Junior Zookeeper observing bobcat

Being a Junior Zookeeper allows teens to explore all the different aspects of zoo operations.

Teen Opportunities

Experience life at Cosley Zoo through our unique teen program experiences.

Junior Zookeepers

What is the Junior Zookeepers Program?

The Junior Zookeepers (JZ) program is for young adults in grades 7 through 12 that have a strong interest in animals, conservation, and the environment. Cosley Zoo provides JZs with comprehensive training in various topics including, but not limited to, animal care, informal education, and visitor services. After being trained, JZs have many opportunities to put their new skills to use by participating in diverse activities. Each summer, the group takes a day trip to another Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facility. The JZs also help support the zoo’s mission by assisting with special events, animal care, and educational programs. Through the program, Junior Zookeepers also develop and strengthen important life skills, including leadership, responsibility, time management, and teamwork.

What is the Commitment?

The Junior Zookeepers program is a year-round commitment that runs from September through August. Junior Zookeepers can expect to meet for a couple of hours each month. There may be additional opportunities beyond that; however, all activities are optional. The program is broken into quarters:

  • Quarter 1: September-November (14 hours required)
  • Quarter 2: December-February (12 hours required)
  • Quarter 3: March-May (10 hours required)
  • Quarter 4: June-August (24 hours required)

How do I earn hours?
When Junior Zookeepers participate in program activities, their time is recorded on a timesheet. Hours can be earned by attending monthly meetings, attending animal observation training and collecting observation data throughout the year, completing interpretation training and signing up for casual interpretation shifts, assisting with zoo events and programs, and more! Once a certain number of hours have been accumulated, higher responsibility activities may become available such as participating in the Summer Incentives program, animal handling and encounter training, and shadowing a zookeeper. During the school year, most activities take place on the weekends.

What Does it Cost?

The fee for the 2022/2023 year was $240. This included a JZ T-shirt, name tag, and program materials. Additional fees may apply.

Participant Selection

Selection is based on an application, an in-person interview, and any past involvement at Cosley Zoo.

How Do I Apply?

Currently, we are not accepting applications for the Junior Zookeepers program. Applications for the 2023/2024 program will be available in June of 2023.

Questions about the Junior Zookeepers program can be emailed to Jackie at jkarnstedt@wheatonparks.org.

Summer Teen Interpreters

What is the Summer Teen Interpreters Program?

Summer Teen Interpreters are young adults in grades 7 through 12 (in the 2022-2023 school year) who have an exceptional interest in animals, conservation, and public speaking. Summer Teen Interpreters learn about various topics including, but not limited to animal care, training, enrichment, conservation, public speaking, and zoo visitor engagement. Summer Teen Interpreters use the knowledge they gain in these topics to assist the education department by providing a range of interactive experiences for zoo guests. This program also allows teens to enhance their sense of responsibility, develop job skills, and grow in their conservation ethic.

Note: Participants do not handle animals or work in animal areas.

What is the Commitment?

The Summer Teen Interpreters program is seasonal beginning with orientation and training sessions in May/June. Weekly visitor engagement shifts at the zoo, 2 hours in length, will begin mid-June and run through mid-August. This program also offers the opportunity for participants to attend virtual workshops where they will learn more about zoo and conservation-related topics. Attendance to these virtual workshops is an optional component of the program.

What Does it Cost?

The fee for the summer of 2023 is $79. This covers the cost of a Summer Teen Interpreter T-shirt, name tag and other program materials.

Participant Selection

Selection is based on an application, group interview, and any past involvement at Cosley Zoo.

How Do I Apply?

Applications for summer of 2023 are currently being accepted! Applications are due by Wednesday, April 5, 2023. To apply, download and submit a 2023 Summer Teen Interpreter Application or visit the zoo’s Wild Side Gift Shop. Please do not submit the program fee with the application; all accepted Summer Teen Interpreters will be notified of the fee due date.

Questions about the Summer Teen Interpreters program can be emailed to Jackie at jkarnstedt@wheatonparks.org.


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