September 20, 2019
With the opening of the new school year just around the corner, Ardastra Gardens Zoo and Conservation Centre is set to roll-out its collection of field trips combining the excitement of exploration with enriched understanding – valuable assets for creative teachers looking for an opportunity to expand the school’s curriculum beyond the four walls of a classroom.
“Our well-designed field trips and scheduled educational programs reinforce what’s already been taught but also help students connect with the curriculum in a personal way, aiding in the retention of information surrounding the lesson,” said Bonnie Young, animal curator and education manager for The Bahamas’ only zoo.
From its “Zooniversity” Ardastra offers a wide-range of lessons, guided tours and fun, team-building activities. All lessons are aligned with the Ministry of Education's science curriculum. Teachers are encouraged to request a course catalog.
“When it comes to getting students primed for learning, our reputation is second to none. Students become rich in knowledge that wouldn’t have been readily available through a text-books only course of study,” said Ms Young.
At Ardastra students get to visit the only land mammal native to The Bahamas, the Bahamian hutia, once thought to be extinct. They could learn about the habitat, diet and reproduction cycle of The Bahamas’ national bird, the pink flamingo or feel the smooth and wax like skin of the Bahamian boa – if they dare.
There are also close encounters to be had with Ardastra’s rainbow lorikeets, peafowl and parrots, while the pink flamingos go on parade three times a day.
With over 200 creatures representing 50 species at the four-acre facility, after spending a day at the zoo getting to know the animals, students leave excited about science and brimming over with new information, Ardastra said.
“We have dozens of educational topics that we can cover and customize by grade level, whether its teaching first graders about our national symbols, introducing sixth graders to endangered species and human impact on the environment, enhancing twelfth graders knowledge of biodiversity, or assisting a university student with an onsite research project, there is much to see and learn at Ardastra,” said Ms Young.
Here at this lush site, originally opened as a botanical garden in 1937, educational programs cater to children of all ages.
For children five and under Ardastra offers Tales for Tots. During the interactive reading circle, toddlers, preschoolers and their parents engage in story-time, crafts, games, animal encounters and nature play.
Meantime, Ardastra’s Zooventures program is reportedly popular with homeschoolers. Over the course of three hours, students gain hands-on experience in science investigation.
The first Zooventure for the 2019/2020 school year is schedule for Thursday, September 26. Under the theme, “Science Gone Wild.” Students will conduct scientific inquiries, group investigations, as well as participate in team challenges and animal interactions.
For those in search of community service hours in fulfillment of high school graduation requirements or looking for a way to get the entire family involved in saving the planet, Citizen Science Saturdays takes place once a month as a three-hour program.
Each month, participants undertake a different citizen science initiative. By collecting and logging data in a group setting individuals learn how to contribute high quality data to scientists around the world.v While September and October are the best time to avoid crowds, meaningful interactions are available year-round, said Ardastra. Teachers interested in booking an educational program are encouraged to book as far in advance as possible as dates can sell out.
A three-day notice is required for bookings with a 10-student minimum per field trip. Lunch packages are available but must be requested in writing at the time of the initial booking.
“Educators tell us students demonstrate better understanding of a subject matter because of the real-life connections and hand-on experience our field trips provide for primary, junior and high school students,” said Ms Young.
“By supplementing what students learn in the classroom an Ardastra field trip brings life to learning, making the subject more relevant to the student.
Students of The Meridian School make observations about native and non-native plants, measuring diameter of spider webs in different habitats.
Collecting soil samples as part of an investigation on soil type and how it impacts the health of leaves and flowers.
Team challenge. Flip the blanket while everyone keeps both feet on at all times.
Tales for Tots animal encounters. These cuties help to feed a Sulcata tortoise.
Ardastra's animal curator, Bonnie Young introduces Tales for Tots participants to the local wildlife.