The J.O.E.Y. Volunteer Program is designed for kids ages 8-13 and their parents and guardians. Youth volunteers and their adults serve together as a team for public events, conservation initiatives, educational activities, and more. This program puts the youth volunteers at the forefront, allowing them to develop leadership, public speaking, animal knowledge, and confidence skills while being supported by their parents or guardians. Many of our J.O.E.Y. participants go on to join the Volunteen program once they turn 14, and many of their parents go on to join our Adult Volunteer programs to allow the entire family to continue serving here at Zoo Atlanta.
Participants in the J.O.E.Y. program typically spend most of their service hours assisting at public events. J.O.E.Y.s will lead activity, game or craft stations, help greet guests and hand out maps at the front of the Zoo, or help direct guests around the Zoo at different locations. Public events include popular annual events such as Play the Animal Way, Endangered Species Day, Boo at the Zoo, Cookies with Santa, and more. These events run year-round, which means there are service opportunities to fit any family’s schedule.
Public events aren’t all there is to do in the J.O.E.Y. program, however! J.O.E.Y. Junctions are meetings that are held once a quarter. These two-hour sessions are designed to give J.O.E.Y. participants (both kids and adults) a chance to explore a topic related to animal sciences. Examples include learning about how vets take care of Zoo animals, running a cell phone recycling drive to help protect wild gorilla habitats from coltan mining, completing behavioral ethograms for research projects, and learning about scientific classifications. Each meeting will have a different topic to learn about, as well as a fun activity for families to participate in together.
The third option that J.O.E.Y. participants have in the program is the chance to complete an annual project. Each youth participant will choose a topic related to animals that interests them at the beginning of the program year. This can be learning about different bear species, or exploring animal colorings, or identifying how to protect local pollinators, or more. The youth and their parents or guardians will work together to plan out the topic and the format of the project, and then spend the program year working on it. There will be workdays scheduled to help, and support is always available from the Volunteer Department. These projects will be presented at the end of the program year, when the kids will get to show off all that they’ve learned!
The J.O.E.Y. program runs from June 1 through May 31 of the following year. Applications are now open for the 2020-2021 program year. There are two upcoming Preview Nights: Thursday, December 5 and Tuesday, January 7. Both events will run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will be held in the Conservation Action Resource Center (ARC – the building on the hill behind the blue crane habitat) here at the Zoo. These Preview Nights are excellent ways to learn more about the program. Links to register for either Preview Night and to the application itself are on our website here. We look forward to seeing your child’s application!