Zoo to the touch

Social work in a modern zoo: EXPERIENCE OF WORK in the PARK and separate projects with the involvement of animal assistants

Kardonova VG

Kyiv Zoo is one of the largest parks in Kyiv. The decoration of its territory – greenery and large old trees. And, of course, of special value – wild animals, which are an inexhaustible source of positive emotions and new information for ordinary Kyivites and guests of the capital.

Living in a big city has many benefits and an increased level of comfort for most residents. But detachment from the world of wildlife has a negative effect on both the physical and emotional and psychological state of people. Citizens move less in the fresh air, the rapid pace of life leads to nervous breakdowns and depression. Overloading the brain with a constant flow of unnecessary and often negative information creates a constant feeling of fatigue, anxiety, hopelessness.

This negative impact is especially felt by children and adults who are in crisis, injured or have congenital physical and mental problems.

There are different ways to solve these problems: someone chooses sports or various arts, someone is helped by various spiritual practices or medicines. But no matter which way a person chooses, constant communication with the world of wildlife adds effectiveness to any of these tools. That is why such popular places for walks, sports are parks, squares, shores of ponds, which can be found among the big city.

As a recreational and rehabilitation zone, Kyiv Zoo has a huge potential. Feelings of living energy of plants, contemplation of animal behavior, natural and artificial ponds, fresh air create an atmosphere of peace and comfort, emphasize a positive sense of unity with the world, arouse interest in the processes that constantly occur in the world of wildlife.

In modern psychological and pedagogical science, much research is devoted to the study of the problem of emotional learning, the impact of emotions on various components of the learning process. The emotional sphere in this context occupies one of the key positions, determines the subjective attitude to them and directs human behavior. To make the rehabilitation process more effective and full of positive emotions, the staff of the information and educational department has developed a number of social projects.

Based on the experience of teachers of the Circle of Young Naturalists of the Kyiv Zoo and studying modern psychological and pedagogical research, we concluded that the main factor that will help in the educational process may be positive emotions that arise when communicating with animals. It is communication with animals that helps to overcome both negative emotions in children and adults, such as feelings of loneliness, imperfection, isolation, depression and increases the activity of worldview and social contacts.

As in every zoo, the Circle of Young Naturalists has a so-called “Living Corner”. Traditionally, this is a group of domesticated animals that are cared for by young people. The “Living Corner” of the Circle includes such species of animals as chinchillas, ferrets, purs, decorative rats, hamsters, degu, and decorative rabbits. turtles, insects, etc. A large number of children of different ages and different levels of training made it possible to select animals that respond positively to communication with strangers and adapt them to such a complex mission as “assistant animal”. Another advantage of this form of work is that a group of animal assistants is formed and kept in a room separated from the main exposition of the zoo.

The theoretical part of the classes is supplemented by practical work on the observation of animals placed on display, and the animals of the “living space”. Yunnats study their habits, behavior, develop enrichment programs and participate in training on domestication of animals.

During direct contact with the animal, the group members behave more freely and casually than in the lecture hall. Children have learned to be responsible with their pets. Responsibility for a living being makes them more focused and focused on tasks. Implementing joint projects to enrich the environment, children began to work better in a group, to interact with each other. A significant stimulus in this is the behavior of the animal for which the enrichment is made – the animal’s satisfaction from a new toy, hammock, home, and so on.

The emotional component was taken into account in the development of a number of projects by the staff of the department, which are carried out with the participation of animal assistants: “Zoo lessons”, “Zoo to the touch”, “Zoo art”, and field trips to the Scientific and Practical Medical Center of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Ministry of Health of Ukraine “, special secondary school” Nadiya “, Kyiv City Center for Rehabilitation of Children with Disabilities, etc. For people with special needs, there are several ongoing projects that take into account the specifics of each category of participants.


Zoo to the touch

“Zoo to the touch” – typhlozoological project, developed primarily

  • Zoo to the touch 
  • “Zoo art” 
  • Zoo to the touch – outings 
  • Participation of animal assistants in the process of rehabilitation of children with physical and mental disabilities 
  • “Discussion Club” is a project based on the Circle of Young Naturalists 
  • Occupational rehabilitation at the zoo 
  • Career guidance for guides