In the spirit of Halloween, I was exuberant in volunteering at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium where we helped the staff host a trick-or-treat event for kids and their families. I attended this event with my co-workers at my work study job, dressing up in our finest Halloween costumes; I dressed up as Spiderman. When we arrived at the location, we assisted the staff by transporting candy to the various stations of the zoo. We greeted families as they entered, and complimented kids and even parents on their creative costumes. Another one of our duties was to demonstrate arts and crafts with the kids at the craft station. We also helped with the Halloween parade, guiding the kids to where they are supposed to go, and even walking with some handicapped children.
One thing I learned from participating in helping kids trick-or-treat at the zoo, was how to better interact with kids and their parents. Although it was initially very intimidating approaching the guests, I watched how others confidently embraced this challenge in welcoming people. I was taught to read body language and facial expressions. If both the kids and the parents did not seem too happy at the moment, I was advised to stay away and come back later. There were a few instances when some of my co-workers and I approached a family where one of the kids began to throw a tantrum, and it became a awkward situation for all of us. I also learned a few tricks when it comes to entertaining kids. One: kids love candy, so offering candy is always a good idea. This breaks that initial awkwardness and opens up a world of conversation about candy: their favorites, their least favorites, etc. Two: kids also love arts and crafts. Being at station where we were handing out candy and doing arts and crafts was probably the best case scenario. Kids are so creative, and I found this to be a great opportunity to be inspired by them as well as interact with them. I would help them cut things out, and they would help me pick which colors to draw my monkey mask in. When it came time for the parade, I was asked to walk with one of the kids I was playing with earlier who was handicapped, and, more importantly, a fan of my Spiderman costume.
Interacting with kids is the central focus in my work study job, so participating in an event like this was very beneficial to me. I am a part of JumpStart where I am a mentor to four partner children in a classroom of 25 kids in total. This event at the zoo helped me grow as a JumpStart member. It made me more confident about how I perform my job. I learned to not be afraid to be silly and become one of the kids for an hour or two. I have implemented the strategies I used at the zoo, like reading body language and facial expressions, talking bout candy, and doing arts and crafts, into the classroom. I would definitely say that this has allowed for conversations between my partner kids and me to arise more easily. My job also requires interaction with parents in events that we plan in order to familiarize ourselves with not only our partner children, but also their families. Again, getting that extra practice volunteering at the zoo has definitely improved my social skills especially towards a specific audience. Social skills are important outside of my work study job. This is crucial in the social aspect of college as well as the vast work field beyond college. Even though I may not be considering a job involving kids, such as teaching, it could be a skill that I can mention when I am applying for my potential dream job of being a physician assistant.