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An Experience like No Other: the Zoo Academy Story

Guest Blogger: Zoo Academy Senior, Sarah Franklin

To start off, my name is Sarah Franklin.  I’m a Zoo Academy student here at the Cincinnati Zoo, and I love every minute of it. The Zoo Academy is a branch of Hughes STEM High School, and is offered to anyone who attends.

Here’s a bit of my story on how I ended up here:

I was raised on a farm, not too far from Cincinnati, but in a small town that you’ve probably never heard of before. Growing up, my family and I had an array of animals on our farm. I used to love to go out with my father in the mornings or evenings to feed the animals. Any opportunity I had to go out with him, I’d jump right into my muck boots, (that came higher than my knees), throw on my coat or jacket, depending on the temperature, and run out right behind him. Some of my favorite memories from my hometown were right out on that farm with him.

Here I am as a toddler on my Dad's farm.

Here I am as a toddler on my Dad’s farm.

At about the age of fourteen when my dad got remarried, I had the opportunity to move to Cincinnati and change schools. I wasn’t particularly happy with my current school system, so I began to research about public schools in Cincinnati. During one of my searches, I came across Hughes High. They talked a lot about pathways on their website, and featured a pathway they called: (you guessed it) The Zoo Academy! I called up the next day to learn more about it, and actually spent time talking to Glen Schulte, who is now my current teacher. I fell in love the minute I learned about this amazing opportunity, and decided that this was where I wanted to start my new beginning. We packed up and moved soon after and that began my story here, at my favorite place on Earth.

In my Zoo Academy uniform

In my Zoo Academy uniform

The Cincinnati Zoo and Hughes High School have become second homes for me. I have had experiences here that I could experience nowhere else.  I became a strong leader within my school, and the biggest Big Red Athletics fan they’d ever seen. Actually, this year, (my SENIOR year), I was recorded as the first girl in Big Red history to score points for the Hughes Football team. I even did a radio interview about it. That was an experience within itself, and I am so fortunate to have been a part of that.

Here I am in my football gear with my littlest fan.

Here I am in my football gear with my littlest fan.

Here at the Zoo, I do daily work with the keepers, animals, and currently the wonderful staff within the Education Department. Some of my favorite animal encounters have been during these last two years, having the opportunity to work with animals that range from insects to elephants. One of my favorite experiences was working with the cougars this past fall while in the Night Hunters department at the Zoo. I also met the love of my life here at the Zoo, a hyacinth blue macaw named Azul at the Bird House. I’ve enjoyed every lab I’ve participated in, and learned so much from the staff here. It is really an experience that is like no other, because the Cincinnati Zoo is the only zoo in the country that allows high school students to participate in labs and work alongside keepers on a daily basis.

Here I am with the love of my life, Azul.

Here I am with the love of my life, Azul.

In the upcoming future I plan on attending the University of Cincinnati and continuing on my story here at the Cincinnati Zoo. I feel as though my experiences here at the Zoo aren’t ready to come to an end yet, so I hope I am able to continue on here after I graduate, whether it is as a volunteer or even a paid staff member. I love it here at the Zoo, and though this may not be where my career path ends, it is definitely a place that I would hope for it to begin. Thanks so much for reading my story!  If you ever see me around the Zoo, stop me and ask any questions you’d like!

Best Wishes, Sarah.

November 20, 2013   10 Comments

Under Construction: Night Hunters VIII

Time is going by so fast! The new Night Hunters exhibit will be open before you know it. Here are some pictures of the latest progress.

The new way in and out

New entry and exit to the building

You’ll walk under a trellis (yet to be built) and enter the exhibit building through [Read more →]

February 11, 2011   1 Comment

Night Hunters: Under Construction V

With the holidays and all, the past month has been a blur and I didn’t have a chance to post many updates to the blog. I hope everyone had a great holiday season and that you had a chance to come to the Festival of Lights. I brought my kids during a snow storm and we had a great time. The kids went straight to the front of the line to see Santa since so few people braved the weather that night. We were pretty happy not to have to wait in line very long.

Rest assured, progress continues on Night Hunters design and development. I haven’t been down to the site recently, but I hear that the concrete foundation for the rotunda has been poured and the rest of the floors are scheduled to be poured next week. We’ve prepared several track casts–clouded leopard, ocelot, and puma–that our exhibits artist, Jessica, will use to make impressions in the concrete in certain areas.

I’ve been generating content for a computer interactive whereby visitors will be able to choose from a selection of text and images to create their own digital version of an ID sign for one of the small cats on exhibit. Their creations will actually be displayed in rotation at that cat’s exhibit. I think people will get a kick out of seeing the sign they created on display. What do you think?

I hope to visit the site to snap some more Under Construction photos to share soon. Until then, here are a few photos of some of the critters you’re likely to see when Night Hunters opens in May.

Fishing cat

Burmese python

Bat-eared fox

January 4, 2011   1 Comment