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A Hands-On Workshop for Grown-Ups

By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
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This morning I had the interesting task of observing one of our Ethical Taxidermy workshops.  I was thrilled to be able to offer such a wonderful hands-on inquiry workshop and even more thrilled to observe the adults fully engaged and enjoying this non-traditional course.  All zoos’ use biofacts for teaching.  Some biofacts are taxidermied animals, some are skulls, and some are furs.  The actual definition of a biofact is: dead material of a once living organism. In fact, biofacts are promoted by the Association of Zoos and Aquarium as useful education tools, and are preferable to live animals in some teaching situations because of potential ethical considerations.

Biofacts are not so easy to come by. There is often “biofact envy” between zoo education departments.  I have eyed some pretty fantastic primate skulls at a Midwestern zoo and I know zoo educators that really want my giraffe heart in a jar or our precious taxidermied Whooping Crane.  All of these items are extremely important in teaching zoo visitors about the wonderful physical features on exotic animals.  They are also treated with respect by educators and considered priceless.

As cool as biofacts are, I personally have never been interested in doing the work to make a biofact.  Luckily, there are people who do enjoy this kind of science. Our Ethical Taxidermy class is full of these people.  They are intently listening to instructions and words thrown out such as lateral cut, cavity, scalpel, pectoral girdle and more.  They are concentrating on doing it right and hanging on every word from their instructor.  They are learning animal biology and anatomy. I think students who have a teacher that takes a workshop like this are pretty lucky. Their teacher understands hands-on inquiry and real science. 

Look for more teacher workshops and adult courses at our website: www.auduboninstitute.org.  Connecting people to nature is done in many ways for all types of audiences.  If you have an idea for a workshop or course let me know. bwalken@auduboninstitute.org

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