TUCSON, Ariz. — The Reid Park Zoo is open and welcoming back guests at just 20% capacity, but their online services they are moving full speed ahead.
"Right now in particular, I think it's a lot harder for students to get out and enjoy nature. It's also a lot harder for teachers to really get that support that they need from outside sources," said Reid Park Zoo Education Specialist, Kristin Ulvestad.
In March, COVID-19 closed the zoo. It meant events like field trips could no longer happen.
Staff at Reid Park Zoo said they quickly switched gears. They came up with a plan that has connected them with 140 classrooms across the country, including many in Southern Arizona.
"We offer virtual zoo adventure programs, which are interactive programs that include live animals. We have the kids ask questions and participate in activities," said Reid Park Zoo Education Supervisor, Jennifer Stoddard.
The programs are broadcast live over Zoom from the zoo's in-house studio. Stoddard said the teachers try to give students an experience similar to what it would be in-person. Teachers bring out props to keep kids engaged throughout the 45 minute session.
"The education team is really creative. They are also super flexible. Whatever teachers need, we are willing to adapt," said Stoddard.
The team at the zoo admits the transition to online education has not always been easy, but add that it is worth it if they get to continue interacting with the community.
"It's great to be able to connect with teachers and students in any way that we can. We want to help them connect to nature," said Ulvestad.