Random header image... Refresh for more!

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

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

Celebrating 40 Years of Graduates from the Zoo Academy

If you follow the Zoo blog, you’ve likely read posts written by some of current Zoo Academy students and are somewhat familiar with the program. This year, we are celebrating a milestone as the 40th class of Zoo Academy graduates prepares to walk across the Cintas Center stage and receive their diplomas on May 24.

The Cincinnati Zoo Academy has been a part of the public school system in Cincinnati since 1975. In 1995, the program underwent a substantial change from a strictly vocational program with an emphasis on natural resources and wildlife management to a four year college preparatory program where the students earn vocational degrees by working with zookeepers for two hours a day. During the 2008 – 2009 school year, we became a Tech Prep program with articulation agreements with UC Blue Ash and Cincinnati State. Students spend their ninth and tenth grade years at Hughes High School. During their eleventh and twelfth grade years, home base for the Zoo Academy is located on the first floor of the Education Center on Zoo grounds. The students spend several hours a day working alongside keepers, educators and other staff in labs throughout the Zoo.

Soon to graduate, Zoo Academy student Dominick Stowers (right) works with the Africa keepers and an ostrich.

Soon to graduate, Zoo Academy student Dominick Stowers (right) works with the Africa keepers and an ostrich.

Soon to graduate, Monneka Johnson socializes Bonnie, a screaming hairy armadillo, during her Education lab. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Soon to graduate, Monneka Johnson socializes Bonnie, a screaming hairy armadillo, during her Education lab. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

This year’s graduates follow in the footsteps of an esteemed group of alumni. Many graduates have gone on to establish careers in environmental or zoological fields and some have actually been hired on as staff here at the Zoo, including Rickey Kinley, who has worked at the Zoo for 22 years and is currently a keeper in the aviculture department. Here Rickey shares his story in his own words:

“I started my life as an underprivileged kid. We were very poor.  I can remember being fascinated by nature and animals as far back as when I was three years old watching a ladybug on my window sill. At about the third grade, I had the epiphany that books held the information about the animals that I was so interested in. I became a bookworm, but only with books about animals. This curiosity developed further on to my teenage years when a freshman year science teacher mentioned to me about a high school called the Zoo School. As a teenager, this school seemed too good to be true. I applied, was accepted, and started school at the beginning of my junior year.

It was quite amazing to see on a daily basis all of the Cincinnati Zoo All-stars:  Cathryn Hilker (founder of Cat Ambassador Program), Mike Dulaney (current Curator of Mammals), Milan Busching (former insect keeper), and of course, Thane Maynard (current Zoo Director). These were people that I had regularly seen and idolized on the TV show “Zoo Zoo Zoo.”  Every single day I felt like I needed to pinch myself to make sure that it was a real high school.

Like every teenager, I was never quite sure what, when, or where life would take me or what decisions I should be making. The Zoo School gave me focus, direction, and mentoring. My very first lab rotation was in Wildlife Canyon with folks like Randy Pairan (current keeper) who taught me about the babirusa named Oscar that was more like a dog than a pig. During the Cat House lab, I was allowed to ride in the vet van next to an anesthetized lion on the way to the vet hospital for a root canal.

Rickey Kinley as a Zoo Academy student assisting with a procedure on a lion.

Rickey Kinley as a Zoo Academy student assisting with a procedure on a lion.

In the Bird House, Casey Nastold (former keeper) taught me how to hand-feed a variety of parrots, including baby macaws, eclectus parrots, African grey parrots, cockatoos, and the list goes on. Way back in 1992, the Bird House used to remove the eggshells from each egg before we smashed them for diets. I mentioned to Casey one day how in one of my books I read that many bird breeders smash the eggs with the shell on to provide grit and calcium for the birds. Casey decided that it made sense, the change was made and that is how we do our eggs still to this day. Looking back it still amazes me that she, in her managerial position, listened to the idea of a teenager.  It was extraordinary that she judged the concept on the merit of the idea and not from whose mouth it came.

Today, Rickey works in aviculture with birds, including the rhinoceros hornbill.

Today, Rickey works in aviculture with birds, including the rhinoceros hornbill.

I met Mary Abbott (current keeper) during my rotation in the Children’s Zoo.  In this department lived a turkey vulture named Greta that only liked Mary. Actually, she only liked women.  Any woman could pick this bird up like a baby, but men were never treated so kindly. Even though Greta was partial to women in general, I could tell that this vulture was a great judge of character because Mary was one of the nicest people I met as a student.

I want to help others understand how great of an impact that a program like this can have on a person.  Two things seemed impossible to me as a youngster with few opportunities:  1) to one day become a zookeeper and 2) to own my own business.  I have now been at the Zoo for 22 years and I have been a business owner for 13 years.”

Rickey shares his knowledge as a bird keeper with participants in the Zoo's Spring Break Camp.

Rickey shares his knowledge as a bird keeper with participants in the Zoo’s Spring Break Camp.

Learn more about the Zoo Academy and hear inspiring stories from other graduates here.

 

May 22, 2015   1 Comment