Thanks to a $5,000 donation from First Federal Bank of the Midwest, students at nine TPS schools are going to get a chance to see zoo animals up close and personal.

At a news conference at Harvard Elementary on Tuesday, November 17, Dr. Romules Durant, CEO/superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, joined with officials from First Federal and the Toledo Zoo to announce the new partnership. First Federal was represented by its president and CEO, Donald P. Hileman, while Ron Fricke, the deputy director for animals, conservation and education, represented the zoo.

"I’m proud to announce a growing partnership with both organizations -- one that is focused on benefiting our students," Dr. Durant said.

The donation from First Federal will allow students from nine TPS schools to participate in the zoo's Zooper Challenge, an interactive educational program in which animals are brought right to the schools. The program has a high level of student involvement and invites young learners to participate in several animal-themed challenges. Throughout the show, live animals are used to highlight adaptations and enhance the learning experience.

"As a school district, we appreciate the generosity of local supporters who have declared education as one of their primary focus areas and we welcome them as they work with us to ensure student academic success," Dr. Durant said..

“As part of the Toledo community, we feel it is important to invest in organizations that prove to empower and leave a lasting, positive impact on individuals,” said Mr. Hileman. “Toledo Public Schools and the Toledo Zoo do just that. We are ecstatic about the opportunity to gift the Zooper Challenge and look forward to the roll out of the program."

The students at Harvard on Tuesday were treated to the first show, being introduced to domestic rats, a Mexican hairy prehensile-tailed dwarf porcupine and an African bullfrog.

As an added bonus at the news conference, there were students from the TPS Natural Science Technology program who are currently enrolled in animal management classes. They were joined by their teachers, Natalie Cook and Steve Oswanski.

The Natural Science Technology students got the chance to shadow the Zoo staff as they presented their program to the Harvard students. And they were on hand to talk to the Harvard students who might be interested in enrolling in one of the 35 Career Technology programs that TPS offers.

Dr. Durant told The Blade the partnership helps students connect their interest in animals to high school course offerings for those who want to explore a career in animal care.

“This is kind of the first time we’ve partnered this way,” Mr. Durant said. “We provide a prep program with our animal care program that will allow you to go right into that. So if you’re looking at going into the zoo, we have that program.”

Read The Blade story about the news conference here:

Posted on November 20, 2015