Wendy Green Foley, the Zoo Snooze coordinator and community education specialist at the North Carolina Zoo, has completed the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program and is eager to put her new knowledge to use. By completing this certification, Foley says she has built a knowledge base for future careers.
As a zookeeper for 15 years, Foley has had many experiences that led to her wanting to share her passion with others as an educator. “I have worked with everything from invertebrates to reptiles to vampire bats to owls to ocelots to polar bears to beluga whales and even a 3,000-pound walrus named E.T.,” said Foley. “I have walked 300-pound big cats on a leash, trained a camel for a movie, and helped hand raise a baby siamang. The list goes on and on. I want to show others how incredible our natural world is. So, my zookeeper talks to the public got longer and longer...and that is when I realized that I should consider the education field. I have been an educator at the zoo for almost three years and I LOVE it!”
Foley says one of her favorite part of earning her certification was learning about topics outside of her animal world. “I loved traveling across the state visiting other facilities and was in awe of the parks, reserves, museums and nature areas we have access to. But, my favorite thing was meeting all the different people who wanted to teach their passions to others. Incredible people doing incredible things!” said Foley.
For her community partnership project, Foley worked with the Asheboro YMCA Community Garden. The garden produces about 400 pounds of food each year to help the local community, but was having issues with insects and pests eating the plants. With help from kids in the after-school program, the North Carolina Zoo and YMCA staff, Foley built and installed multiple bird and bat boxes in the area around the garden. She also facilitated a program about animals we can find in our own backyards that can help our gardens grow, where she discussed snakes, owls, bees, birds and bats. After the kids helped install the boxes, they were rewarded with a fresh-from-the-ground carrot for all their hard work.
After working at a zoo for so long, Foley now feels equipped to do many other jobs, including working as an environmental educator at a nature center, city park or other similar sites. Earning her certification helped Foley expand her focus beyond just animals. “I now look to the bigger picture first. How that bigger picture trickles down and effects the other parts of this big moving entity.”