British Science Week Skype sessions go down a storm

by Anonymous (not verified) on

By Charlotte Coales, Public Engagement Coordinator

We’ve had a great time marking British Science Week 2019 at ZSL!  For the first time ever, we ran Skype sessions for secondary school students from both ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Which kept us busy(!) but was incredibly rewarding for everyone involved.

Photograph of the Tim and Charlotte presenting from within the sealion encl
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo keeper Tim Savage and Public Engagement Coordinator Charlotte Coales prepare to Skype with a school group from the Sealion enclosure.

Skype sessions give us the opportunity to reach students who, for whatever reason, are unable to visit our zoos (we connected with students in Glasgow, Geneva and the USA this week as well as several schools in and around London).  We know that secondary school teachers in particular find it hard to take classes out of school for a whole day, so our Skype sessions are flexible and can be timed to fit in with regular science lessons.

The Skype sessions we run during British Science Week (and also Biology Week) each year, give secondary school students the opportunity to engage directly with ZSL experts.  It gives them an insight into animal/wildlife related careers and encourages them to ask their own questions.

Before each Skype, teachers are sent information about the ZSL expert they and their students are going to meet, so they can prepare questions and know what to expect.

In London this week, it was an opportunity for students to chat to our conservationists and PhD students, discussing university and degree choices and sharing advice on how to get into this area of work.  We covered various topics including Native Oyster Restoration, cetacean strandings and pollution and the recovery of threatened island species.  When asked what advice they would give school students interested in pursuing a similar career path, one PhD student said 'put yourself in a place where you can be lucky', in other words, make the most of every opportunity and encounter, because you never know where it may lead you.

Photograph of Ruth & Theresa in front of a laptop, talking to students.
Discovery and Learning Officer Ruth Desforges and PhD student Theresa Robinson share an entertaining story while talking to students during a Skype call.

Meanwhile, at Whipsnade, we piloted Skype sessions with some of our keepers, talking about careers in animal husbandry and how to get into this popular and consequently competitive field. Their advice?  Keep trying (and don’t give up!) and be prepared to take seasonal/temporary roles because they’ll allow you to gain important experience.

The feedback has been really positive, with my favourite comment from one teacher being 'Charlotte and Tim were extremely engaging in their discussion with our students. They talked at the student's level which was so good to see as sometimes speakers can pitch their talks a little over the students' heads! They had a brilliant professional manner and managed to answer all the student's questions (even the odd ones!). It was so interesting to see them in the zoo environment with the sea lions in the background, the young ones loved that! Thank you so much, I will definitely recommend this to colleagues at other schools.'

From one-to-one sessions to large assembly hall groups, this week we have run 17 different Skype sessions and reached nearly 400 students. It’s been great!

Photograph of Tyrone holding up a stick insect to the camera.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo keeper Tyrone Capel and Discovery & Learning Team Leader Sam Viner introduce students, watching via Skype, to a large stick insect.

If you’re a secondary school teacher and keen to give your secondary school students the chance to speak to our experts in the future, please sign up for our education email (which goes out twice a term) or check out the link below.

Scientist and keeper in your classroom

Details of how to sign up for free sessions during Biology Week (this October) will be announced closer to the time via email and the website.

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