Taronga Foundation

Thanks to the vision of the James N. Kirby Foundation in supporting innovation in education, students at Taronga Zoo can now experience the wonder of the rainforest first-hand!

It has been a full year since the Taronga Institute of Science and Learning (The Institute) opened, and this unique space is proving itself as a collaborative hub, where great minds meet and great ideas are born and executed. Authentic learning experiences align with curriculum priority areas, reinforce conservation messaging and have an underlying focus on connecting students with wildlife and the environment. The Institute also showcases conservation role models, encouraging students to consider a career in STEM fields.

Three immersive habitat classrooms at The Institute provide an unparalleled learning environment and have transformed formal education at Taronga Zoo. The habitat classrooms, themed around the rainforest (generously supported by the James N. Kirby Foundation) woodland and desert environments, combine cutting edge technology with animal exhibits, translocating students to the animals’ natural environment and giving them a unique opportunity to interact with wildlife. In each room, animals move freely around the space and are conditioned to display natural behaviours, which generates curiosity in visiting students and encourages development of critical skills. More than 100,000 students per year engage in formal education programs at Taronga, and more than 20,000 students have enjoyed workshops in the immersive habitat classrooms to-date.

Home to Cotton-top tamarins, tortoises, Bleeding-heart pigeons and Nicobar pigeons, the rainforest classroom is the only classroom to exhibit exotic species. Student activities in the rainforest room include observation and cataloguing of animal behaviour and applying this information, using the STEM design process, to develop enrichment for the animals. Feedback from students and teachers, has been overwhelmingly positive: the opportunity to learn through close observation of animals, in an environment closely mimicking their natural habitat is truly inspiring the next generation of conservationists.

Taronga Foundation thanks the James N. Kirby Foundation sincerely, for its ongoing support of Taronga’s work at this critical time for wildlife conservation.

Dee Vodden
Trusts and Foundations Officer