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Mobile zoo, South’s Central Elementary School learn about animals

South’s Central Elementary School learn about animals

Students at Central Elementary School in South Williamsport were able to get hands-on with a few animals that wouldn’t normally be spotted around central Pennsylvania, at least not without the help of Barn Hill Preserve, with locations in Louisiana and Delaware.

Although its Louisiana location offers guided tours around its animal sanctuary to see animals like dromedary camels, Eurasian lynx, free-flying macaws, servals and eagle owls, programs offered in and around the Delaware area bring the experience to the visitors. From summer camps and birthday parties, to a mobile zoo option, Barn Hill Preserve Educational Programs aims to offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience for students in the northeast corner of the United States.

Dr. Michele Loomis, principal at Central Elementary School, said she learned about the mobile zoo program through other elementary principals who participate in the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) program, a requirement for new principals in the state.

“Another principal wanted to have the program and knew that the mobile zoo would come to five schools in the local area,” Loomis said.

Loomis wanted to make sure Central would be one of those schools not only for the educational component, but because not all students have the opportunity to travel to a zoo.

Samantha Prestia, Mobile Crew educator with Barn Hill Preserve, arranged to visit the school with five of her animal ambassadors: A bearded dragon, a two-toed sloth, a three-banded armadillo, a tortoise and an owl. Second- through fourth-grade students were the first to visit the mobile zoo, with kindergarten through fourth-grade students finishing out the afternoon.

During each of the sessions, “students listened to Sam present information on each animal and then they were able to ask questions about the animals,” Loomis said.

Fourth-grade student Carly Quimby said she learned a lot during the program and was happy it visited the school.

“My favorite part was when they walked around with the animals and she showed us stuff and we could ask questions about it,” Quimby said. “You could touch the bearded dragon and the tortoise, but not the others.”

The mobile zoo program — which is 100 percent free — is funded through a photo opportunity that allows students to be photographed with one of the animals. Loomis said many students took advantage of that opportunity — the sloth winning in popularity. Some also purchased adoption kits and bracelets to support the work of the preserve, whose mission is to protect the beautiful animals of the world and inspire future generations to do the same.

“Both teachers and students learned so much about the animals that visited the school that day,” Loomis said. “Students were excited both to see the presentation and to have pictures with the animals.”

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