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Category — Zoo Academy

Exploring a World of Learning at the Zoo Academy

Guest Blogger: Zoo Academy Junior, Kadriesha Glover

Hi, my name is Kadriesha Glover! I’m a junior at The Zoo Academy and I’m so happy that I get the opportunity to be here and learn and work with so many amazing people in this friendly, peaceful environment. Last year I went to a non-Cincinnati public school that I had planned on graduating from, but it closed. That summer, my dad decided to sign me up for Hughes High School where I was placed in the Zoo Academy program. I’m so happy that I was put in the Zoo Academy program because, so far, it has been the best experience! At the Zoo Academy I get to explore a world of learning that’s different and exciting and actually makes me want to get out of bed for school.

I know you’re probably wondering if students at the Zoo Academy have “normal” classes too. Yes, we do. We have “A” day and “B” day classes. This means, in the morning on an “A” day, we have a zoo and aquarium class, reading, and a plant and horticulture class. On the morning of a “B” day, we have College and Career, history and math. In the afternoons on both “A” and “B” days, we have lunch and then go out into our labs (I think this is the best part of the day!). In our labs, we get to choose a department in the Zoo to help out. It’s like a class that is more hands-on and also like a work experience. I’ve gotten to work with the Horticulture, Children’s Zoo, and Commissary departments and now I get to work with the Education Department (where I get to learn new things like how to write a blog post and create activities for children who come to Zoo classes). The staff members will give us evaluations at the end of our lab to say how well we did in that lab and then we get graded for the work we do.

My favorite part of the Zoo Academy labs is that I get the opportunity to not just look at the animals and the plant life here at the Zoo but to learn things about them as well as help care for them. I used to be scared of most animals, but participation in labs means meeting and holding some animals that I never thought that I would touch or even want to be near! To have a school that helps me overcome these fears is amazing.
Kadriesha turtle pic

Another reason that I love being at the Zoo Academy is the Zoo’s botanical garden. I love flowers and plants. Before I even came to the Zoo for the Zoo Academy, I always admired their tulips in the spring. They were so beautiful and I always wondered how the Zoo planted so many and why they grow only in the spring. Then, my first lab was with Horticulture and I got to plant those same tulips. I can’t wait until they blossom in the spring! In the horticulture classes I have on “A” days, I get to learn about all of these great plants, how they make their own food, how they survive during harsh times, how long they live, and answers to other questions like that. Not only do I get the answers to those questions in class, but I get to also work hands-on with the plants and see and those processes first hand. All of this information amazes me and makes me want to learn more and more.
zooblooms_header

Although when I graduate I plan on going to college to major in interior design, the Zoo Academy still teaches me the 21 century skills that I need such as time management, people skills, etc. These are very helpful no matter what job your planning on going into. The Zoo Academy isn’t just one of those schools that only focus on one thing. These labs help us explore the various careers that are out in the world. Every department has a different role that they play in making sure that the Zoo is put together, the animals are taking care of, the public is educated and people are having fun when they come.

I think that no matter who you are or what you want to become when you graduate high school the Zoo Academy can give you the skills you need to do the job of your choosing. What I’ll take from the Zoo Academy when I graduate is not just knowledge of all animals and all plants, but also the knowledge I need to be successful in life. So if you’re looking for a school that gives you knowledge AND experience, then the Zoo Academy is a great place to come.

March 24, 2016   1 Comment

Happy National Zoo Keepers Week! Meet Bird Keeper, Rickey Kinley

Co-written by: Jenny Gainer, Cody Sowers, Aimee Owen, & Wendy Rice (All keepers at the Zoo)

Our third honoree for National Zoo Keeper Week is Rickey Kinley! Rickey works as a keeper in the Aviculture (bird) department. Of all the nominations we received this year for National Zoo Keeper Week, only one keeper, Rickey, was unanimously selected by the committee as well. Rickey serves as an excellent role model for so many keepers in so many different ways, it’s no wonder he was an easy selection!

Rickey Kinley with one of his many feathered friends

Rickey Kinley with one of his many feathered friends

As a former student with the Zoo’s high school, the Zoo Academy, Rickey naturally connects with the current Zoo Academy students and he absolutely sets the bar in terms of mentorship. Rickey always takes the time to get to know each student and he uses what he learns about them to relate to and inspire that student. Ricky goes out of his way to include the students and make them feel like they have an important role in the bird department, and he consistently challenges them to try new things, even if they are unsure of themselves.

Rickey Kinley back when he was a Zoo Academy student

Rickey Kinley back when he was a Zoo Academy student

Head Keeper Jenny Gainer says of Rickey, “He was a mentor of mine as a student, so I’ve experienced it first-hand. And I’ve witnessed even 15 years later he still goes the extra mile to work with these kids and support the program.”

Outside of his stellar involvement with Zoo Academy students, Rickey clearly connects with every keeper he works with as well, and the fun and playful relationship he shares with most colleagues was evident in their praise and recognition for him. According to his coworkers, Rickey likes to laugh at penguins, and he likes to laugh in general. He has an international fan club that spans many generations and in the past, he may or may not have been known to rock a sweet flat-top hairstyle (a la “Kid N’Play”). Additionally, some reports suggest that the “Morgan Freeman of the Birdhouse” has been known to eat multiple cans of spinach a day (in spite of not having a Popeye-style anchor tattoo), and owns one of the most musically diverse iPods currently in existence (although this fact has not yet been confirmed by Apple Inc. or Guinness World Records).

Rickey Kinley walking with penguins during the Penguin Parade

Rickey Kinley walking with penguins during the Penguin Parade

But in all seriousness, this experienced keeper, who trained under Andrew Erkenbrecker himself, possesses vast avian knowledge and has published many different papers on training (including one of the first papers ever published on penguin training!). Rickey is well versed in critical and logical thinking and he performs well when pushed outside of the box. His contributions to the bird department have been innumerable over the years, and he is absolutely a shining example of zoo keeping. Thanks for all that you do Rickey!

July 22, 2015   2 Comments

Saving the Kea

Hello! My name is Ke’Yasha Lumaine and I am a senior at the Zoo Academy. That’s right, the ZOO ACADEMY! I have been fortunate enough to actually go to school at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden my junior and senior years of high school. It has been an amazing life experience. There is a particular memory at the Zoo Academy that I will always think of fondly – my first encounter with the kea.

keyasha kea

During my senior year, I had the chance to do a lab rotation in the Aviculture (bird) department. It was the coolest experience that I have had with any department at the Zoo. Lab is where we spend two hours every day taking care of animals or maintaining Zoo grounds. I’ve had lab in Night Hunters, Maintenance, Commissary, Conservatory, Manatee Springs, Reptile House, Education and Education Interpretive Collection, yet no lab compared to the Aviculture department. At the time of my lab rotation, I had the chance to go into the Flight Cage which has kea, lorikeets, pigeons, and geese that are free to fly around the whole exhibit. To me, the most exciting birds in the exhibit were the kea. When Kim (an Aviculture keeper) and I walked into the enclosure, they all came wobbling towards us. They can look very intimidating with their long, sharp beak, strong claws and are pretty big in size for a parrot. I was a little uneasy about this at first but I felt sort of safe since Kim was there. They just swarmed around and played with us, climbing on my boots and following me around. They were like puppies, just with large beaks and wings! After my lab rotation, I learned that kea are the world’s only alpine parrot, that they live in the mountainous regions of South Island, New Zealand and that they were almost hunted to their extinction. Between the years of 1870 and 1970, it is estimated that 150,000 kea were killed by hunters who were paid bounties by the local government. Keas were hunted because their actions indirectly killed sheep. They would bite the backs of sheep and eat the fat stored near the kidneys. The sheep would often die later of an infection. The kea did this because, in the harsh winter months, the food that they would normally eat it is hard to find. One hundred years after the hunting began, a wildlife census found that there were only 5,000 birds left in the wild. After this, keas were granted partial protection until 1986 when they were given full protection under the Wildlife Act of 1953. Now, there are estimated to be 1,000-5,000 keas in the wild, making them a nationally endangered species. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has teamed up with the Kea Conservation Trust (KCT) with the hope that they can successfully increase kea populations. They use population research using vhf video tracking, nest monitoring devices and kea repellents to reduce human-wildlife conflict. The Zoo also sponsors KCT staff attendance at Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration which enables the KCT personnel to enhance their skills of first response human-wildlife emergencies. In addition, the Cincinnati Zoo has the largest collection of keas in North America and is committed to their conservation. At the time of my lab rotation, the keepers had successfully bred a pair and their chicks were a few months old. After learning about kea and interacting with them, I wanted to find out what I could do to help them. I learned that there are numerous ways that we can help spread awareness and conserve their natural habitat. It can be something as simple as telling someone about kea, donating money to the Kea Conservation Trust, or placing change in the interactive enrichment puzzle at their exhibit. Every small contribution adds up to make a huge impact. Next time you come to the Zoo make sure that you make a stop by the flight cage and visit the kea. They really love interacting with new people!

kea

June 11, 2015   4 Comments