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Program takes zoo to Bester Elementary students

Zoomobile, instructors bring several animals to Bester Elementary

Zoomobile, instructors bring several animals to Bester Elementary

April 22, 2008|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN - It was a day at the zoo for younger students at Bester Elementary School, but they didn't have to leave the building. The zoo came to them.

The 3-year-old preschool class, known as Cubs, prekindergarten and kindergarten students, and neighborhood day-care providers were treated to a visit by the Zoomobile from The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, thanks to funding from the school's Judy Center.

Two zoo instructors shared details and habits about four animals - a hissing cockroach, an Egyptian tortoise, a South African penguin and a Flemish rabbit.

Students learned that cockroaches are the "recyclers of the world" because they can process garbage and turn it into something useful like mulch, zoo employee Holly Richman said.

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One student asked about the pink skin on the penguin, which Richman said was the animal's air-conditioning system.

Kindergartner Autumn Dean liked the skin on the turtle's neck and observed that the turtle's head was half out of its shell. She said she went to a zoo a long time ago and remembered seeing wild animals, snakes and monkeys.

Trudy Mackrell-Metz, program manager for the Judy Center at Bester Elementary, said many city children don't have a chance to visit zoos.

"It's a great opportunity for them to experience things hands-on. The science element expands their curriculum and it gets the youngest learners ready for school. It's all about school readiness with the Judy Center. That's what we're trying to accomplish," Mackrell-Metz said.

Richman and Patrick Dawes are two of eight part-time Zoomobile instructors. There is also one full-time employee and one manager.

Two Zoomobiles visit schools, retirement facilities, Scout groups and other public events, sometimes visiting as many as four schools each a day. The zoo has 60 animal ambassadors for this traveling outreach program that are kept separate from the rest of the zoo animals.

Richman said The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has a new giraffe, two new elephants and a baby elephant. Video of the baby elephant is on the zoo's Web site at www.marylandzoo.org.

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