Unusual Classroom: Kentucky teachers find out how Louisville Zoo can be a valuable educational tool

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By Bobby Ellis
Special to KyForward

As a group of teachers from across the state entered the room for one recent professional learning session, they were greeted by some animals that you don’t normally see in a reception area.

In a pen in the center of the room, an armadillo ran excitedly back and forth. A hedgehog sat in the hands of Jo Barrett, sniffing the air. And around the outside of the room, a tegu – a large, 3-ft. long lizard – walked, flicking the air with its tongue.

The teachers had come to take part in the Louisville Zoo in 3D event, a day focused on showing educators that the zoo can be a valuable educational tool.

Whitney Dotson, a 4th-grade teacher at Conkwright Elementary School (Clark County), pets a hedgehog during the Louisville Zoo in 3D. Teachers from around the state toured behind the scenes at the Louisville Zoo and sat in on lectures from Commissioner Stephen Pruitt and Dr. Terri Roth, the director of Cincinnait Zoo’s CREW. (Photo by Bobby Ellis)

“The goal is to show teachers that the zoo is more than just a field trip opportunity,” said Jennifer Payne, a teacher from Daviess County. “The teachers today aren’t just getting a chance to see cool animals, they’re walking away with curriculum to take home.”

After their morning greeting in the reception area, the teachers sat in on a session with Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt, who spoke on the importance of three-dimensional science teaching and framing science education around natural phenomenon.

Terri Roth, the director of the Cincinnati Zoo’s Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), who spoke on her experiences in creating breeding populations of endangered species, such as the Sumatran rhino.

Finally, they were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo’s facilities, including the housing area for the bears, tigers and sea lions.

“I loved seeing the tigers up close,” said Alex Waddell, a second-grade teacher at Conkwright Elementary School (Clark County). “It was really impressive to see everything that they do.”

If you’re interested in taking a class on a trip to the Louisville Zoo, you can get more information from their “Education” page.

For more information on CREW, visit its education page to learn more.

Commissioner Stephen Pruitt stands next to a sea lion during a behind the scenes tour of the Louisville Zoo.

A group of teachers are greeted by an armadillo during the Louisville Zoo in 3D event. The event focused on introducing teachers to the idea of using the zoo and its resources for more than just field trips.

A grizzly bear swims in a pool of water in its enclosure behind the scenes at the Louisville Zoo.

Bobby Ellis writes for Kentucky Teacher. Reach him here: bobby.ellis@education.ky.gov

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