Conservation Education Initiatives in China
Academy for Conservation Training (ACT)
Funded by The UPS Foundation, Zoo Atlanta’s award-winning Academy for Conservation Training (ACT) is a professional development program created by invitation of the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) to serve as an in-country capacity building complement to Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda loan program. The goal of ACT is to provide a network of professional zoo educators in China with the skills, knowledge and tools to support their conservation missions through education. Prior to the launch of ACT in 2006, the majority of zoos in China did not have functioning education departments or trained educators on staff. Zoo Atlanta developed ACT and collaborated with CAZG to conduct six traveling workshops for educators representing more than 50 of China’s top zoos.
The core component of ACT is a five-day education primer covering culturally relevant best practices in zoo education, including program design and implementation, evaluation methods, conservation messages and interpretive techniques. ACT also includes a practical component focused on training on a specific model program and implementing that strategy with an audience, as hands-on practice and confidence are critical to graduates’ abilities to replicate or adapt these programs at their respective institutions.
As a final program initiative in 2009, Zoo Atlanta and CAZG launched a Small Grant Program that awarded the Changchun, Jiamusi and Jinan Zoos with start-up funds to support educators in applying their ACT training. As planned, Zoo Atlanta transferred ACT management to CAZG that same year. The program has progressed with the transfer of instruction from the western ACT team to experienced Chinese educators, and in May 2011, continued with its first Chinese-led workshop.
Zoo Atlanta & Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG)
Since the launch of ACT in 2006, the program has produced 201 graduates from 26 of the 34 regions in China. Graduates represent 45 zoos and wildlife parks, collectively reaching more than 40 million visitors a year.
Evaluations indicate that ACT has significant potential to make an impact on the establishment of the zoo education profession in China, and graduates have since begun to establish a professional network supporting this emerging field.