1st July 2019

A ground breaking project which has seen a group of Cornish pupils working with Dartmoor Zoo has beaten 350 other educational projects from across the country to win Silver in this year’s national British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) awards.

Over the past two years the ‘Super Kids’ from North Cornwall academy have left their classrooms one day a week to work alongside staff at Dartmoor Zoo.

The academy is part of the WAVE Multi Academy Trust which provides high quality education for pupils in Devon and Cornwall who have been excluded from school or who are not in school for medical reasons. Teacher Andy Wilson introduced the Dartmoor Zoo project to help build the confidence, self esteem and motivation of pupils.

The project has seen the pupils spending every Thursday working alongside members of the Zoo’s maintenance team to carry out a range of practical tasks ranging from digging drains, laying underground pipes and making manholes, to edging and filling in holes in paths, mixing concrete and mortar and building fences. A second group works with members of the Zoo’s Education Department on Tuesdays on a programme which focuses on academic study rather than practical skills, with modules on animal husbandry and studying zoo animals, as well as Maths and English qualifications.

The project has now received Silver in the Education category at the prestigious BIAZA awards – much to the delight of Andy Wilson. “This is an incredible achievement for Wave and for Dartmoor Zoo “he said. “This is a very significant award in the zoo community and is the highest national award that Dartmoor Zoo has attained. We are very proud of our pupils who should be very proud of their achievements."

News of the award has also delighted staff at Dartmoor Zoo. “We are so incredibly proud of what the group has achieved whilst being at the Zoo" said Coral Jonas, Head of Discovery, Learning and Research. “It shows that an alternative learning environment like the zoo can really benefit and enhance learning. We love teaching them, the group work so hard, take every day seriously and wear the zoo uniform with pride, we couldn’t ask for more from them."

Rob Gasson, Chief Executive of Wave, added “I am so pleased for our pupil's work to be recognised in this way. This is another fantastic example of the variety of learning opportunities available in Wave."

The project’s unique mix of academic, social and practical activities, coupled with the enthusiasm and support of zoo staff and, of course, access to the animals, is transforming the lives of the young people taking part and Andy Wilson is delighted at the opportunity to share its success with other schools and zoos and wildlife parks.

Earlier this month the Super kids spent the day at the Shaldon Wildlife Trust in Devon after receiving an invitation from one of the keepers at the charity to visit the zoo and help out with a construction task. The invite followed a presentation by the group of North Cornwall academy students about their educational project.

As a reward for their hard work the Super kids enjoyed a visit to Longleat to enable them to see other species of animals. “We were also looking for ideas we could bring back to our work" joked Andy Wilson. “Everyone had a brilliant day with highlights including taking the school minibus through the safari drive through and eventually bringing most of the bus back from the monkey enclosure!"

“The youngsters also enjoyed feeding the sea lions, trying to work out how koalas haven't gone extinct and realising just how big rhino, hippo and elephants really are. We came back with lots of ideas for our next projects and are really looking forward to putting them into action."