Lions and Tigers and Bears... Oh, my!

Educator Betsy Peloquin with her class of students at St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School.

Educator Betsy Peloquin with her class of students at St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School.

Four Teach for Christ Educators had the opportunity to chaperone a school trip to the zoo for the students of St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School in Northeast Minneapolis. John Eilen, Stephen Barnhart, and Maria Miller joined Betsy Peloquin in aiding the 1st through 4th grade classes on their trip to the Minnesota Zoo. 50 kids, 7 adults, and 485 acres filled with exotic animals made for an unforgettable day!

The day began at JPII with necessary morning preparations: securing lunches, distributing first aid kits to the adults, and delegating small groups. TfC Educators packed up the lunches provided by the school and put together basic first aid kits, while the teachers separated students into groups and collected lunches brought from home. After everyone had finally been loaded onto the bus and posed for a picture, the group was off! The forty-five minute bus ride was passed with songs, jokes, excited wonderings about our destination, and even some napping amidst all the chaos.

Upon arriving at the zoo, the children and adults split up into groups of about seven and were unleashed upon the wild inhabitants. From camels to coyotes, from lizards to lynxes, and from marsupials to manta rays they saw it all! The Minnesota Zoo boasts over 5,000 animals and the kids wanted to see every last one. The more adventurous groups began with the outdoor trails and the larger mammals: bison, gazelle, tigers and bears. Other groups began indoors with the Tropics Trail and Discovery Bay, where they saw exotic birds, colorful fish, sharks, smaller mammals like otters and fruit bats, and even the friendly gibbons swinging around their own private island.

A favorite experience for all of the kids was the Bird Show. The kids were awed by the huge, colorful birds that swooped out over the crowd, nearly skimming the heads of those sitting in the center with their vast wings. The younger ones were somewhat alarmed by the birds at first, but by the end of the show they all wanted to stay and ask questions of the keeper. Other favorite exhibits were the red panda, the toucan, the tigers, and the wolves. The kids also loved Discovery Bay, where they had the opportunity to touch the manta rays and the tiger sharks.

As the day was coming to a close, everyone gathered together just outside the zoo to wait for the bus near the giant bronze bison. Getting all fifty excited kids (who by that time were acting a bit like monkeys themselves) into the camera frame was not easy! After a bit of shouting, running after stragglers and long minutes of “Hold still, just one more! Look at the camera! Everyone smile!” the picture was finally taken. The tired kids, and the even more tired chaperones, once more climbed onto the bus, and headed home. The ride back was much quieter and more than one child fell fast asleep...and the chaperones claim they were only resting their eyes.

The zoo trip was a huge success for teachers, students, and educators. The teachers were very grateful for the help of the TC Educators, without whom the trip might not have been possible. It is often difficult to find enough parent chaperones who are both available for the whole day and who are VIRTUS trained to work with children, so having the Educators there was a huge help. The students, though excited, behaved very well for all of the adults, including those they had never seen before. All of the Educators felt that the students were a joy to work with. It was a day to be remembered by all!

Kendra Posch