The Zoo Experience

The Zoo Experience promotes creative learning for girls in STEM fields outside the classroom in an internship-style, one-week summer program at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. 

The 2020 Zoo Experience has been canceled due to many variables including the unconfirmed timeline for the new zoo opening and  its change in leadership. We are hopeful about our return in 2021.

Did you know…

  • In the past at zoos, women were hired primarily to work in the animal nurseries. In 1967, Joan Embry was the first woman to come to the forefront as an animal keeper.
  • Today, 85 percent of zoo keepers are women.
  • 85 percent of zoo keepers have college degrees.
  • Although a majority of zoo keepers are women, they still only represent a minority in zoo management teams, today.

The Zoo Experience is a collaborative model led by The American Association of University Women, Big Bear Valley Branch, in coordination with The Bear Valley Unified School District, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, students, parents and the community.

2019 Zoo Experience

The 2019 Zoo Experience Camp was a tremendous success! We hosted four high school students for a week of hands-on interaction with zookeepers, the zoo curator, four AAUW mentors and our own AAUW president Christie Walker, who taught them about animal photography and journalistic writing.

This valuable program allows students who are interested in pursuing careers in animal sciences to explore their goals and examine their career paths. Each day, students heard from speakers who shared experience and offered guidance. The culmination event was attended by dignitaries from the State, County, Big Bear Lake City Council and many more supportive people from our community.

At the end of each day, the students wrote  a summary of what they learned and experienced, highlighting what they found to be the most amazing, exciting or surprising. They used their own photographs, taken that day, to illustrate their essays. Their essays and photographs were shared on the AAUW Blog daily. Read the AAUW Blog written by the girls about their experience.

2018 Zoo Experience

In 2018, two young women in 11th grade from Big Bear High School were selected to take part in the program. Check out this video to see what it was like.

Jill Myers, AAUW Zoo Experience Director, Melissa Ellis and Kelly Mount Zoo Experience students, and Bob Cisneros, Big Bear Alpine Zoo Curator.

Each day, the students worked with zookeepers on passive and active animal stewardship skills, learned animal behaviors and dietary guidelines for animals, animal husbandry and methods that elicit natural animal behavior. Each student selected a animal and became an expert on that animal. They used physical objects in a Bio Box, such as bones, fur, paw prints, claws and talons, to demonstrate and explain the specific characteristics of their chosen animal, and shared this information with the Zoo visitors on the last day of their internship.