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On Safari: The Columbus Zoo Brings Science To Life


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There’s no substitute for a great teacher, but Lerch the Turkey Vulture comes close.

Lerch and other eye-catching animals from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are part of an innovative education program sponsored by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation known as the Chase Classroom Safari.

The turkey vulture, a scavenger and a carnivore, is being joined by a corn snake and a hedgehog, and Zoo education staff, of course, to help inner-city kids learn about the food chain. Each month a new lesson is presented to the kids, with the help of some of earth’s most intriguing teaching aides.

“The Chase Classroom Safari program was created to address the academic needs of students while encouraging a commitment to wildlife and wild places, ” said Danielle Ross, Education Director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.  “These programs are especially important when they reach children and families who do not have the chance to regularly visit the Zoo.”

The Zoo believes that every child – no matter their economic circumstances – should have the opportunity to discover and engage in the wonders of animals and the natural world. Unfortunately, with declining resources for schools, many children from low-income areas do not have the opportunity to do so. To help these underserved students and their schools, the Columbus Zoo will expand its former Habitat Hollow After School program into the Chase Classroom Safari – a school day program serving Columbus City School students and students at the Homeless Families Foundation Dowd Center, St. Stephen’s Community House, Columbus Collegiate Academy, Harambee Christian School and KIPP Journey Academy. All of the Zoo’s programs and projects are designed to engage participants and cultivate their knowledge of and passion for conservation and the natural world – all of which is central to our mission and strategic vision.

The JPMorgan Chase Foundation has invested more than $600, 000.00 in Zoo education programs targeted toward Columbus City Schools’ students since 2004. “Kids who are ready to learn are engaged and excited, ” said Jeff Lyttle, Region Executive of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. “Few things make a child’s eyes light up more than an interesting and unusual animal. We’re betting that lessons tied to a child’s first encounter with a hedgehog or a snake are not easily forgotten.”

The Zoo takes the Chase Classroom Safari program to its monthly visits to each of its sites in a colorfully designed van. The one-hour sessions are filled with experiential, standards-based education, including activities and animal visitors. The Zoo team provides teachers with follow-on activities related to their lessons in an effort to extend the students’ learning into other subject areas, such as math or language arts. These extension activities are being offered this year as the result of direct feedback from teachers.

The Zoo expects the Chase Classroom Safari program to reach about 3, 600 students during the current school year and during the summer.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year.  General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+.  Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free.  The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.)  For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit

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