The Lake Superior Zoo has a lot of excitement in store for the 2014 year. As the reconstruction of the zoo’s pavilion finishes, another project is already underway.
“We just started the Zoo Environmental Education Expansion project in February,” said Dawn Mackety, the CEO of the Lake Superior Zoo.
The zoo has big plans for the updated pavilion, the majority of them involving community venues such as cultural programming, special events, and theatrical performances, to name a few.
“The new pavilion was just completed and is opening in May, so we will have the opportunity to have more educational programs out of that space too,” Mackety said.
The new project focuses on reaching out to elementary schools and community organizations as well as offering more summer programming. One large piece of the project is the new Zoo2You program.
“Zoo2You is an outreach program where we visit third grade classrooms in schools across the Northland,” said Sarah Wilcox, the zoo’s director of education.
“Third grade teachers get 45 minutes of fun, educational activities and a visit from the zoo animals for their class,” Wilcox said.
Along with the visit, teachers receive pre-and-post program options for their classrooms, and $50 off a zoo visit.
“We hope that they come visit us after we visit them,” Wilcox said.
The Zoo2You program, although freshly developed, already has planned to meet with hundreds of kids across the Northland.
The zoo has scheduled visits with 59 classrooms, giving 50 percent priority to schools with high numbers of kids who receive free or reduced lunch.
They have also booked 11 libraries, who will put on presentations for the kids.
The zoo was happy to receive a large amount of funding for its anticipated new program developments through community grants.
“We got a $9000 grant from the Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment, and we also have a $20,000 grant from AT&T that specifically supports Zoo2You. The Legacy grant supports expansion in our summer programming. It’s a combined thing that’s worked out nicely,” Wilcox said.
Reading from the zoo’s mission statement on their website, the organization strives ‘to provide close-up animal experiences which inspire connections to wildlife…”
The Zoo2You program expansion will do just that.
“The idea is to help schools realize that the zoo is good for educational programming, and to show what a great teaching tool it is for someone to come to the school and reinforce learning strategies using animals,” Wilcox said.
This opportunity is not just for Duluth area schools. The program extends from the northern Wisconsin area, all the way to the Iron Range.
The Zoo2You program is booked to visit Hibbing, Cloquet, Superior, Ashland, Duluth, Cromwell, Mellen, and Mountain Iron.
The zoo has already hired someone to visit the schools and speak with the kids, but she also has other responsibilities.
“Melanie will also be assessing the community through surveys and evaluations,” Wilcox said.
The Zoo2You program strives to educate children in a fun and inventive way.
“Say they’re learning about the life cycle of a frog or salamander. It’s one thing to read about it or watch a video, but if they can actually see and touch the animal, it helps them remember the biological concept and also gives them a more emotional connection,” Wilcox said.
The program also wants to reach out to different youth groups in the community, in hopes that they can form collaboration with them.
The zoo’s unveiling of the newly completed pavilion also opens up a wide variety of opportunities that were not available previously.
“The expansion of our summer programming will take place, not just in libraries, but in the new pavilion space. We are able to offer an additional week of summer camp because of a second classroom space. We’ll be using the pavilion for other camps this summer too, like Zooniversity, a program designed for 9-12 year olds,” Wilcox explained.
The Lake Superior Zoo is an accredited institution through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). With their projected plans to expand educational programming, they show that they are fully invested in fulfilling the zoo’s mission and the AZA’s requirements.
“Our goal is to become a better resource for organizations in the community so we can learn their needs and help support what they’re doing,” Wilcox said.
The Zoo2You program completion is set for November of this year.