[ MUSEUM-TO-GO PROGRAMS ]
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sean Flannery isn't sure how he feels about being a bird perch during a recent "Zoo to You" visit at Hale Kula Elementary School.
'Zoo to You'
Family pets can become best friends to their owners, teaching kids about responsibility, friendship, loyalty and care. Humane treatment of animals could also correlate with the proper treatment of fellow human beings.
Susie Gardner, director of education at the Honolulu Zoo, hopes that connections made with animals bring awareness of important issues such as conservation and recycling.
"We want to inspire a stewardship of our living world. The children will preserve what they care for," said Gardner.
The Zoo to You program's first priority is to reach schools that have not been able to visit the zoo due to a lack of funding or time.
The traveling program brings real animal skins, bones, feathers and furs to the classroom. "When some kids see the bones, they think they must be dinosaurs," said Gardner.
"We (also) use a model of a human skull. They can get a good idea of what they look like without the skin and everything."
One of the more interesting items is the elephant tooth. "They can feel the grooves -- the nice flat molars used for grinding their food," Gardner said.
Many schools use the program to prepare their students for a future visit to the zoo or afterward, as a review. "It's something we use to get the kids excited about their zoo visit," she said.
Children aren't the only participants; the oldest group was from a senior citizen home, Gardner said. "It was nice to bring something to them, since they are not mobile."
EACH PROGRAM is about 45 minutes long, and themes are adjusted to the ages of the participants. Preschoolers and kindergartners can take in the "Animals A to Z" programs, learning how scientists classify animals using scales, furs and feathers and why certain animals are grouped together.
First- and second-graders learn to figure out what animals eat by looking at their beaks and teeth in the "What's for Lunch" program.
Fifth-graders explore unity, diversity and facets of scientific inquiry. They discover ways plants and animals have evolved, from porcupines to zebras.
Older children can also learn about endangered animals and biodiversity. "Island invaders," a high school program, covers sustainability, interdependence and how invasive species threaten Hawaii's ecosystem. Programs focusing on endangered species are another option. Career talks are also offered for intermediate and high schools.
"We want keikis to have an opportunity to learn about animals and the importance of preserving their habitats," Gardner said.
Cost is $95 for a maximum of 45 students. Auditorium and large community groups cost $450. Reservations required three weeks in advance.