What does APEX host site life look like during COVID-19? That depends on the partnering organization. For many, it means that allowing student associates into the office is suspended for the time being, but for the Blank Park Zoo, it looks like business as usual. Well, business with masks on and social distancing measures in place.
The Waukee APEX program is grateful for the continued opportunity to work on-site at the Blank Park Zoo twice a week. Being at the zoo allows student associates in the Animal and Veterinary Science course to gain hands-on experience when it comes to zoo life. Student associates are always eager to research and explore exotic animals as well as zoo careers. While some student associates express their appreciation for their time at the zoo because it gives them something to look forward to in their day, others appreciate that this type of learning helps to keep them engaged. Aleeza Ahmar, Waukee APEX student associate, explains, “Working at host sites through APEX helps create experiences, which makes it easier to learn and retain information.”
The mission of Blank Park Zoo is to inspire an appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education, research, and recreation. The relationship with APEX is mission-centric as APEX student associates have opportunities to learn about the animals and the zoo’s conservation efforts, while also being engaged in real research projects. APEX’s involvement also helps support the zoo’s special events that have been created for the enjoyment of the community. Finally, APEX associates are introduced to unique careers in bioscience, conservation, biology, animal husbandry, and veterinary medicine. Christine Eckles, Chief Engagement Officer for the Blank Park Zoo, shares, “The Blank Park Zoo is proud to work with the associates in the Waukee APEX program. As the partnership has grown, so has the associates’ understanding of the Zoo’s mission and the part they play in it. Associates have added value to our research program through their observations and data collection, while also leading by example and taking action as participants in our saving wildlife conservation programs. Together APEX and Blank Park Zoo are making small changes that will have a lasting impact.”
The opportunities and exploration that continue to occur amidst the COVID-19 crisis provide huge benefits to our APEX student associates. Waukee junior, Alexis Bone shares, “Coming to the zoo is a great opportunity! We gain hands-on learning experiences while also being able to talk to professionals that have a lot of background.” With continued mitigation strategies in place, the program partnership with the zoo as a host site can remain the same throughout this school year and for many years to come.
For more information on virtual programming opportunities, zoo hours, and mitigation strategies for COVID-19, please visit their website at www.blankparkzoo.com.