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Zoo Animals Visit Tacoma Students

Fourth and fifth graders at Tacoma’s Arlington Elementary were giddy with excitement as they gathered in their gym.

Which animals were they about to encounter? Maybe an armadillo? A skink? The students chatted with their friends about the possibilities as they settled in for the presentation from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium staff biologists.

As part of the Wildlife Champions partnership between Point Defiance Zoo and two Tacoma elementary schools, students learn and practice empathy for wildlife while becoming stewards of their schools, local parks, and neighborhoods.

Zookeepers bring a couple animals a few times each year for students to observe and learn about in a close encounter setting.

The first animal the team shared was one that might seem a little scary at first: Scarlet the rainbow boa.

Staff biologist Suzanne helped shatter the stigma around snakes. She shared information about rainbow boas and why they don’t have to be scary. She also talked about what makes Scarlet unique. For example, Scarlet is nine years old and is a sister – information that is relatable to the kids and creates empathy.

Next, staff biologist Adrienne brought out Pebbles the burrowing owl.

Students were encouraged to be extra quiet for Pebbles so she would feel comfortable in a new place. She made little chirping noises throughout the program that indicated they did a great job and she was very comfortable.

Suzanne shared that Pebbles is also nine years old. Burrowing owls are different than other owls because they live in burrows in the ground in grassland habitat. Because they spend so much time on the ground, they tend to fly much lower than other owls.

The students headed back to class with a new excitement and appreciation for the animals they were able to meet.