The eight youngsters in the Akron Zoo’s Welcome Center walked in the tracks of endangered animals Thursday to learn what it takes to survive.
Zoo education specialist Carrie Bassett led the classroom of home-schooled students from as far away as Mansfield and Pittsburgh by introducing them to a world fraught with danger.
“Animals become endangered because they can’t find what they need in their habitat,” Bassett explained as she assigned an animal persona to each child and asked them to collect cards representing food, water, shelter and oxygen.
“I would prefer not to die,” admitted Evelyn McCrock, 10, of Seville, as she collected cards and one by one, her classmates dropped out as their species became endangered. She was the lone student surviving the lesson.
The zoo began the hands-on learning experience, Let’s Zoo Science!, in 2012. Home-school programs have been available at the zoo since 2007, said David Barnhardt, director of marketing and guest services.
“The zoo’s education department provided a total of 920 programs in 2012 that served 41,000 people,” Barnhardt said. Only 78 of these programs were held on zoo grounds; the others were conducted in schools.
The education department offered 58 home-school programs serving 325 students in 2012, he said.
Lisa Wolfe of Boardman in Mahoning County makes the hourlong drive to Akron twice a month so her daughter Ava, 8, can attend classes.
“I like the flexible schedules that home-schooling gives us. It offers us more opportunities to do these kinds of classes. If we are studying a state, we can just pick up and go visit it,” Wolfe said.
Ava’s budding interest in astronomy has taken the family to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula “three years in a row,” she said.
The zoo offers six half-day home-school sessions each year, dividing students into two classrooms for students ages 6-8 and 9-12. Each session is divided into three hourlong classes.
On Thursday, Bassett taught the students how easily an animal can become endangered by introducing them to the zoo’s resident endangered chinchilla, Cliff. She explained that Cliff’s ancestors can be traced back to 11 rodents brought to the United States from South America’s Andes mountains in 1923.
Education specialist Deb Brady was in an adjoining room introducing 15 younger students to a Puerto Rican boa constrictor named Luquillo.
Jen Kendall of Boardman, who accompanied Samantha Vuksanovich, 8, and her sister, Olivia Vuksanovich, 7, to the zoo, said the learning program was worth the effort it takes to bring her daughters to the seminars.
“It’s one of the reasons you home school. I like that my kids have the opportunity to get this hands-on learning experience,” she said.
To learn more about the Akron Zoo home-school workshops, visit www.akronzoo.org/HomeschoolPrograms/42/113/151, or call 330-375-2550, ext. 8973. The next session of Let’s Zoo Science! is March 21.
Classes are $3 per hour for zoo members and $4 for nonmembers.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.