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Inspiring Environmental Stewardship

We're inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards.

Mindy Wagner, Interpretation Manager at Butterfly Pavilion, highlights the importance of environmental stewardship and how zoos like Butterfly Pavilion are leading the way in inspiring the community to care for the natural world.

Inspiring Environmental Stewardship

By Mindy Wagner, Interpretation Manager at Butterfly Pavilion

A few months ago when I was walking through Lair o’ the Bear Park with my bonus kids, we noticed a honey bee drinking from the river. The bee looked tiny compared to the surrounding rocks, sticks and our dog, Pepper. But despite all this, we were all captivated by this bee. We got down on our bellies (at a safe distance) and watched this bee for what seemed like minutes (anyone with small kiddos can understand how impressive that is). Ever since this moment, the kids have looked differently at bees. Instead of “Ahh a bee!” I hear “Look at that cute bee!” Instead of squashing the bee they are simply watching the bee in an aerial dance on its search for food. Every day at Butterfly Pavilion we strive to make similar meaningful connections that inspire guests of all ages and provide real attainable actions everyone can take to protect animals and the environment – to become environmental stewards.

I do often worry that “environmental stewardship” feels like an unattainable goal to many people. Our lives are busy and costs are always a consideration, but much like our small but mighty animals, small but mighty conscious decisions to take action do make a difference and can lead to more long-term environmental stewardship around us. But what inspires people to take these actions, especially with animals like spiders and beetles? Butterfly Pavilion believes creating meaningful interactions with these animals is crucial to inspiring guests. This happens through touch experiences in our exhibits, live animal shows, outreach programs and on-site classes. We encourage a fearful child to hold a tarantula for the first time and watch them light up with curiosity and amazement. We engage students to ask questions after watching a mantis shrimp obliterate its dinner. These programs and more at Butterfly Pavilion and zoos around the United States successfully influence attitudes about conservation and stewardship (Yerke and Burns, 1991 and Davison et al., 1993.)

Zoos and aquariums have come a long way from our controversial past. We no longer seek to simply entertain but are instead a hub for environmental research, conservation and education programs. Visits to zoos, like Butterfly Pavilion, prompt individuals to reconsider their role in environmental problems and conservation action, while helping them to see themselves as part of the solution (Faulk et al., 2007.) It is our responsibility as a zoo to provide our guests with knowledge and opportunities that actively promote conservation action. Below is a list of the many small and large opportunities Butterfly Pavilion provide to support our guests on their environmental stewardship journey.

  • Ocean Conservation – Do you love seafood? Visit the Water’s Edge exhibit at Butterfly Pavilion to learn about choosing sustainable seafood and many other conservation actions you can take to protect the health of our oceans, even from Colorado!
  • Recycling and Compost – Which bin does that trash go in? We offer guests opportunities to learn about recycling and composting both at Butterfly Pavilion and at home.
  • Plastic Bag Pledge Days – Can you ditch the plastic bag? Join Butterfly Pavilion on November 17th from 10-3 for your opportunity to pledge to use only reusable bags and receive a free cloth bag for your next grocery store trip.
  • Colorado Backyard – Our new exhibit opening at Butterfly Pavilion in March of 2019 will provide even more ideas and opportunities for conservation actions right here in Colorado.
  • Citizen Science, Habitat Clean Up, and Habitat Restoration – Programs including the Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network and the Urban Prairies Project allow committed individuals to get their hands dirty and help the plants and animals around Butterfly Pavilion and throughout Colorado. We also offer many one day habitat restoration projects, senior habitat gardening, and river clean up opportunities throughout the year. Keep checking butterflies.org for more information.
  • Science Classes and Talks – Beekeeping Bootcamp, Nature Journaling, Scout Days, Camps and the Nature Nerds Family Club are just a few of the many classes that provide individuals and families opportunities for exploration and investigation into our natural world and how to care for it. Check out our upcoming children and family programs and our adult programs.
  • On-site Programming – All programs at Butterfly Pavilion offer conservation messaging and actions. Learn about ways to protect the rainforests and coral reefs and why that is so crucial to our survival as humans at our daily programs and World Conservation Days throughout the year.

While zoos and aquariums have achieved great success in conservation and environmental stewardship, there is still work to do (Marino et al. 2010.) If we want to continue to build and foster environmental stewardship in younger generations, zoos must provide on-site science career education and training (Gang, J.) This is an important goal for Butterfly Pavilion as we transition to the Center for Invertebrate Research and Conservation (CIRC), the new state-of-the-art facility we’ll be opening in Broomfield in 2022. Butterfly Pavilion at CIRC will be across the street from a STEM school with whom we will partner to offer hands-on active classrooms, not only teaching, but demonstrating and actively involving school aged children in conservation actions.

I’m so happy that my bonus children, and thousands of other individuals every year, have the opportunity to participate in the many programs that organizations like Butterfly Pavilion provide, which inspire taking a more active role in ensuring the natural world is protected for the future.

I want to hear what you think! Does Butterfly Pavilion inspire and support you and your family in taking steps towards environmental stewardship? Take the survey here!

Learning More

For information about participating in any of our education programs, please contact the Department of Education at 720-974-1861 or registrar@butterflies.org .

For information about volunteering with education or interpretation programs, please contact the Department of Education at 720-974-1861 or registrar@butterflies.org .

Contributions to all areas of Education in any amount are welcome and provide important, direct support to the costs of annual programming. For information about supporting Butterfly Pavilion’s educational programs, please contact 720.974.1863 or pmcmullenbushman@butterflies.org .

Sources

Falk, J.H.; Reinhard, E.M.; Vernon, C.L.; Bronnenkant, K.; Deans, N.L.; Heimlich, J.E., (2007). Why Zoos & Aquariums Matter: Assessing the Impact of a Visit. Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Silver Spring, MD.

Marino, L.; Lilienfeld, S.O.; Malamud, R.; Nobis, N.; Brogliod, R., (2010). Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors? A Critical Evaluation of the American Zoo and Aquarium Study. Society and Animals 18: 126-138.

Gang, J. From Exhibit to Classroom: Transitioning Zoos and Aquariums for the Twenty-First Century. Center for Humans and Nature. Available at https://www.humansandnature.org/from-exhibit-to-classroom-transitioning-zoos-and-aquariums-for-the-twenty-first-century

Davison, V.M.; McMahon, L.; Skinner, T.L.; Horton, C.M.; Parks, B.J., (1993). Animals as actors: take 2. Annual Proceedings of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, 150-155.

Yerke, R.; Burns, A., (1991). Measuring the impact of animal shows on visitor attitudes. Annual Proceedings of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, 532-534.

Povey, K.; Winsten, K., (2015) CEC Ambassador Animal Position Statement. Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Available at https://www.aza.org/cec-ambassador-animal-position-statement

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