Interactive Animal Experiences Week


Session 1

“Touch the Heart to Teach the Mind” - Wouter Stellaard, Animal Programs Training Director, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

One of the driving philosophies in the animal programs department at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been “touch the heart to teach the mind.”  Over the last 10 years, the department has grown exponentially. We incorporated training in all the ways we work with our animals and audience to help convey our message. Teaching a large variety of species to participate in these cool interactions meant we needed an anchor in our behavior program. Our anchor is the science of behavior change. The laws of the behavior go across species lines and the way we apply these laws helps us connect with our animals and audience. With many of our communications now online, it is clear how challenging it can be to even connect with our friends and coworkers on a screen. We are missing the connection and the emotions of real people and animals up close. When our guests come back and we share our amazing animals with them again, the personal experience is going to be paramount and stand out more than ever. This presentation will focus on how to connect with our audience and “touch the heart to teach the mind.” 

Session 2

“Getting Guests Involved at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo” – Rick Hester, Curator of Behavioral Husbandry, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ) has been focused on providing guests with unique up-close animal experiences for well over a decade now. In 2008, our President and CEO, Bob Chastain began a partnership with Steve Martin and NEI with a goal of developing an animal training program that improves animal welfare and engages guests at a new level. This presentation will share examples of the many opportunities guests have at CMZ to engage with animals and animal keepers alike and discuss the evolution of the program over the years as well as share some thoughts about the future.

Session 3

NEI TEC in Conversation – Steve Martin (President, Natural Encounters, Inc.), Chris Jenkins (Chief Operating Officer, Natural Encounters, Inc.), Wouter Stellaard, and Rick Hester

Join us as NEI TEC faculty members share and discuss their thoughts on the topics presented in the previous sessions. The panelists will answer questions presented to them by the attendees.