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A Q&A with... Marwell Wildlife

Date Posted: 22/08/2014

School group at Marwell Zoo.

Francesca Smith, KS1-3 education officer at Marwell Wildlife, reveals more about the educational activities available at the zoo.

Marwell Wildlife is a conservation charity based near Winchester in Hampshire.

As well as co-ordinating a range of species and habitat conservation programmes locally and internationally, Marwell Wildlife runs a successful zoo where school children can see over 160 different species of animals.

Q: How long has there been an education department at Marwell Zoo?

A: One of Marwell’s key organisational aims is to “inspire care for nature” so education has always been at the heart of what we do.

The zoo has catered for school visits ever since its opening in 1972. The first Marwell Education Centre was established in Marwell’s tenth anniversary year. Now we are proud to say that we have one of the largest zoo education teams in the country, with 13 permanent members of staff.

Q: How many school trips do you host each year?

A: On average, we welcome over 40,000 school pupils to Marwell each year.

That includes education groups ranging from nursery and pre-school age, all the way up to further education and A-level students.

We also deliver around 1,000 interactive workshops in our custom-built Education Centre to visiting classes throughout the year.

Q: What kind of workshops and activities can school groups participate in?

A: There is so much to do and explore on a visit to Marwell Zoo. Aside from simply taking in the sights, sounds, and even smells of the animals themselves, there is a range of activities on offer for school groups.

To really get up close and personal with some of Marwell’s smaller animals, the best way is to book a workshop in the Education Centre.

These interactive sessions are all curriculum-linked, and cover a variety of topics such as Adaptation, Rainforests and Conservation.

Looking at the animals at Marwell Zoo.

The children will have the opportunity to see and feel some real animal artefacts, as well as up to three live animals (depending on the topic).

The education page of the Marwell website is also filled with free downloadable trails, quizzes and resources to help you get the most out of your visit.

And for those that would rather do without worksheets on the day itself, we have a number of Discovery Boxes that can be booked in advance, free of charge.

The Discovery Boxes are large treasure chests dotted around the zoo, jam-packed full of activity ideas and props to help you discover more about the adaptations of favourite animals such as penguins, lemurs and cheetah.

There will also be a variety of animal talks and feeds taking place throughout the day, led by our knowledgeable Public Engagement Team.

Q: What is new at the zoo?

A: This year we have been focusing on updating our workshops and developing new session topics, such as KS2 Life Cycles, to ensure that what we offer is fully linked to the new 2014 National Curriculum.

We have also trialled taking school groups on interactive guided tours, to enhance the Learning Outside the Classroom opportunities available at the zoo. We have learnt a lot from these initial trials, and aim to develop new tours soon.

Looking forward to 2015, we have a very exciting project planned called Wild Explorers. This new, state-of-the-art exhibit will reveal three of Marwell’s key conservation species like never before: white rhinos, Grevy’s zebra and scimitar-horned oryx. Watch this space.

Q: How do you help teachers prepare for visits?

A: The best way to prepare for a trip to Marwell is to take advantage of our ‘free recce visit’ offer for teachers.

Just complete the school details form on our website and print out the resulting voucher to come in and decide on the best day plan for your pupils.


Other useful information on the Marwell website includes: a handy Teachers’ Visit Guide, printable zoo map, ready-made risk assessment guidelines, and all the pricing details for planning your trip.

Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather – but just in case the heavens do decide to open on the day of your visit, we have prepared a wet weather map to guide you around the various undercover areas here at the zoo.

Q: What makes a great educational visit?

A: We believe that a great education visit is one which delivers memorable encounters which stay with the children long after they return to school.

Many children that visit Marwell Zoo come from built-up, urban areas where they rarely have the chance to experience the wonders of nature firsthand.

And who wouldn’t be inspired by memories of the lovable penguins waddling to their pool, or the playful meerkats digging for food? It really does bring the curriculum to life!

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