It was zoo day on May 31 at Sierra Ridge Elementary school as students in the GATE program set up their own mini zoo and showed off what they had learned.
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Laid out in a multi-purpose room, the building took on the look of a jungle as animals created out of different materials were placed around the room, often with habitat scenery to complement the picture. Hung from wall to wall were streamers representing the dense vegetation common to the environment of many of the animals.
Trooping through the room, one classroom at a time, were first grade students from Pinewood Elementary. At their first stop, the first graders visited with each GATE student as they described their animal as well as answered questions.
The next stop was a slideshow featuring pictures of the students visiting the zoo and making their animals.
Their last stop was a visit outside to play, being animals at the zoo.
The GATE students put their imaginations to work in constructing their animals. Most were made of chicken wire and papier mache, which they painted. Others used wood, yarn, stucco, clay, cloth, or in the case of the snow leopard, fake snow.
One student repurposed an old teddy bear — turning it into an otter — while another draped her jaguar in spotted cloth. GATE student Josh Flack, 11, used a combination of chicken wire, papier mache, clay and feathers to make his life-sized Southern Crested Screamer — a bird found in South America — come alive.
Clearly engaged in what they had learned about their animals, the students focused their presentations on what made the biggest impression on them. For Jack Gray, 11, it was that his animal — a Sumatran Orangutan which he named Eduardo — is extremely endangered. He also mentioned their yell can travel five miles.
GATE students also answered questions. Preston Cain, 11, whose animal was a giraffe, said typical questions from the first graders were what his giraffe was made of, why their tongues are the color they are and why they have spots. “They’re for camouflage,” he answered.
According to Rhiannon Bailey, who coordinates the GATE program, over the past three months, students studied all aspects of zoos by picking out one animal to study, as well as researching a particular job at the zoo such as zookeeper, ticket taker or animal caretaker. Then while at the zoo, they had a chance to see their animal as well as interview the person whose job they had researched.
Kayleigh Bunce, 13, said she was lucky enough to pull the name of the zoo director to interview. “I learned a lot about what he does,” she said. “He not only gets to work with the animals but also oversees the zoo.”
Emily Gant, 14, was able to interview the Coordinator of Conservation but said she came away interested in many of the different jobs at the zoo.
The GATE program operates as an after school program for gifted and talented students. At Sierra Ridge, it includes students from fifth to eighth grade.
Bailey said the program provides students with the opportunity to use their creativity in ways they can’t do in the classroom, with the zoo project just being one of several the students had undertaken this school year.
“As a result of the zoo project, a number of students expressed an interest in becoming a zoologist or a vet,” she said. “They also learned about volunteer opportunities at the zoo.
“It was a great experience overall. We had an open house the day before for parents and over 100 people came through to see the student exhibit.
“The kids are very proud of what they did.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.