Participating in Animal Enrichment

I am often asked what parents need to do to get their children active, involved, and excited about volunteering.  We have been blessed that our girls have embraced our mission and that they get excited about helping others.  The process was not, and will not, be easy. There are, however, things that can be done to get children excited about volunteering.  Exposing children to service is the first step.  All individuals fear the unknown and are uncomfortable with new experiences.  Children, especially, will not want to help the disabled or the homeless if they do not understand the disabled and the homeless.  Negative perceptions and images are created when we haven’t had real life experiences.  Exposure is critical to getting buy in from a child.  Finding organizations and causes that excite your children is another great way to get them involved.  Your family may get excited about curing cancer, education, or the local community center.  The causes and the organizations that support them are probably important to you because of experiences that have touched you, your family, or friends personally.  Our family has a love for animals.  We were excited to kickoff year two with a volunteer experience at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is a non-profit that has the mission to connect children with animals while strengthening families and inspiring others to care.  It is internationally recognized for its first-class animal exhibits and hands-on activities for children.  It has been rated as a Top 10 Zoo for children by many national and international publications.  It is a popular tourist attraction and an unbelievable treasure for the Fort Wayne community.  We have been members of the zoo since moving to Fort Wayne and have spent many days enjoying the sights and the sounds.  We love the zoo and were excited to be able to help out.  We volunteered in the animal enrichment workshop.  This workshop gives families and groups a chance to create objects that stimulate animal’s interests and encourage natural behaviors.  These items are hand-crafted by the volunteers and used to enrich the lives of the zoo’s animals.  We had the opportunity to create a number of different objects.  The girls made picture collages that are used as wall hangings in the animal enclosures.  These collages consisted of pictures cut from books and magazines that were pasted onto cardboard.  We learned that most animals are afraid of snakes so no pictures of snakes were used in the collages.  We made paper braids from a roll of paper towel that animals will play with and chew on.  I got pretty good at the crochet technique, but I doubt I will be making any sweaters any time soon.  Paper mache toys and pinatas were also created and we had the opportunity to paint some of them.   These toys are given to the animals and are safe for them to chew on.  All of the materials needed during the workshop were provided and the experience was easy and enjoyable.

After completing our volunteer experience with the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo the girls stated that it was their favorite experience so far.  Why?  It is because they love animals and they were helping an organization that serves them.  It is proof that when you expose children to volunteerism and you find causes they find appealing, they will love it.  The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo offers a wide array of volunteer opportunities.  You can visit www.kidszoo.org to learn more about them.  There are two more animal enrichment workshops scheduled for this year.  If you are a family who loves animals and wants to make an impact in a short time, volunteer at the zoo and participate in animal enrichment.

Find an organization or cause that your family is passionate about and get involved.  You, and your children, will be happy that you did.

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