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Zoo's 'Sniff, Swing and Swipe' a winner

Auckland Zoo Education Service's 'Sniff, Swing and Swipe' programme has won the Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) premier award for 2002.

The unique internet-based project was the concept of teachers at the Zoo's Education Service, who commissioned Monika Fry of Megabright to develop the programme. It challenged New Zealand's primary and secondary students to research, design and construct a behavioural enrichment prototype for the Zoo's kea, lemur, zebra or meerkat.

Modifications suggested by a panel of Zoo keepers were then incorporated into the students' final design. Participating students were able to share their concepts via the website

The judges commented that 'this was an interesting, intuitive site that drew together young designers and experts in the field. Many children are unlikely to be able to visit Auckland Zoo in big numbers, but this project certainly gave them the opportunity to be involved with it.'

Among the innovative designs that students came up with were a modified weighted basketball that spits out food when nuzzled by a zebra, and a papier mache log filled with holes containing little camera canisters filled with meal worms for the Zoo's meerkats. The latter was also buried in sand, which enhanced the behavioural enrichments benefits to these animals, as they had to discover as well as work out how to extract their reward.

"One student living in the South Island's high country had the initiative to test her zebra prototype out on her horse. When you get kids doing things like this, you know you've fired their imaginations to explore and learn for themselves, and that's exciting," says Auckland Zoo Education Service Manager Leigh Wither.

"So often students are presented with challenges at school that are theoretical. Through the internet site we made this a hands-on project that challenged both intellectual and practical skills, and enabled students to feel really involved with the Zoo even though they couldn't physically be here. It certainly reaffirms to us the value of technology in education when used in an inviting and interactive way," says Leigh Wither.

Auckland Zoo Education Service will offer a similar project to New Zealand students from the beginning of June. For further information phone 360-3817 or email


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