Students become zoo keepers for the day

FILE - Students visit the Columbian Park Zoo to learn about zoo keepers. (WLFI File Photo)
FILE - Students visit the Columbian Park Zoo to learn about zoo keepers. (WLFI File Photo)

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – A New Community class had the chance to step behind the scenes at Columbian Park Zoo and become zoo keepers for the day.

“We are making food for the animals and cleaning their enclosures,” student Elizabeth Naylor-Hayes said. “It’s fun to make the food because you get to make the different little activities that they work with.”

A class of New Community School sixth-graders traded in their books to become zoo keepers.

“Our students come out here about once a month,” teacher Chris Cole said. “We try to do a community service for the zoo to allow our students to help the zoo keepers whether it’s cleaning out stalls, preparing food and getting some enrichments ready to give them the perspective that they don’t get from coming in just from the public.”

“We want them to have a real life view of what it takes to be a zoo keeper and this is it,” zoo volunteer coordinator Courtney Nave said. “The zoo keepers do a wonderful job of engaging these kids and making sure they know exactly what their doing and not only what their doing, but why.”

Once a month instead of heading to the zoo, the zoo comes to their classroom. Nave visits the sixth-grade classroom once a month with an animal to talk about daily activities of a zoo keeper.

“We talk about what zoo keepers do, so if they’re interested in that as a career it’s something that they might want to pursue. So, it’s been wonderful and the kids are always so engaging,” Nave said.

“I think it’s cool because I get to see animals I never could before without having to go to a different zoo,” Naylor-Hayes said.

Cole said it’s a partnership that not only allows students to interact with the animals, but teaches them life skills they’ll use the rest of their lives.

“The number one thing that I’m trying to get our students to do is to learn what it means to serve our community and give back. That’s kind of what the goal is here,” Cole said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language, off topic, or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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