EPIC ZOO Experience
AAUW mentor Lindy Edmond, student Melissa Ellis, AAUW mentor Melinda Garcia, Big Bear Alpine Zoo curator, Bob Cisneros,
AAUW director, Jill
Myers, AAUW mentor Linda Bulman, student Kelly Mount, AAUW mentor Karen
By Christie Walker__
Big Bear High School students
Melissa Ellis and Kelly Mount spent the week of July 16-21st working
behind-the-scenes with zookeepers in the morning, giving
presentations to zoo guests on various animals in the afternoon, and then wrote
a blog each day illustrated with their own photographs, chronicling their
experience, during the first annual Zoo
Experience Camp at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo.
The week ended with a
culmination ceremony attended by over fifty guests including local dignitaries,
school board members, zoo staff, parents and friends.
“This has been one
of the best weeks of my entire life,” said Kelly Mount on her last day of The
Zoo Experience program. I don’t want this week to be over. I learned so much
about each animal and so much about the zookeepers and what they do every day.
I honestly want to do something this important sometime in the future.”
LEFT - AAUW mentor Linda Edmond, student
Melissa Ellis and Big Bear Alpine Zoo curator, Bob Cisneros
RIGHT - Melissa Ellis (L) and Kelly Mount
(R), with The Zoo Experience director Jill Myers, also a AAUW member.
The brainchild of Big Bear
Alpine Zoo curator, Bob Cisneros, Cisneros approached the president of the
local Big Bear Valley American Association of University Women (AAUW) about
partnering on a special program for Big Bear High School girls in 2017.
Cisneros and members of AAUW worked for months creating the inaugural program.
Cisneros was pleased with the outcome of The Zoo Experience.
day, zoos all over the country make it their mission to connect people to
wildlife,” explained Cisneros. “The “Zoo Experience” took our zoo’s
mission and expanded upon it in a most profound way. An immersion
experience at the zoo gave two young women entering their senior year in high
school a week’s worth of epiphanies. The science behind what we do
in zoos as well as the emphasis that we place on conservation education made
our collaboration with AAUW a perfect partnership.”
Cisneros wasn’t the only
one happy with The Zoo Experience. "We are very pleased with the
meaningful impact that The Zoo Experience STEM camp had on our students,” said
Jill Myers, AAUW director, The Zoo Experience. “The students came away with a
clear picture and understanding of the complex environment and the many career
paths in the zoological sciences."
Ellis L) and Kelly Mount (R), listen to lead Big Bear Alpine Zoo
Keeper, Summer McElroy at the culmination ceremony
But the person has summed
up the experience best was Zoo Experience participant, Melissa Ellis. “This
whole week was one of the most amazing and insightful weeks of my life. This
experience has been filled with so much valuable information, which I'll be
able to use when considering my future profession,” said Ellis. “I
wish my week at the zoo wasn’t over, but I hope that this first Zoo Experience
has set a good foundation for the lucky girls who will get to participate in
the years to come.”
mission it is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy,
education, philanthropy, and research, has created this unique program in
conjunction with the Big Bear Alpine Zoo and has sponsored the two, high school
junior girls. With the success of the 2018 Zoo Experience program, plans are
already shaping up for 2019, with next year’s program scheduled to take place
at the new zoo.
Credit – Richard Millener