St. Paul second graders are about to make a virtual visit to Como
Coming to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is a field trip tradition that thousands of St. Paul second graders have learned to look forward to. Since 2016, your contributions to Como Friends have made it possible for every second grade classroom in the district to take part in a free field trip experience, complete with door-to-door transportation, and a conservation classroom experience designed specifically for early elementary learners.
“The St. Paul second grade field trip program has been a really popular partnership that a lot of teachers and families told us they were really missing this year,” says Bekah Hanes, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s Learning Experiences Coordinator. “So with Como Friends’ help again, we’ve created a series of virtual field trips that St. Paul second graders and their teachers can take this winter as they make their transition back to classroom learning.” (pictured left to right, Bekah Hanes, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s Learning Experiences Coordinator and Ashley Verdeck, Education Specialist)
Set to launch in early February, Como’s new virtual field trip program features six different conservation lessons that teachers can tap into through Seesaw, an education app used in St. Paul’s elementary schools. Featuring some of Como’s favorite animal ambassadors like Turkey, the double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, and Turbo, an Argentine black and white tegu, the goal of each program is to help students make a more personal connection to animals, lessons that research suggests can foster empathy and a life-long commitment to conservation. “In each lesson, we’re introducing students to these animals, and exploring what makes them unique and special, not just as representatives of their species, but as individuals,” Hanes says.
As the district’s elementary schools return to classrooms on February 1, the design of the virtual field trip program gives teachers the flexibility to use this free conservation curriculum whenever they like, with a format that encourages students to continue their learning with video reflections, drawings, writing and other assignments. Once the pilot program is complete, Como’s education department will analyze feedback from St. Paul classrooms in hopes of offering a similar program to other classrooms in the metro area and greater Minnesota.
“Taking a field trip to Como is an experience we don’t want kids to miss, so this is a great way to make that possible for this year’s second graders,” says Jackie Sticha, president of Como Friends, which is providing the funding for this new free program for St. Paul schools. “Contributions to Como Friends have been critical to helping Como to respond during this challenging time to our community’s need for great educational resources that families and teachers can access from home. It’s exciting to consider how new virtual platforms like this can help even more young learners benefit from Como’s conservation curriculum, whether they live here in the Twin Cities, or around the state.”