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Which Are Scarier, Animals or Teenagers? By, By Emma Molinare, Interpretive Programs Keeper at Lindsay Wildlife

Jan 02, 2017 02:02PM ● Published by Elena Hutslar

By Emma Molinare, Interpretive Programs Keeper at Lindsay Wildlife

Some people say I have the scariest job at Lindsay Wildlife Experience. They don’t say this because I work with animals with sharp teeth and big claws. People tell me this because I work with teenagers – 56 of them to be exact.

 

Lindsay Wildlife Experience has offered a teen program since the 1980s. Hundreds of teenagers are alumni and have gone on to work in careers as animal keepers, postdoctoral researchers, and museum exhibit managers. Presently, the Interpretive Guide Programs provides teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 the chance to be a modern day animal keeper. The interpretive guides are responsible for caring for Lindsay’s domestic animal collection and engaging the guests in educational presentations with our wildlife collection.

Our interpretive guides clean the animals’ enclosures, make diets, create fun enrichment (toys for the animals), provide simple medical exams, and take them outside for exercise. The animals benefit from having this special care and are able to experience many novel situations.

 

The teenagers also benefit from the program. The program teaches them many important skills such as record keeping, punctuality, and how to work with others. In the words of one of our veteran interpretive guides, “I have gained leadership skills by helping newer interpretive guides. Giving presentations on the floor improved my public speaking skills. I feel I grow as a person throughout each year as an interpretive guide.”

 

 In addition, the teens learn greater appreciation for the world around them. In a survey, the interpretive guides expressed having a greater respect and awareness of the natural world after volunteering at Lindsay. As one interpretive guide put it, “I am more aware of the importance of allowing animals to be left in their natural environment and educating the public on why we should keep these animals wild.”

 

Another shared, “I now know more of the reasons why animals are becoming endangered. There is a lot more that one person can do to help than people would believe.”

 

Teenagers get a bad rap. “Grown ups” complain that teenagers are constantly plugged into their phone, don’t like to go outside, and don’t care about the future.  What the older generations may fail to notice is that these young minds are still being molded. The experiences they have in their teen years have a huge influence in shaping the adults they will become and the impact that they will have on their community.

And while some people might think there is nothing more frightening than a room full of 56 teenagers, I disagree. Working with teenagers gives me the opportunity to mentor these children and help them to grow into confident, environmentally conscious, and successful young adults.  And there is nothing scary about that.

 

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