The Caldwell Zoo brings some of its cuddly -- and not-so-cuddly -- critters to school. Who’s up for hissing cockroaches?
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor
Zoo Pals

Yantis fourth-graders Shelbie Walker and Robin Braden enjoy petting Licorice, a long-haired guinea pig, brought from Tyler's Caldwell Zoo by Jennifer Chapman (pictured) and education curator Linda Kunze.
Staff Photo By Patti Sells

Nov. 13, 2005 -- Some curious creatures from Tyler's Caldwell Zoo paid a visit to Yantis Independent School District on Wednesday bringing both thrills and chills to elementary and junior high students.

"Hands-on programs such as these really make a child's world come alive," said Yantis science teacher Holly Long. "The children respond very well with this sort of interaction. For some they are getting their first glimpse of some of these animals."

A hissing cockroach from Madagascar, a Texas toad and a guinea pig named Licorice presented the opportunity to teach youngsters about habitats, metamorphosis and feeding strategies of various animals.

"Our program always reinforces the curriculum the students are already following. We just present it in a different venue that keeps it interesting for them," said Linda Kunze, education curator of Caldwell Zoo. "And we hope it gives the children a deeper appreciation for wild life and animals."

The prekindergarten class first enjoyed a story time critter tale before "zoo friends" were brought around for closer inspection and then petted — if the kids chose to do so.

"So much of their world is the hands-on experience," explained Long, who said she never knows what her young students are going to bring into the science lab. "They bring in hordes of things. 

"It gets pretty scary sometimes," she added, laughing.

According to Caldwell Zoo teacher Jennifer Chapman, getting feedback from the little ones is part of all the fun.

"They all want to tell you their own experiences with animals and some of the stories they tell are so funny," she said. "It's the best part of the job. And they let you know right away if you’re doing a good job or not."

Fourth graders got to share their knowledge on habitats and learn a few things they didn't know.

Kunze and Chapman discussed the Arctic environments, and the kids got a quick lesson on how blubber acts as an insulator to animals such as polar bears, walruses and whales. An experiment was conducted with the help of fourth-grader Aspen McWhorter, who after slipping a latex glove on his hand, submerged it into ice water for as long as he could stand it (a few seconds tops). After that, he slipped his gloved hand into a baggy full of Crisco — a substitute for animal fat, or blubber — then resubmerged his hand in the ice water where he was able to keep it for a much longer period of time.

Later in the day, fifth graders got a lesson on metamorphosis, while seventh graders learned about various feeding strategies.

"It's a long day for the animals, so we are very limited as to what we can bring," explained Kunze. "But the kids really enjoy it, and so do we. It's the perfect job for someone who loves both kids and animals."

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