Each year Tacoma students from the Science and Math Institute (SAMI) participate in a day of service with Point Defiance Zoo. In previous years, students have helped shovel sand in the polar bear habitat and assisted with landscaping and maintenance of Zoo grounds.
This year, Staff Biologist Russell and Zoological Aide Simer led a group of six SAMi high school students to create enrichment materials for Suki, the Asian elephant. With donated fire hoses from Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One, students constructed two separate enrichment devices for Suki.
Students were divided into two teams to weave, tie, drill and build enrichments that Suki will use as interactive feeders. “We can place lettuce or browse into the openings,” says Russell. “She could also use them to knock around or scratch against.”
Russell and Simer each led one group. They helped the groups work together, troubleshoot and safely handle necessary equipment.
SAMi teacher Alexis Beard was also there to support the students. He serves as a mentor for some of the students of the group and helps the students whenever they need it.
“I’ll make sure they’re being safe with the equipment they’re handling, but then I’ll step away and let them proceed and learn,” he says.
A Unique Partnership
A high school on Zoo grounds allows students to participate in incredible opportunities. The annual day of service is one of the many ways SAMi students show their appreciation to Zoo staff and animals.