WINSTON — Wildlife Safari is offering virtual field trips and lessons about its many animals through Zoomfaris, which can be tailored to line up with the lessons students are learning in the classroom.
“Basically, it’s the way we can still do animal presentation without the kids having to actually, physically come here,” said Wildlife Safari Education Director Leila Goulet. “We’re doing anywhere from 30 to 60 minute programs with a variety of animals.”
Teachers can apply for grants to use these educational videos as supplemental teaching.
“We have a lot of grant money right now, so we’re just trying to get the word out,” Goulet said. “Pretty much all the schools that are applying for it are getting it.”
Goulet said the program has been especially popular with elementary schools.
Green Elementary School fifth grade teacher Gina Evenich will be taking part in a Zoomfari later this month.
“Most of our students live in Green and very few have had the experience of visiting the park,” Evenich said. “I thought this was a great way for the students to see what’s right in their backyard.”
Evenich and her teaching partner, Karen Sinclair, created their own live Zoom field trip at the Safari Village in November. The area is now closed due to recent COVID-19 restrictions, but when it is open it is free to visit.
“Leila met us there and introduced two special animals that live in the park to the students,” Evenich said. The students learned about a Moluccan Cockatoo named Carmen and a Cavy named Paddy and were able to ask questions.
“The students were engaged and learned about these different species that you don’t see every day,” Evenich said. One of the students had been in the Junior Zookeeper Program during the summer and was able to help teach about the animals as well.
“One of the reasons I wanted a Zoomfari was because even though the village is a great field trip, the Zoomfari takes the students to the open spaces where the elephants and giraffes live,” Evenich said. “I wanted the students to know about everything the park offers.”
Wildlife Safari has five Zoomfari programs; African Adventure, Reptile Rendez-vous, Let’s Flamingle!, Totally into Training, and Extraordinary Enrichment.
The fifth graders at Green Elementary will participate in the African Adventure, where they’ll learn about the larger animals in the park.
“Students will log into Zoom and we’re actually out in the field with like a giraffe, or a hippo, or an elephant,” Goulet said. “And we are filming it with a zookeeper. They will do a keeper talk and then they’ll normally feed the animal to get them kind of to pose and then the kids can ask questions. Anything they want to ask, and they’re answered right there.”
Goulet estimated that in December alone the program would reach about 800 children from all over Oregon.
Throughout the pandemic, Wildlife Safari has not only kept its drive-thru animal park open but has continued posting countless videos and photos of its animals.
Zoomfaris are available to any group, up to 500 people.
Goulet said a company from New York City booked it to enhance a meeting. “We just appeared with an elephant and they were all super excited,” she said.
Wildlife Safari is also hoping to partner with hospitals to do virtual programs for children who are confined to their hospital bed, and assisted living facilities.
Evenich said experiences like virtual field trips help with participation, engagement and getting students motivated to learn — while also matching up with the fifth grade science curriculum.
“Online Zoom-ing is difficult. It’s not easy,” Evenich said. “Trying to engage students daily is a challenge. Why not take it outside the classroom. These students are plugged in daily, so if we can take them to places that help promote learning I choose this.”
The Green Elementary School students also went on a virtual field trip to the fish hatchery at Eastwood Elementary School.
“If I could do one field trip a week relating to their schoolwork and curriculum, I would,” Evenich said. “The students love it. My hope is that we visit other educational places (parks, businesses and museums) around Douglas County if we continue virtual learning after the first of the year.”
For more information about the programs or the grants, contact email@example.com or go to the educational outreach section of the Wildlife Safari website.