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Akron Zoo expands education programs to Stark County

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Akron Zoo
The Akron Zoo's tenrec, Thistle, is the subject of a book being used in the program for pre-K through first graders in Stark County.

The Akron Zoo is expanding its school visitation program to Stark County -- part of an effort to help students who have had difficulty transitioning back into the classroom.

The zoo is visiting pre-K through first grade classes with animal encounters and stories focused on social-emotional learning. For fourth-and fifth-graders, there’s a STEM-based program which requires the students to build a bird’s nest, according to the zoo’s Education Director, Autumn Russell.

“They have to manage a budget we give them to purchase supplies to build the nest. So, not only are they experiencing some of those engineering skills, but they also have to use math to manage their budget, they have to plan ahead to think about the materials they need.

“Educators are finding that students have a more difficult time adjusting to being around everyone, rather than just seeing everything through a virtual screen. So, we are working to bring [back] the idea of working together, being in new situations, and helping students work through that transition.”

Other projects include building a prehensile tail, and another using biomimicry to look into the design of animal habitats – and how that could impact buildings designed by humans.

Russell adds that similar programs have been running in Akron Public Schools, and she hopes that they can expand further into Summit County in the future. That depends on funding – in Stark County programs, it’s coming from a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.