Jacksonville Zoo Partnership Inspires Students

Philip Alia, Jacksonville Zoo Deputy Director of Marketing and Community Relations, presents an award in celebration of a successful partnership to Greenwood School science teacher Diane Krug and Principal Beverly Connell.  Over 80 people turned out to witness the grand opening of the Citizen Science Nature Trail.
Philip Alia, Jacksonville Zoo Deputy Director of Marketing and Community Relations, presents an award in celebration of a successful partnership to Greenwood School science teacher Diane Krug and Principal Beverly Connell on Sep. 27. Over 80 people turned out to witness the grand opening of the Citizen Science Nature Trail. ( Photo By Emlyn James)

Over a year of work came to a head on Sep. 27 when Greenwood School, in collaboration with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, unveiled the Citizen Science Nature Trail. The new zoo addition will serve as an area for students to conduct research in a variety of environmental fields.

The partnership came about early last year when Greenwood School science teacher, Diane Krug, proposed the idea of a community project to her students. Next, Krug met with Tony Vecchio, the Director of the Jacksonville Zoo.

“I was looking for something the students could do to benefit the community and give them a sense of place,” said Krug.

Kyle Ferrell, a current Greenwood student, spoke of his motivation “to help out and do something that can be seen and appreciated.” Ferrell worked alongside other students in recent weeks as they put the finishing touches on the trail–repurposing wood to construct a series of benches that now flank the sides of the path.

Students at Greenwood School have been conducting scientific research for over a decade, utilizing a network of trails that they carved through the school’s own wetland property. This new partnership will allow for student-run citizen science projects to expand into multiple areas.

Jacksonville Zoo Community Education Manager, Christina Dembiec, has been heavily involved with the every step of the project. Dembiec currently serves as a liaison between the zoo and the school. Dembiec stressed that the new Citizen Science Nature Trail will “mirror all of the projects and monitoring done on Greenwood’s trail, so we’ll have two sets of data.”

With 30 undeveloped acres of land at their disposal, the partnership shows no signs of stopping. Both Greenwood School and the Jacksonville Zoo have expressed a strong desire to have other schools from around the area join in, with the goal of eventually creating what Krug calls “a consortium of students” doing real, meaningful science in the community.

“With Stewardship comes ownership and pride,” said Krug. “This is everyone’s responsibility.”

 

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