Generations of Animal Ambassadors

What’s an animal ambassador? It’s someone who "learns about animals and makes sure they are in their habitat," says Brooklyn, a fourth-grade student at Milwaukee’s Neeskara Elementary School. Brooklyn is just one of about 25,000 students who became pint-sized conservationists through the Zoological Society’s Animal Ambassador program. Launched in 1989, the program celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2009. If you estimate that each student spread the message of animal conservation to just three friends or family members, the number of people (including the students) reached by the program in the last 20 years climbs to about 100,000!

Taking a photo of a polar bear during a school visit

A student from Milwaukee’s Barton Elementary School takes a photo of a polar bear during a Zoo visit. Please see the slide show for more photos.

The program connects students (most in fourth and fifth grades) to the Zoo. Many of these children attend schools serving economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and might not get a chance to visit the Zoo otherwise. Students enjoy a visit from a Zoological Society educator at their schools, tour the Zoo several times and participate in a graduation ceremony in May. (Some second and third grades in the program visit the Zoo once, and continue the program in the fourth grade.)

Please see your October 2009 Alive magazine and the links below for past stories about the Animal Ambassador program. This Web-only section also features excerpts from the program’s newsletter, Kids to Kids, and a slide show of archived Animal Ambassador photos.

Getting Involved

If your company or organization would like information about how to sponsor a school, or if your school would like information on how to get involved, please call the ZSM's education office at (414) 258-5058.

Kids to Kids

Kids to Kids

Every year students in the Animal Ambassador program create a newsletter called Kids to Kids about what they’ve learned at the Zoo. Students serve as reporters and photographers for this project. Here’s what some of the kids in the program had to say about their experience:

Why is it important to learn about animals and the environment?
"Each animal is special and serves its purpose as part of our Earth’s ecosystem."
Family of Natalia P. of La Cause Charter School, 2007

Why is it important for you and your classmates to be an Animal Ambassador?
"Because animals can’t talk to us, and so it’s our job to speak for the animals."
Jasleen S. of Rawson Elementary School, 2001

To help save endangered animals, I would:
"Put up signs and posters telling people what is happening to the animals that are already endangered."
Elizabeth E., Whittier School, 1994

"I would like to be a scientist in Africa because I would like to teach about wildlife."
David, White Rock School, 1995

In awe by a snake

Londria White is awed by a snake at an Animal Ambassador graduation ceremony in 2004.

Why are animals important to you?
"They need help to speak because they can’t talk for themselves. So an Animal Ambassador can talk for them."
Deja of Fletcher Elementary, 2009

What have you learned while becoming an Animal Ambassador?
"I learned about animals that are endangered like the cheetah. I have also been learning about the people who work at the Zoo and the many jobs that they do."
Starchele M. of Hawley Environmental School, 1997

"I like the different instruments in the Animal Adaptations Lab. I learned where the animals live and how fast they can run."
Cameron J., Story Elementary School, 2009

What do you think is the biggest threat to wildlife?
"Habitat loss and human population. If you chop down the rain forest, it wouldn’t be fair to the animals that live there."
Monacia J. of Urban Day School, 2002

Animal Ambassador Stories

Studying an animal skeleton

Ciara Carmichael (left) and Shontierra Wren, fourth-grade students at Hawthorne Elementary School in 2006, study an animal skeleton to learn about animal adaptations. Please see the slide show for more photos.

Read about how the Animal Ambassador program has grown in these stories from past Alive magazines. Alive is the Zoological Society’s three-times-a-year member magazine. Zoological Society members can access the magazine here starting Oct.1 (please have your member number ready to log in). If you would like to become a member and get a free subscription, please see our Zoo Pass page.

"Society Launches Innovative Education Program."
(PDF - 100KB)
The Zoological Society holds a press conference to launch the Animal Ambassador program. 1990, summer issue. 

"Animal Ambassadors."
(PDF - 162KB)
The Animal Ambassador program brings kids to the Zoo. 1992, summer issue.

A series of Animal Ambassador updates and photos
(PDF - 520KB)
From Alive magazine, 1992-1996.

"Role models: Ambassadors take the job seriously."
(PDF - 880 KB)
Meet a Zoological Society educator who inspired kids to become Animal Ambassadors. 1999, spring issue.

"Junior Ambassadors: Reaching Into Schools."
(PDF - 868KB)
In 2002, the Animal Ambassador program expanded to include second and third grade classes. 2004, spring/summer issue.

"Natural Ambassadors."
(PDF - 192KB)
Follow students who went through the program in the 2005-’06 school year. 2006, spring/summer issue. 

"Role Model for Zoo Careers."
(PDF - 303KB)
An Animal Ambassador class goes on a Zoo tour with Dr. Robert Davis, the Zoological Society’s president and CEO (and a veterinarian). 2009, winter issue.  

"20 Years of Animal Ambassadors."
(PDF - 415KB)
The ZSM’s longest-running education program has reached 25,000 kids (and an estimated 75,000 friends and family members) since 1989. 2009, fall issue.

Animal Ambassador Slideshow

Click here to view a slide show of photos from the Animal Ambassador program.