Snakes! Armadillos! A kestrel! A few animals made their way (with keepers, of course!) to Tacoma Public Schools’ Lister Elementary in East Tacoma. The school was kicking off the first year of the science-in-nature partnership with Metro Parks Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma Nature Center, and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. The assembly had all the passion for nature you could want – plus some special guests.
“We pledge to show empathy to plants, animals and each other,” chanted the hundreds of students from wide-eyed kindergarteners to excited fifth graders. Teachers joined in too. The pledge goes on to sum up the award-winning Wildlife Champions project: Show empathy for wildlife, share science learning and protect local nature.
For the past several years, staff from the Zoo, Tacoma Nature Center, and Northwest Trek have co-taught weekly nature science lessons alongside teachers at Arlington Elementary and Oak Tree Park in South Tacoma. This year, that work will continue at Lister Elementary both inside, out in the school yard and in nearby Swan Creek Park. Students will learn everything from Native American culture to plant biology, do activities from creating windsocks to bulb planting, and hit learning targets from science and math to art and music.
For now, though, the kick-off assembly was exciting enough. As each class brought a banner of their animal mascot up to the microphone, students told cool animal facts. And Zoo staff presented special guests: an armadillo, a snake, and a kestrel.
“We’re so proud of this amazing, collaborative program,” said Point Defiance Zoo and Northwest Trek director Alan Varsik. “Wildlife Champions is creating a generation of young people who are passionate about wildlife and care for nature.”