Community Service Spotlight: Stanley educates public on wildlife at Como Zoo

Sophomore+Hannah+Stanley+%28back+row%2C+sixth+from+the+right%29+and+other+Nature+Walk+volunteers.

Photo submitted by Hannah Stanley

Sophomore Hannah Stanley (back row, sixth from the right) and other Nature Walk volunteers.

Diane Huang, Online Editor-in-Chief

Snakes and tarantulas are far from cuddly animals. They slither, they crawl, they creep, and they don’t have the right number of legs. However, Nature Walkers might just describe a python as “cute.”

Nature Walk is a youth volunteer program as a part of the education program at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, a free zoo that is open to the public. Kids from grade 7-12 go through an application process in early March and April and begin their work as interpreters in the summer. Nature Walkers teach the public about all of the animals at Como Zoo and also education specific animals that are not always on display, such as the ball python, hissing cockroach, Rex rabbit, and more.

Sophomore Hannah Stanley has been a part of the Nature Walk program since 7th grade.

“We’re the voice of the zoo and we’re able to help younger children or adults connect with animals and feel in a sense that they are responsible of [the environment]…it’s about making people teach their kids the importance of nature,” she said.

It’s a really wonderful environment but you kind of have to break into it, but once you’re in, it’s great, it’s weird, it’s awesome.”

— sophomore Hannah Stanley

Stanley enjoys “everything, really” about Nature Walk.

“Sometimes it gets tiring being around the public, but I love the animals, I love learning about the animals, I like teaching people of all different ages, demographics, and cultures. I think it’s a really good experience for me and the people who are learning,” Stanley said.

While being in Nature Walk requires an elevated interest in nature and wildlife, being a part of the Nature Walk teaches volunteers more than just that. “I get to know a large diversity people [and] I get to learn about how to interact with the public.”

Stanley describes the zoo as “just a wonderful community, everyone is united by a common interest, and it’s kind of a big family.”

She also described the atmosphere of the Nature Walk program as “eccentric.” “We’re all very passionate and odd, and uncomfortable, and awkward and it’s a really wonderful environment but you kind of have to break into it, but once you’re in, it’s great, it’s weird, it’s awesome,” she said.

Stanley also values her experiences with the animals at the zoo.

“I really liked getting to know the animals as individuals…one of the biggest memories that I’ll take with me is the relationships I’ve been able to develop with individual animals.”

To be a Nature Walker, first and foremost, Stanley states that a volunteer must care about animals and nature. “If you don’t like animals there’s absolutely no point because there are million people…who want to pursue careers in nature.”

From there, there aren’t too many requirements to be a good fit for the program: “You don’t have to be extroverted, but you’re going to have to be congenial and be nice, and have a really good patience…which you do learn, actually, by experience. Well intentioned people, really.”