My Experience as an Education Intern

Becoming the children’s program intern was one of the best experiences I’ve had to date. While I was there, not only was I able to help the campers learn the curriculum, I was able to become animal handling certified, do many behind the scenes activities, and perform some basic husbandry for the newly opened goat yard.

It’s been my dream for some time to become a zookeeper and this internship was my foot in the door. Some of my favorite days at the Virginia Zoo were when I was able to go “behind the scenes.” I was able to pet an Aldabra Tortoise, hold the canvas for Cita the elephant while she painted, watch many training sessions, and feed a giraffe! education intern2

A few weeks into the internship, the other education interns and I were given the opportunity to become animal handling certified for certain program animals. In addition to learning the handling methods of these animals, I learned the nature of those species and their signs of stress. Soon, I was putting these skills to use, going on outreach programs and presenting the animals to the public and in-zoo camp kids. I loved being able to educate them on all these wonderful animals and clear up any questions they may have had. Every single day I was there I learned something new. I was like a sponge!

Once the goat yard and immersive Australia exhibit were opened, I had weekly shifts caring for goats and making sure all of the guests were following proper protocols in both the goat and kangaroo yard. Here, I also talked to the public about the animals in these exhibits. Throughout the internship, I worked on an intern project where I tested the effectiveness of hands-on learning on the camp kids. I formulated a few activities that showed specific adaptations of certain animals and then tested the campers’ retention of that information. I loved working closely with the kids and being a source of their enjoyment.

The Virginia Zoo is a place that I will always look back at as the beginning of my inspiration to work with exotic species and be more active in conservation. I highly recommend any college student interested in the animal field to apply!

Wendy Zolinski

About Education Internships at the Virginia Zoo

The Virginia Zoo’s Education Department provides students opportunities to intern throughout the year. Each internship is a three to four month commitment during which interns will be introduced to all aspects of conservation education in a Zoo setting. Learn more about internship opportunities at the Virginia Zoo.