Grant brings Bronx Zoo experience to students

(L-r) WCS development officer Amy Hersh, WCS vice president of education Sara Hobel, WCS director of corporation relations and special events Dale Brooks and Bronx JPMorgan Chase Foundation vice president Gayle Jennings-O’Byrne exchanged the Chase grant at a ceremony on Thursday, June 12, at the Bronx Zoo. - Photo courtesy of John Delaney

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co., approximately 1,500 local youth will have the opportunity to experience hands-on science at the Bronx Zoo.

The Wildlife Conservation Society gratefully accepted the check on Thursday, June 12, knowing it would provide the borough’s underserved public schools with essential education classes focusing on conservation.

“Environmental education is a right for all,” Sara Hobel, vice president of education at WCS, commented. “All students need to be prepared to effect change and become environmental leaders.”

She explained the grant would be used for four of the borough’s public, elementary or middle schools to utilize the Bronx Zoo’s various Science Jump-Start Program sessions. 

“Chase is committed to investing in best-in-class non-profit organizations that are embedded in the community and offer programs that address critical issues in the Bronx,” Bronx JPMorgan Chase Foundation vice president Gayle Jennings-O’Byrne said.

At this time, the Bronx Zoo has not determined which schools they would choose, nor did they discuss a plan of how to choose those schools.  But those chosen will benefit greatly, according to the WCS. 

At a total of 52 classes, Hobel said the programs, which range from Animal Alphabet for pre-kindergartners to Tracking Tigers for high school students, would provide a world of resources to students couldn’t get it in a traditional academic setting.

“These programs allow the kids to meet the animals up close,” Hobel said. “Here, the educators really hold the animals and it really excites the kids.”

Following the classroom trainings, WCS’s educators take the students on a guided tour of the exhibit that most closely related to the day’s lesson.

“It’s really an immersion experience,” Hobel explained.

Each class is also designed to reinforce the concepts and vocabulary that’s included in their science class curriculum at school.

Recognized for their unique and quality programming, WCS’s Education Division has earned 20 prestigious awards from organizations such as the National Science Board, National Science Teachers Association and the U.S. Department of Education.

“It’s a very different experience,” Hobel said. “By the time they leave at the end of the day, they’ve really learned science.”

Not only with the grant cover the Bronx Zoo school program fees, but it’ll also pay for the transportation to and from the Zoo, as well as the cost of admission for all participating students.

“We thank Chase for making this possible for schools in the community that would not otherwise be able to afford it for their students,” Hobel said.

Chase said they’re more than happy to help.

Jennings-O’Byrne said, “We are proud to continue our long partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Bronx Zoo.”

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