations and participating in conservation-based events. These projects allow all of our CYT volunteers to learn what other regional organizations do to further their missions.

On August 9th, the CYTs had the chance to visit the Virginia Aquarium (VAQ) where they participated in the first of three conservation events. A VAQ staff member gave the teens a presentation on how trash affects our local rivers and streams, the Chesapeake Bay and the larger marine ecosystem. Groups were formed and a trash-pickup competition commenced. After an hour of collecting, approximately 70 pounds of trash was prevented from entering our waterways.

The CYTs spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Aquarium and learning about the marine life inhabiting our local waterways to the ocean.

The teens completed three more conservation projects this summer with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Norfolk Bee Keepers Association, and the Triple R Ranch in Chesapeake.