Beginning in 1995, the 5th grade students from nearby Sherwood Elementary School spent several weeks of their school year in a portable classroom at Brevard Zoo. The grant-funded program utilized the Zoo's valuable resources to teach "at-risk" students the Sunshine State Standards through real-life experiences. This truly integrated, thematic approach to science, math, social studies, and reading created a "school outside a school" where students composed poetic rhyme while gazing at flamingos; learned biology while kayaking the Zoo's restored wetlands; and, honed their math skills by pricing items they wanted to purchase in the Zoo's gift shop.
In 2000, the Eckerd Family Foundation awarded the Zoo $500,000 to build three permanent, individually-themed classrooms on site—a tree house, a cave, and a wetlands lagoon house. The concept for these unique classrooms was the brain child of Jim Swann, former treasurer of Brevard Zoo’s Board of Directors, and Margo McKnight, the Zoo's former Executive Director. Upon completion in 2002, the Brevard County School Board expanded the program to include two additional schools, Cambridge Elementary and Endeavour Elementary.
After more than 15 years, standardized test scores for participating "at-risk" students continue to improve, with dramatic results noted years after the students have resumed classes in the traditional setting.
Zoo School students are readily identified by their brightly-colored blue hats, donated by Brevard Public Schools. On a typical day, small groups of students will meet with keepers from the various "loops" to learn firsthand the specific behaviors, diets, and needs of a particular animal. Weekly, they attend interactive programs developed by education staff to learn about animal habitats and adaptations. In addition, each class attends an informative "question-and-answer" session with the Zoo's resident veterinarian. All of these activities provide yet another opportunity for reinforcing the value of staying in school.
With Zoo School, the walls of the traditional classroom have been expanded to include the ever-changing environment of Brevard Zoo. Teachers find there are limitless learning opportunities. Students conclude their six-to-eight-week educational expedition with an in-depth research project highlighting one of the Zoo's many fascinating animals. During the last week of each Zoo School visit, parents are invited to participate in a day of "show-and-tell" where their children become Zoo Ambassadors for a day experiencing unparalleled learning opportunities. As ambassadors they can: kayak the Nyami Nyami River of Africa in search of white rhinos; ride a train past Lemur Island and through scimitar-horned oryx territory; experience up-close-and-personal encounters with the Zoo's giraffes; and collect and examine water samples from the wetlands.
For more information, please email email@example.com or call 321.254.9453 x 219.