Last year’s Group III girls didn’t expect their study of vertebrates to bring them face to face with African penguins, Rothschild’s giraffes, and white-handed gibbons—and they certainly didn’t expect to find those animals right here in Greenwich! Yet it was this unforgettable experience that helped crystallize and enhance their classroom learning and brought to life the plight of the world’s endangered species. Thanks to a new partnership between Greenwich Academy and the LEO Zoological Conservation Center (LEOZCC), GA students' awareness and understanding of wildlife conservation has been heightened in a way only possible through such hands-on interactions. This partnership was made possible through a generous gift from GA parents Sonnet and Ian McKinnon.
LEOZCC is a nonprofit, accredited off-exhibit breeding facility dedicated to species threatened with extinction, scientific conservation based research in conjunction with major universities and zoological researchers, rescue work, and the education of future conservationists.
Through collaborative programs, GA students will learn about global problems that drive extinction, such as habitat loss, fragmentation (causing a lack of genetic diversity), climate change, pet trade, and human wildlife conflict. They will witness first-hand the center’s efforts to stem the tide of animal extinction through its breeding programs to reintroduce endangered species back into the wild and collective zoological breeding programs.
In discussing Group III's capstone experience in the study of vertebrates, Lower School Science faculty Doug Rendell notes, "The students were able to see many of the adaptations they had studied displayed in the animals they observed, helping them further understand the similarities and differences between different types of vertebrates. The experience also fostered their appreciation for all wild animals and their delicate ecosystems, empowering the next generation to continue the amazing conservation efforts already in place at LEOZCC."
The inaugural project between the LEOZCC and the Upper School STEM Interest Group will be launched this fall. Students are tackling the foundations of conservation biology, especially zoo-based conservation, while developing independent research projects with the Center. Dr. Ann Decker, director of the Duff Center for STEM Initiatives said, "The LEOZCC partnership gives our girls first-hand experience working with an outstanding organization dedicated to conservation. This is an opportunity for our students to work collaboratively on real-world problems, learn about conservation by actually engaging in the work of conservationists, and make a difference in a cause they care deeply about."
As one Group III student summed up her class’ expedition to LEOZCC, "I think when I grow up I am going to work there. My favorite animal is the orangutan, which is just like us in so many ways!"