The Zoo’s Curator of Education is in Charge of Its Public Programs

By Joe Stumpe, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.

Jul. 15–Schanee Anderson has been curator of education at the Sedgwick County Zoo for five years, following stints at zoos in Manhattan and her hometown of Omaha.

One fan who’s seen her in action says the 38-year-old Anderson “doesn’t give a presentation, she gives a performance” that inspires as well as educates.

Anderson and her husband, Charles, have a 2-year-old son, Brett. And yes, she does speak in complete paragraphs.

1What does a zoo curator of education do?

It depends on the day. Technically I’m in charge of all the public programs that happen here at the zoo. We just got back from doing outreach at a local preschool. Right now we’re doing programs with a lot of different libraries. Their summer program is “Catch the Reading Bug,” so we’ve created an outreach program focused on bugs.

2 Anything for adults? We also have some incredible adult programs. We have like a cultural dinner series here at the zoo. We have a social hour where you do “beastly beers” or “wild wines.”

3What’s your favorite zoo animal?

I’m a huge fan of frogs and bats. I would probably put bats first and frogs second.

Bats are just phenomenal creatures. They just do so much for us. There’s some research that shows that rain forests wouldn’t be in existence without fruit-eating bats.

4Does Kansas have many bats?

We have roughly 15 species of bats. One of our stationary (non-migratory) bats, which is a big brown bat, can eat about 500 insects an hour. Their metabolism is so high.

5Do you have pets or do you get enough of animals on the job?

We do. We like to say we have four four-legged children and one two-legged child. Although we go with just the domestic (animals).

6So your husband’s into nature stuff too?

Both of us prefer to be outside rather than in, most of the time. And luckily, so does our little guy.

7What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a zoo?

It’s hard taking just one. I keep thinking about the amazing creativity that animals have — everything from an orang (orangutan) in Omaha that learned how to pick locks, to a goose, a one-pound goose, who terrorized the entire staff at Sunset Zoo (in Manhattan). You’re like, it’s just a goose.

8What do you like to do off the job?

I like to bike. I’ve done Bike Across Kansas three times. It’s one of the best things you can ever do. It isn’t about the bike. It’s about seeing Kansas. It’s about the camaraderie of visiting with a thousand people you’ve never met. It’s about going to these small communities where when we show up, we double the size of the town — and how well they treat us.

9You’ve been to South America several times to help their zoos develop volunteer programs. What did you learn?

We volunteer a lot more than in a lot of countries.

10 And you’re involved in a convention that’s coming here?

We are hosting the North American Association of Conservation and Environmental Education in Wichita this year. It’s Oct. 15 through 18. Between 1,000 and 1,500 educators are coming to Wichita.

Reach Joe Stumpe at 316-269-6752 or [email protected]

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